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Human Resource Development Research Paper


This research paper looks into human resource development in organizations. The paper discusses how human resource as a practice and managerial science has developed over time. Further, the paper looks into the importance of human resource development. It is established that a competitive advantage can not develop devoid of human resource input.

The resource based view of strategy indicates that building internal capacity of an organization is the only way of building a sustainable competitive advantage. This research paper further looks into obstacles to resource development in an organization and how organizations should approach human resource development. Strategic human resource development is largely dependent on manpower forecasting and planning efforts in an organization.

How Human Resource Evolved as a Managerial Science

Human resource management refers to the art and science of ensuring an organization has all relevant personnel to help meet organizational goals. The human resource of an organization is basically the total work force or personnel population in an organization.

In its current usage, ‘human resource’ is often applied in reference to the department that handles personnel issues in an organization. The human resource department in an organization consists of personnel charged with the responsibility of looking into employee welfare and organizational skill needs.

Human resource management or personnel management as a function started to emerge with the adoption of scientific management. As work place and workforce complexities emerged, the approach to human resource management changed over time. Increasingly, quantitative and statistical methods were adopted in human resource management efforts.

Currently, like all functions in an organization, human resource officers employ strategic approaches to human resource management. Organizations have been forced to look into strategic approaches due to increasing competitiveness in the job markets i.e. jobs becoming more complex, specialized and changing very fast.

Human resource as a management science became specifically defined with the introduction of system theories of management (Bratton & Gold 12). The system theories of management look at the organization as a conglomeration of different parts coming together in a complementary way to form one unit.

After World War I, an acute sense of individual rights swept over nations. Workers in factories became more agitated than ever before. For the factory owners, it became imperative that they start looking into the welfare of their employees. This realization led to the creation of welfare officer posts in organizations.

The welfare officers focused on employee needs and how to respond to agitation. The World War I also led to acute work force shortages leading to women being recruited. The recruitment of women accentuated the need for welfare officers.

Apart from employee agitations leading to introduction of welfare officers, the birth of human resource as a management science sprung from the concern for efficiency in scientific management. This later translated into a concern for human comfort by the human relations management theorists. The humanistic theorists focused on conditions that would help the work force to use their capacity optimally. This change in focus led to more concern for individuals in an organization.

By the end of World War II, the strategic concerns of war were introduced into corporations. Managers viewed developing a buoyant organization as reminiscent of winning a war. Strategies employed in war situations to ensure optimal performance by soldiers found their way into organizations. A new concern for employee training and correct deployment led to need for specialized officers who could help design the employee development programs. Personnel departments comprising of highly skilled teams were put up.

As organizations created personnel management departments and employed specialists from universities and military to run the departments, different approaches of managing personnel emerged. Some of the personnel specialists advocated for soft ways of ensuring optimal performance in an organization while others advocated for hard tactics.

On one hand, personnel officers advocated for an empathic approach to employees. Such an approach called for concern with development of employee leadership skills, fostering harmony in organizations and a general concern for employee welfare. On the other hand, some personnel managers advocated for the application of statistical tools to forecast and determine performance requirements.

Once a performance standard has been set by use of statistical determination, all employees had to meet its specifications. The differences in approach led to concern for more systematic approach to personnel management.

In tandem with changing organizational characteristics, different theories have been proffered in relation to what can best work for an organization in terms of personnel management and development. The systematic appreciation, critic and improvement on the theoretical frameworks are what define the birth of human resource as a management science (Bratton & Gold 14).

Importance of Human Resource Management in Organizations

Human resource management as a function has grown in importance over time as organizations developed in complexity and purpose. In current situation, the human resource plays the critical role of optimizing the use of an organization’s personnel. The function ensures that organizational investment in personnel bears fruits or positive returns. To fulfil this mandate, the human resource management department in organizations serves several purposes.

The primary role of HR is to recruit and select employees thus availing relevant skills to an organization (Armstrong 53). The second function is to design and plan for employee development i.e. optimize usage of employee potential. Thirdly, the HR department monitors and assures performance levels in the organization by instituting performance management measures.

Fourthly, the HR department ensures employees brought into the organization are retained through designing the total compensation for their service. Total compensation consists of elements such as basic pay, look and feel, and employee welfare benefits. Additionally, the human resource departments ensure good relations are maintaining among employees and between employees and management.

