Origins and Historical Influences on Human Resource Development: A Global Perspective MEERA ALAGARAJA LARRY M. DOOLEY Texas A&M University
A comprehensive review of literature on the origins and historical influences on human resource development reveals that much of its development is attributed to Western (predominantly U.S.) thought and perspectives. This study is an effort to begin exploring significant contributions from a global perspective—including those that are primarily non-Western. To do so, this article identifies and examines key non-Western contributions to the field of human resource development. There is an ever-growing pool of foundational knowledge in the human resource development field. However, it appears only a modest body of literature has been written on historical influences from non-Western perspectives to the field. It is the premise of this article that inclusiveness of other cultural contributions will facilitate a greater understanding of human resource development’s development as a relatively new body of knowledge. This article is a reflective study outlining the history of human development of both Western and nonWestern perspectives. Keywords: origins and historical influences; global perspectives; foundations of human resource development
As with the debate surrounding the definitions for human resource development (HRD) (McLean & McLean, 2001; Weinberger, 1998), the historical timeline for HRD means different things to different people. The concept and ways of defining it has been a source of challenge to all associated with the field. The challenging nature of the concept of HRD is reflected by the way it seeks to describe the scope and meaning as well as framework to organize multiple contributions to HRD theory and practice (Swanson & Holton, The authors gratefully acknowledge the helpful feedback of Susan A. Lynham, Texas A&M University, on previous versions of this article, which contributed to its improvement. Human Resource Development Review Vol. 2, No. 1 March 2003 82-96 DOI: 10.1177/1534484303251170 © 2003 Sage Publications
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Alagaraja, Dooley / ORIGINS AND HISTORICAL INFLUENCES ON HRD
2001). The diverse nature of HRD allows it to seek differing pivotal points in history to explain its emergence as an interdisciplinary field. The authors contend that HRD scholars and practitioners should view the origins and historical influences of HRD from a global perspective. The acceptance of this global perspective enhances applicability and the use of HRD foundational concepts in different countries and regions. This article proposes a framework to identify and encapsulate simultaneous events that occurred in different parts of the world to improve our understanding of HRD and trace the early influences on its foundational concepts.
Purpose of the Study
Foundational contributions to HRD from a global perspective allow for “application in diverse cultures and values that pertain to different geographical locations” (Lee, 2001). However, from a review of literature on the historical influences on HRD, it appears that very little attention has been paid to contributions that are primarily non-Western. According to Nadler and Nadler (1990), the earliest forms of HRD date to ancient times, but changes during those times were comparatively insignificant when viewed from an overall view of the field as it is today. DeSimone and Harris (1998) traced the origins of HRD to the early apprenticeship training program, early vocational education programs, and early factory schools. According to Gilley and Eggland (1989), the earliest forms of training were provided by the apprenticeship program in Colonial America. During this period, the workplace was not seen as a primary environment for human learning (p. 8). Lee and Stead (1998) traced the growth of HRD in the United...
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