Foundations of Human Resource Development

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In Foundations of Human Resouce Development, Richard Swanson and Edward Holton provide an up-to-date overview of the HRD profession as well as the terminology and processes required for sound HRD research and practice. Swanson and Holton's work is supplemented with contributions from Alexandre Ardichvili, Theo J. Bastiaens, Thomas J. Chermack, Richard W. Herling, K. Peter Kuchinke, Sharon S. Naquin, Wendy E. A. Ruona, Richard J. Torraco, Greg G. Wang, and Karen E. Watkins.

The book provides a basic understanding of the HRD models, processes, and history; critical theoretical and philosophical foundations of the field; learning and performance paradigms and models; HRD's role in high-level organizational and systems-level issues; training and development and organization development—including examples of best practices along with variations in core thinking, processes, interventions, and tools; and much more.

The first edition won the Book of the Year Award from the prestigious Academy of Human Resource Development. This second edition has been completely revised, updated, and expanded, with new chapters on component HRD theories, policy and planning, technology, and globalization, as well as supplemental study materials, PowerPoint presentations, and figures available online at www.textbookresources.net.

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1 Human Resource Development as a Professional Field of Practice

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INTRODUCTION

Human resource development (HRD) is a relatively young academic discipline but an old and well-established field of practice. The idea of human beings purposefully developing themselves in order to improve the conditions in which they live seems almost part of human nature. HRD theory and practice are deeply rooted in this developing and advancing perspective.

This first chapter serves to highlight the purpose, definition, origins, context, and core beliefs of HRD. These highlights provide an initial understanding of HRD and functions as an advanced organizer for the book. The chapters that follow fully explore the depth and range of thinking within the theory and practice of HRD.

PURPOSE OF HRD

HRD is about adult human beings functioning in productive systems. The purpose of HRD is to focus on the resource that humans bring to the success equation—both personal success and organizational system success. The two core threads of HRD are (1) individual and organizational learning, and (2) individual and organizational performance (Ruona, 2000; Swanson, 1996a; Watkins and

 

2 Introduction to Human Resource Development Models and Processes

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INTRODUCTION

There is no single way to view Human Resource Development (HRD) or to go about the work of it. This chapter presents some of the basic underpinnings of

HRD as a further orientation to its basic framework. The selection of HRD basics in this chapter is intended to illustrate and is not exhaustive. You should be prepared to expand on the ideas offered in this chapter as you progress through the book. These basics serve to orient readers who are new to HRD and also refresh the thinking of those already familiar with the profession.

POINTS OF AGREEMENT

As with any field of theory and practice, there are rival views and intense debates.

This is especially true among scholars. One characterization of scholars holds that they spend 80 percent of their time debating about the 20 percent of a subject on which they disagree. Pointing out these differences is important, and this will take place throughout the book. Even more important is the need to point out areas of agreement, for it is here that the solid core of HRD theory and practice can be found. In contrast, areas of disagreement create the tension required for serious reflection and inquiry by scholars and reflective practitioners, ultimately yielding renewal and advancement.

 

3 History of Human Resource Development

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History of Human Resource Development 33

INTRODUCTION

The history of human resource development reveals that education, training, and organization development of all sorts are largely the products of social and economic conditions. Scott’s (1914) early characterization of education is still meaningful: “education is the attempt of a civilization to perpetuate what it believes to be most vital in itself ” (p. 73).

Training and development has a unique role in the history of the human resource development (HRD) profession. As you will read in this chapter, training—in the form of parent–child, or master–apprentice workplace learning models—has existed throughout all recorded history. The history of HRD helps the reader understand (1) the origins of the HRD profession, (2) the major developments and events, and (3) the reason why the profession is as it now exists.

THE BEGINNINGS: SURVIVAL THROUGH

LABOR AND LEARNING

Human experience and the nature of human resource development have passed through many stages since the beginning of the human journey. Training in its most simple form was found among our most primitive ancestors. The development of humans was driven exclusively by the need to survive. When learning first involved the making of simple tools from wood, stone, and fibers, primitive humans knew nothing about the productive use of fire and of metals. Harnessing these elements became critical to further development of the human race.