The final important role of human resource management is facilitating business transformation through guiding the change management processes in an organization (Armstrong 100). Such changes may include retirement of employees, changes in business focus, or employee turnover. Through HR planning, the department ensures the organization operates optimally at all times.

To properly manage personnel and perform the roles described, human resource management policies are of critical importance. Strategic management of human resource is the focus of human resource managers in today’s organizations. Strategy is about long term planning and ways of guaranteeing the realization of those long term plans or goals.

Planning in human resource management starts with a human resource audit. A human resource audit looks into all aspects or function of HR to establish how optimal they are in facilitating organizational strategic objectives. Man power forecasts are done and the forecast aid in planning.

According to Schuler (22), human resource planning can be defined as an increased ability of managers to evaluate, select, and implement alternative approaches to the financing and delivery of the public services which the company requires.

It can positively influence the efficiency of the company, the improvement and simplification of selected service delivery functions, and the financial viability of individual agencies and jurisdictions. HRP enables an organization to efficiently manage its work force.

It ensures that only relevant number of employees with relevant skills is available in the now. Further, it also makes provisions or institutes mechanisms that ensure relevant skills are available in the organization in the future.

Human Resource Development

Human resource development, commonly abbreviated as HRD is a function of the human resource managers. This function aims at ensuring employees develop their capacity or are enabled to use their full potential towards realizing their life dreams while helping the organization meet its goals and objectives. Human resource development is one way of helping skills in the organization to be at par with actual skill requirements.

This is the best way of responding to change. Through human resource development, employees are able to evolve and meet with changing job demands. Human resource development is organization based or individual employee based. HRD can be organized and systematized in an organization; all employees benefit from this organization wide or organization based employee development.

On the other hand, there is individual employee based HRD. Individual employees with great potential are identified and given all the support they need to realize their full potential.

There are many ways of developing employees. Whatsoever the means, the aim is to increase employee skills or abilities, expand on knowledge that employees have and improve on attitudes. Human resource development happens either through formal or informal training. Human resource development also can happen in the form of mentoring, career development related help, coaching, promotions and recognition plans.

As a motivational tool human resource development happens in the context of performance management (Robertson et al 54). Based on performance, employees are rewarded with development opportunities.

HRD is not for best performance only; poor performers are often also given development opportunities in the hope that they can up their game and perform optimally. It is often the case that individuals earmarked in a succession plan are given opportunities for further study (formal education). Alternatively, they are assigned duties that can enable them to learn.

For HRD to succeed managers in an organization have to embrace and have good will towards employees. Managers have to understand the important contribution that the employees make to the company. When managers get involved in employee welfare and show clearly that they value the employees; this elicits intrinsic motivation among employees (Robertson et al 32).

HRD helps in assuring employees of job security. Employees are more comfortable with a company that is investing in them. When a company is investing in an employee, the likelihood of letting him or her, unreasonably, is minimal. Investing in employees makes them feel a sense of belonging. When employees feel part of the company, they put in their best to grow the company.

On the contrast, a company that treats employees as merely laborers and excludes them from major decisions in the company de-motivates her employees. Decentralizing decision making is one way of developing employees. Employees can be involved in decision making in varied ways. One way is instituting a team approach or project approach to organizational tasks. Another way of getting employees involved thus assuring their participation is through delegation, putting them in assisting roles to their up lines etc.

Obstacles to Human Resource Development

Human resource development is often a costly affair. Organizational resources are spend with the hope that HRD improves or guarantees future gains by the organization (Mayo 162). Therefore, the first obstacle to HRD can be lack of top management support or belief in the benefits of HRD.

When top management are not sure about the benefits of HRD, they are likely not to support it. Human resource officers have the challenge of designing HRD programs that have guaranteed benefits or support organizational objectives. Once it is clear that HRD programs support organizational objectives, the top management support is easily won.

Secondly, the HRD costs can be prohibitive. Unless HRD has been developed or designed properly, the costs can exceed what an organization’s budget can support. Therefore, unless HRD is designed in an effective and efficient way as per budgetary constraints, top management may vote against it due to costs.

The third obstacle to HRD efforts is organizational culture and structure. In a highly bureaucratic organization, HRD efforts are often frustrated by red tapism. If an organizational culture is not right, managers may tend towards favorism i.e. recommending friends and relatives for development packages and leaving out the deserving cases. Without a supportive organizational culture, on job learning is frustrated by bossy managers and supervisors.

