Challenges in Human Resource Development Practitioner Preparation ROBYN JOHNSTON
University of Technology, Sydney
This article describes some of the challenges that confront designers of programs which prepare or upskill Human Resource Development (HRD) practitioners. It surfaces varying perspectives of human resource development and some of the issues that confront organisations in the post-industrial economy which have implications for HRD practice. It also surfaces some tensions and areas of convergence that can be seen in recent studies which have investigated the role of HRD practitioners. The ® nal section recommends some substantive areas that should be addressed within HRD preparation programs which are designed to equip learners for practice in the current organisational context. ABSTRACT
Introduction Organisational learning and skill formation initiatives are increasingly being seen as contributing to the achievement of organisational competitiveness in the contemporary economy. As a result, the development of employees has become a more prominent organisational practice. Since Human Resource Development (HRD) practitioners are primarily responsible for employee development there is a need for them to become more highly skilled to ensure that their practice meets the changing needs of organisations. Formal educational programs in the practice of HRD provide a way of assisting practitioners to acquire the skills they now need for effective practice. The design of such programs, however, is problematic given the emergent and cross-disciplinary nature of the ® eld. This paper surfaces some of the challenges associated with program design for the development of HRD practitioners, drawing from discussions in, and pro® ling research from, the HRD literature. The ® nal section of the paper proposes several key areas that need to be addressed in preparatory programs for HRD practitioners. Some De® nitions In focusing on the development challenges for such an occupational group, this paper is using ª Human Resource Developerº as an umbrella term to encompass those practitioners whose work within organisations is concerned primarily with improving performance through fostering learning in individuals, groups or the organisation more collectively. Whilst the diversity of practice in the ® eld is acknowlISSN 0158-037X print; 1470-126X online/01/010037-17 Ó DOI: 10.1080/01580370120043231 2001 Taylor & Francis Ltd
edged, for the purposes of this paper those working in organisations with positional labels including enterprise trainer, training of® cer, trainer and developer, learning strategist or consultant, performance developer, organisational developer and staff development of® cer are being collapsed into one occupational category. All of these labels have been or are being used in organisations and in the literature to designate those whose primary work is to improve performance in organisational settings through fostering learning (Mulder, 1992). The paper also uses the term Human Resource Development as an umbrella term to describe the work of such practitioners. It therefore considers HRD practice as encompassing orthodox forms of training as well as other forms of employee or organisational development.
Challenge 1: what is driving HRD practice? A major challenge confronting designers of programs for HRD practitioners is determining what is driving HRD in organisational settings. Certainly those writing about the ® eld in both journals and HRD methodology texts provide a number of competing perspectives about this question (Kuchinke, 1998; Barrie & Pace, 1997; Garavan et al., 1995; Chalofsky, 1992; Watkins, 1989). A brief summary of some of the differing perspectives follows.
HRD is Primarily About Meeting Business Needs Through Learning There is a body of literature that argues that HRD is ® rst and foremost about...