 

4 The Role of Theory and Philosophy in Human Resource Development

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INTRODUCTION

In response to popular opinion to the contrary, Kurt Lewin, the famous early organization development innovator and scholar, presented his famous quote:

“There is nothing so practical as good theory.” It bears repeating. His description of practicality is in contrast to commonly held thoughts that theory is made of

“half-baked ideas” disconnected from the “real world.” A good theory is thorough and has been tested both intellectually and in practice. Lewin prevents us from misusing the word theory.

Sound theory helps direct the professional energies to models and techniques that are effective and efficient. Sound theory also confronts celebrity professionals and infomercial consultants that riddle the profession. For example, to the unsubstantiated promises of techniques for accelerated learning, buyers were warned to beware that it doesn’t deliver on its promises (Torraco, 1992). For the unfulfilled promise and premises of Kirkpatrick’s (1998) flawed four-level evaluation model, Holton (1996) warned the profession that after thirty-eight years it still does not meet any of the criteria required of sound theories or models. Science writer Michael Shermer has spent a career debunking false and flimsy ideas.

 

5 Theory of Human Resource Development

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INTRODUCTION

Models of HRD have been developed and disseminated through books, seminars, and consulting projects. Many models are based on extensive practical experience with development and improvement (Brache, 2002; Nadler, Gerstein, and Shaw,

1992; Rummler and Brache, 1995; Schwartz, 1996; Weisbord, 1987). Other models have been embraced as ways to solve problems then casually called “multidisciplinary” to demand that the user apply multidimensional thinking.

Armed with a flowchart and a description of its components, HRD professionals often find that while their personal models may be powerful enough to create change, those models and their explanations are almost always too superficial to explain the complex dynamics of HRD and its connection to results. In short, a model derived from logic is no substitute for sound theory. Such models can guide improvement efforts through hypothesized relationships without having those relationships ever tested. You can have a model and no theory and you can have a theory with no model. Yet, most theories are accompanied by a model.

 

6 Component Theories of Human Resource Development

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INTRODUCTION

The preceding chapter presented a theory of Human Resource Development

(HRD) and advocated three primary theory components and a purposeful fusion of them. The fusion of the three theory components was done in context of the definition and purpose of HRD and is now presented as the core theory of the HRD discipline. The following three sections in this chapter provide extended views of the contributions of psychological, economic, and systems component theories to HRD.

Elwood F. Holton’s section, titled “Psychology and the Discipline of Human

Resource Development,” addresses psychological theory. He notes that psychology has long provided a core theoretical base for HRD. Contemporary HRD extends beyond psychology to embrace multiple theoretical bases. This section examines psychology’s theoretical contributions to the discipline of HRD. It argues that psychological theories are both powerful and yet limited as a foundation for HRD. Specific psychological theories and their conceptual relationships with economics and systems theory are discussed.

 

7 Paradigms of Human Resource Development

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INTRODUCTION

Like most professional disciplines, Human Resource Development (HRD) includes multiple paradigms for practice and research. A paradigm is defined as a

“coherent tradition of scientific research” (Kuhn, 1996, p. 10). Thus, multiple paradigms represent fundamentally different views of HRD, including its goals and aims, values, and guidelines for practice. It is important to understand each paradigm, as they often lead to different approaches to solving HRD problems and to different research questions and methodologies. It is also important that each person develops a personal belief system about which paradigm or blend of paradigms will guide his or her practice. This chapter reviews the major paradigms, discusses the learning versus performance debate, examines core philosophical and theoretical assumptions of each paradigm, and examines their merger.

OVERVIEW OF THE HRD PARADIGMS

For our purposes, we divide HRD into two paradigms, the learning paradigm and the performance paradigm (Figure 7.1) These two paradigms are the most clearly defined and dominate most HRD thinking and practice. A third paradigm, the meaning of work and work-life integration is an emerging perspective

 

8 Perspectives on Performance in Human Resource Development

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INTRODUCTION

This chapter examines core theories of performance that inform the performance perspective of HRD. Unlike learning theory that is essentially focused solely on the individual, performance theory is much more diverse. Performance theories address individuals, teams, processes, and organizational systems. Some theories are multilevel.

One of the hallmarks of performance theories is that they all attempt to capture the complexity of organizational systems while still presenting a set of constructs discrete enough to be usable. Given the complexity of organizational systems, it is easy to develop a model so complex that it becomes unwieldy. Thus, most performance theories take a particular perspective so as to define a more limited range of useful performance ideas while maintaining their integrity with systems theory. Imagine picking up a crystal and turning it in the light—each perspective yields a slightly different view. Such is the case with performance theory, where each theory is an attempt to capture adequate complexity but still be useful to the HRD profession.