Finally, employee attitude can greatly frustrate development efforts. An employee should not be forced into any development program. For instance, an employee who has potential for becoming the next top sales executive should not be assigned to a sales coach against his or her wishes.

Development happens best when the locus of control is the person being developed. Development has to be person centred. If employees come to imagine or think that development is being used to increase their responsibility with no corresponding rise in benefits, they resist HRD programs. If employees do not participate fully or whole heartedly in HRD programmes, failure of such programs is guaranteed.

Strategy and Human Resource Development

Strategy is generally understood as planning for success. Strategy in organization consists in making both midterm and long term plans and looking for ways of guaranteeing the same (Ireland et al 16). Therefore, the basic aim of strategy is ensuring an organization achieves desirable results both in the midterm and long term. Success in the future is largely dependent on decisions or choices made in the present.

Different approaches or theories on how to go about strategy have been formulated. As presented by Whittington (9), there are four major categories of strategy approaches. The four schools or theories of strategy, namely; classical, evolutional, process and system have different assumptions on which to base strategic decision.

Whichever the approach to strategy, the motivating end normally is that a company is able to fair favourably against competition; in delighting customers (Yergin & Stanislaw 13). The different approaches to strategy may proffer different outcomes; however the push for strategy is prosperity, stability, or general competitiveness of a company.

The different approaches to strategy are differentiated into two major categories depending on what they posit as strategy base. The two broad categories are the design school Models and the resource based view or approach to strategy. The design school model or approach to strategy formulation aims at creation of a perfect fit that would help navigate the throes in the external environment. This school aims at gearing organization towards having every appropriate response to the external environment.

Thinkers in the design school approach to strategic management advocate for close monitoring of the outside environment (Dess &Taylor 53). They apply such models as five forces by Porter, value chain analysis, SWOT analysis, competitor analysis, Key success Factor monitoring and statistical approaches to problem solving (Dess &Taylor 57).

The models and statistical tools help in analysis and proper forecasting. A key aspect to this approach to strategy, therefore, is environmental scanning. The environment is monitored to identify issues or trends that can define the strategy formulation process.

Basing on the characteristics identified from the external environment, the organization is supposed to align itself accordingly (Kotler 102). Changes in the external environment occur on many platforms. The changes can be political, economic, social, technological, environmental or legal.

Whatsoever the change, a response has to be envisaged that will ensure the organization continues to operate optimally. Some strategies used in response to environmental changes include strategic partnership, diversification, acquisitions, mergers, liquidation or internationalization (Porter 216). Whatsoever, the change, the strategy formulated has to give the organization a lead in the market.

Resource Based Viewers of competitive advantage posit that an organization only achieves a sustainable competitive advantage or edge it is able to do things and create value in a unique way that cannot be matched by competitor strategies or copied by competition. The source of competitive advantage therefore emanates from what the company has that competition does not have.

The resource based view of firms competitive advantage focuses on the internal capacity in an organization and the related advantages that can accrue the company in the market place owing the internal capability it has (Peteraf 185). From the resource based view, the whole organization is understood to be a pool of capacity or capabilities. The strategy process aims at in an interconnected way applying an organizations capacity towards desired market presence, profitability and level of operations.

The word resource generally refers to the inputs into operations that are transformed or facilitate transformation of other inputs into valuable outputs. Resources and capabilities may exist in an organization in the form of tangible good or intangible capacities.

Resources are best defined along the 5Ms of management i.e. man-hour, manpower, materials, methods, measurement and money. Resources and capacity is defined by an organization employees, capital base, unique skills, kind of methods and measurement procedures, technology (Sanchez & Heene 156).

More importantly, resource based strategist posit that capability out of a capacity is a gradual development. Therefore, the more a capacity is employed and reinforced, the more developed it becomes. The more a capacity is developed, the more it becomes elusive for competition to outwit the organization on the basis of that capacity.

The resource based view differs greatly from the Design school model of strategy. The design school approaches to competitive advantage building focus on external factors and how they affect the company. The external environment is an important aspect of a business. The external forces or players in the external environment impact on business processes. Unless the external environment is properly monitored and factored in the business strategies, success becomes elusive.