 

9 Perspectives on Learning in Human Resource Development

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INTRODUCTION

Learning is at the heart of HRD and continues to be a core part of all paradigms of HRD. Whatever the debates about paradigms of HRD, nobody has ever suggested that HRD not embrace learning as an organizing construct for the field.

This chapter takes a closer look at some representative theories and research on learning in HRD. First, six core theories of learning are discussed. Then, representative learning models at the individual and organizational level are reviewed.

The purpose of this chapter is to provide key foundational perspectives on learning, but not a comprehensive review.

BASIC THEORIES OF LEARNING

A summary of six basic theories of learning including humanism, social learning, constructivism, and holistic learning as well as behaviorism and cognitivism are summarized in Figure 9.1. These are six theoretical perspectives that can apply to learning in all settings, for all age groups, and for all types of learning events. In this section, each theory is described along with its primary contribution to

 

10 Overview of Training and Development

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INTRODUCTION

Training and development constitutes the largest realm of HRD activity. Training and development (T&D) is defined as a process of systematically developing work-related knowledge and expertise for the purpose of improving performance. Training is not education-light—it is more than knowledge. People experiencing T&D should end up with new knowledge and be able to do things well after they complete a training program (Zemke, 1990). New knowledge by itself generally is not enough.

Within T&D, more effort is focused on training than on development. Also, training is more likely focused on new employees and those entering new job roles in contrast to long-term development. To be clear, the development portion of training and development is seen as “the planned growth and expansion of knowledge and expertise of people beyond the present job requirements” (Swanson,

2002, p. 6). In the majority of instances, development opportunities are provided to people who have a strong potential to contribute to the organization. Indeed, development often comes under the banner of management development and leadership development. In every case, people at all levels in all organizations need to know how to do their work (expertise) and generally need help with their learning.

 

11 The Nature of Expertise

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INTRODUCTION

The concept of expertise lies at the core of human resource development (HRD).

The definition of HRD posited by this book describes it as a process of developing and unleashing expertise for the purpose of improving performance, with training and development (T&D) on the developing side and organization development (OD) on the unleashing side. “Workplace expertise is the fuel of an organization. Expertise can be thought of as the level at which a person is able to perform within a specialized realm of activity” (Swanson, 2007, p. 125).

Expertise is more than just knowing. Pfeffer and Sutton (2000) make the extended and documented case that “knowing what to do is not enough” (p. 1).

They go on to report: “One of the main reasons that knowledge management efforts are often divorced from day-to-day activities is that managers, consulting firms, and information technologists who design and build systems for collecting, storing, and retrieving knowledge have limited, often inaccurate, views of how people actually use knowledge in their jobs” (Pfeffer and Sutton, 2000, p.

 

12 Training and Development Practices

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INTRODUCTION

Part Four deals with training and development (T&D). Chapter 10 captured the essence of the T&D component of HRD, and Chapter 11 delved deeper into the nature of expertise. This third and final chapter in this part of the book provides illustrations of T&D practice as it exists in host organizations, along with variations in core thinking that guides T&D practices, interventions, and tools.

VARIATIONS IN T&D PRACTICES

The practices in T&D are extremely varied because of a number of overarching variables. They include variability in mission of the host organization, purpose of the T&D function in the host organization, T&D professional expertise, content of the T&D program, T&D delivery methodology, and expected results from the

T&D program. General commentary on these variables follows.

Mission and Culture of the Host Organization

Organizations vary greatly in terms of their missions and strategies, organizational structure, technology, and human resources. T&D in a high-tech financial firm or one that designs and manufactures heart pacemakers will look very different from T&D in a professional lawn care service. High-tech firms and multilocation organizations tend to use information technology in program delivery more than in low-tech, single location organizations.

 

13 Overview of Organization Development

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INTRODUCTION

The central view of organization development (OD) is that OD has the capability of unleashing human expertise, resulting in improvements at the organization, work process, team, and individual levels. OD constitutes the smaller realm of

HRD practitioner activity when compared to training and development (T&D).