The major difference between a resource based view and a design school model is that the internal environment and external environment are the locus of control, respectively. The difference in focus leads to different responses to threats and opportunities. Strengthening internal capacity leads to a more sustainable competitive advantage than merely designing responses to the external environment (Teece et al 521).

The resource based view is more proactive while the design school model is more reactive. Although planning is a critical aspect in the design model, planning bases can make a plan more reactionary and proactive. If the plan is external environment oriented, it means that the external environment is controlling the organization. A more enviable position is where the organization controls the environment.

It is for the foregoing reasons that HRD is very important in sharpening the competitive advantage of an organization. Building internal capacity offers a more sustainable competitive edge (Wernerfelt 179). The capacity is there to meet with whatsoever changes in the external environment. Basing strategy or competitive advantage purely on models that respond to the external environmental factors is very temporal in its nature. It means that when changes occur, new designs have to be developed again.

Establishing Human Resource Development

Establishing & implementing human resource development follows an 8 step model that guarantees exhaustive and elaborate considerations for optimal results. Table 1 below shows the steps in establishing HRD in an organization.

Step Action Description
1 Formulate HRD philosophy
  • Why HRD in this organization?
  • It has to be in line with organizational goals
2 Formulate HRD Policies
  • Guidelines on what is to happen in HRD
  • When to happen
  • How to happen
  • And what outcomes
3 Solicit Top Management Support
  • No change without top management support
  • Top management has to appreciate importance of HRD
4 Harmonise HRD with Organizational Objectives
  • Strategically analyse the organizations objectives
  • HRD has to support both long term and short term organizational objectives
5 Needs Assessment
  • Establish current situation
  • Determine desired situation in terms of employee skills, abilities, knowledge and attitudes
6 Departmental integration of HRD efforts
  • Identify specific departmental needs
  • Identify peculiarities
  • Harmonize organization wide HRD efforts
7 Operational Plans
  • Create specific criteria for participating in HRD
  • Plan for operationalizing of HRD in different operation areas
  • Establish operational performance standards and goals
8 Implementation of HRD
  • Establish mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation
  • Feed back channels are very important

Implementing Human Resource Development

The establishment of HRD in an organization culminates into the implementation of HRD programs. There are different HRD programs that can be implemented in an organization. Such programs include but are not limited to career planning, succession planning, employee training, performance appraisal and reward, counselling, coaching and mentoring programs (Mayo 86). The implementation of these programs has to be guided by organizational characteristics. For each program, response or execution strategies are implemented.

HRD implementation starts with identifying target beneficiaries in response to identified needs. The target beneficiary support fro the HRD program has to be solicited or assured. The Implementation also involves identifying implementation methods and partners. If it is training, the hows of the training, trainers and where the training is to happen from have to be identified.

Once issues to do with who, what, where and when are clear, budgetary considerations and venue preparations can be executed. The HRD officers have to maker sure participants get all the support they need for effective learning or development. Mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating the process have to be designed through dialogue between all participating parties.

Workplace Learning

Work place learning is a continuous process that aims at equipping employees with knowledge and skills (Senge 5). Work place learning happens in different forums. Work place learning largely depends on organizational needs or characteristics. Work place learning can be directed or self directed.

Directed learning is where learning has been formalized and employees are involved in given systematized learning endeavours. Supervisors and directors determine what, how, when and where the employees learn. Self directed learning is initiated by learners themselves and they determine what to learn, when to learn and how to learn. Self directed learning stems from an employee’s personal desire and own educational goals and objectives.

Self directed work place learning is critical in an organization. It is the most effective way by which employee can develop. The more systematically employees approach self directed work place learning, the better for them (Reed 61). Systemizing work place learning means that employees consciously look into their own development needs. Further, the employees design learning objectives, on their own, institute learning mechanisms and continually monitor and evaluate their own learning progress.

HRD officers have the challenge of encouraging participation in directed learning but most critically self directed learning (Bratton & Gold 274). There are a number of ways of encouraging work place learning. One ways is to encourage formation of communities of practice.

A community of practice is ideally an informal group of employees who have similar work place interest and are eager to learn from each other. Communities of practice in a work place take operations and employee development to higher levels very fast. The second way of encouraging work place learning is providing necessary resources. A company library can be a great resource for employees interested in any form of research.

Audio learning materials can be made accessible to employees. Finally, an atmosphere of openness and sharing about learning goals will help towards sharing of information in the organization. Sharing of leaning related information will lead to employees encouraging each other to learn certain aspects or issues related to their job or general welfare.