It can also be argued, however, that OD has a larger or more systemic influence on the organization. As much effort has been focused within organization development on studying individuals in organizations as it has been on studying organizations themselves. Although this is the history of OD, there is a growing shift to an organizational system focus beyond individuals and groups within OD theory and practice.

Organization development practice is more likely to be focused on existing conditions that are not functioning well than on long-range improvement or holistic change efforts. In all cases, whether present performance issues related to system maintenance or system changes for the future, OD interventions deal with the change process for the purpose of improvement. Cummings and Worley provide a definition of organization development that helps introduce this chapter:

 

14 The Nature of the Change Process

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INTRODUCTION

Change has been a central concept in human resource development (HRD) from the beginning. Thinking about change in HRD has emerged from two basic directions: individual change and organizational change. Individual change models focus on ways individuals change. While this may affect the organization, the primary emphasis is on the individual and helping the individual change himself or herself. Individual learning and expertise development through T&D can be seen as a special type of change at the individual level, especially transformational learning. Career development specialists focus on helping people to change their lives and jobs. Adult development theory focuses on the many ways that adults change throughout their life span. While none of these is usually thought of as change theory, we suggest that change is the overarching construct that unites them within HRD.

Organization change models embrace the individual, but within the context of changing the organization. Most of these models emerge from what is generically known as organization development. Organization development professionals specialize in change, usually at the group, work process, or organization level.

 

15 Organization Development Practices

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INTRODUCTION

Part Five of this book has dealt with organization development (OD). Chapter 13 captured the essence of the OD component of HRD, and chapter 14 delved deeper into the nature of change, the heart of OD interventions. This third and final chapter in Part Five provides illustrations of OD practice as it spans from organizations to individuals along with variations in the core thinking that guides OD practices, interventions, and tool selection.

VARIATIONS IN OD PRACTICES

OD is the process of implementing organizational change aimed at improving performance through the direct and indirect utilization of expertise. Under this banner there are variations in OD practice. Practices in OD have historically been rooted in the psychological realm, with intervention outcomes being human perceptions of effects versus hard business measures. This remains a fundamental problem for OD as the field seems to value its OD processes more than its results.

Scholarly reviews of the organization change and development literature pays scant attention to verified outcomes (Clegg, Hardy, Lawrence and Nord, 2006;

 

16 Strategy and Human Resource Development

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INTRODUCTION

Viewing human resource development as a strategic partner is a relatively new perspective (Wognum and Mulder, 1999). Recent textbooks (Walton, 1999;

Yorks, 2005) have been dedicated to increasing such strategic awareness and effectiveness among HRD professionals. The systems view of organizations, with

HRD as a process within the organization and the organization functioning within the larger environment, provides the big picture framework to begin thinking about the strategic roles of HRD (see Figure 2.2 in chapter 2, p. 20).

This chapter discusses the issues surrounding the role of HRD in organizational strategic planning as originally proposed by Torraco and Swanson (1995) and expanded upon first by Swanson, Lynham, Ruona, and Provo (1998), and later by Chermack (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005). Two factors have influenced the evolution of HRD toward a more active role as a key determinant of business strategy: (1) the centrality of information technology to business success and (2) the sustainable competitive advantage offered by workforce knowledge and expertise.

 

17 Accountability in Human Resource Development

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INTRODUCTION

Perhaps one of the toughest issues in HRD is how HRD and its organizational sponsors can structure an effective accountability system. Such a system must meet a sponsor’s need to know that HRD resources are being deployed effectively and HRD’s need to have measures that indicate whether desired results are being achieved efficiently. Organizations are increasingly demanding that HRD develop effectiveness and efficiency measures as a result of the increasing importance of

HRD interventions for organizational effectiveness.

A chapter such as this would usually be titled “Evaluation in HRD,” but the goal here is to take a fresh approach. The primary issue is accountability, not evaluation. Traditionally, HRD professionals have relied on variations of program evaluation models derived from educational evaluation methodology. This approach has largely failed because it has not been widely adopted in the business and organizational context of HRD.

Unlike staffing or other human resource management activities, human resource development is a virtual kaleidoscope of activities, only a portion of which is under the control of the organization. Development ranges from the informal and nearly impossible to detect and measure (e.g., when one employee informally teaches another how to do something) to the formal and easily measured (e.g., a systematic organization development intervention aimed at a welldefined performance issue.

 

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