When it comes to directed learning, the first consideration is to do a needs training needs assessment. Once the training needs have been established, the different methods of training are considered and how to effectively execute them designed. Training can be done formally in classrooms, on the job; through self learning method e.g. computer based learning, or sponsorship to training institutions.

Knowledge management

Closely linked to work place learning is the concept of knowledge management in organizations. Knowledge management is basically efforts by an organization to generate, preserve and facilitate sharing of knowledge in an organization (Senge 34). Knowledge in an organization resides with individuals, in organizational procedures and in organizational process.

Knowledge goes beyond technical and soft skill tenets to encompass organizational culture embedded meanings as espoused in organization structure and processes. Knowledge management and dissemination is an integral aspect of employee development. Knowledge sharing happens in different forums.

It could be through informal discussions, apprenticeship arrangements, formal training sessions, company mentoring efforts, dissemination of employee reports or research reports on different operations in organization and intranet based sharing (Reed 62).

A knowledge sharing culture in an organization enhances employee cohesiveness and guarantees and employee based competitive advantage (Kay 125). Therefore, in designing an organization’s HRD plan, it is important to factor how to manage knowledge into it. Knowledge management should take advantage of all the people, technology and processes in an organization.

As already discussed, encouraging community of practice is a sure way of managing knowledge effectively in an organization. Junior employees have to be encouraged to consult with senior employees. Forums that facilitate sharing by senior experts have to be encouraged in an organization (Reed 63).


HRD is critical to an organization’s survival or sharpening of a competitive advantage. As discussed in this paper, an organizational strategy based on resource capacity is more sustainable than a strategy based on given statistical designs. Building internal capacity makes an organization ready for any external changes. HRD ensures that employees’ capability is sharpened. A sharp work force institutes processes that guarantee an organization a competitive edge.

It was further established that HRD is motivational. When an organization invests in its employees, they feel comfortable and secure. Furthermore, increasing employee capacity or capability helps them work with confidence. These measures translate into better performance and improved productivity.

Human resource development has to be planned carefully. It has to be undertaken with the understanding that specific outcomes beneficial to the organization are to be achieved. HRD costs the organization thus the need to plan and implement effective and efficient programs.

The HRD plans have to be harmonized with the organizations strategic goals and top management support guaranteed. Human resource officers have to formulate a clear HRD philosophy supported by clear HRD policies. The policy guide the human resource development concern in an organization and have to be clear on desired performance or outcomes.

Works Cited

Armstrong, Michael. A Handbook of Human Resource Management. 10th Ed. London: Kogan Page, 2001.

Bratton, John, & Gold, Jeffrey. Human Resource Management: Theory and Practice. 2nd Ed. New York: Routledge, 2001

Dess, G., G., &Taylor, M. L. Strategic Management: Creating Competitive Advantages, 2nd Ed., London: Mcgraw Hill Book Co, 2004

Ireland, Duane, R., Hoskisson, Robert, E., & Hitt, Michael, E. Understanding Business Strategy: Concepts and Cases, London: Cengage Learning, 2008

Kay, John. Foundations of Corporate Success: How Business Strategies add Value. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Kotler, Philip. Marketing Management: Analysis, Planning, Implementation, and Control, New York: Prentice-Hall, 1997

Mayo, Andrew. Creating a Learning and Development Strategy: The HR Business Partner’s Guide to Developing People. London: CIPD, 2004

Peteraf, Margaret, A., “The cornerstones of competitive advantage: a resource-based view”. Strategic Management Journal Vol. 14. 3 (1993): 179–191

Porter, Michael, E., Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors, New York: Free Press, 1980

Reed, Alec. Innovation in Human Resource Management. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 2001

Robertson, Ivan, T., Smith, Mike & Cooper, Dominic. Motivation Strategies: Theory and Practice. London: Institute of Personnel Management, 2002.

Robbins, Stephen, P. Organizational Behavior. 11th Ed. New York: Prentice Hall, 2004

Sanchez, R., & Heene, A. The New Strategic Management: Organizations, Competition and Competence, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2004

Schuler, Randall, S. Managing Human Resources. Cincinnati, Ohio: South-Western College Publishing, 1998.

Senge, Peter, M. The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization. New York: Currency Doubleday, 2000.

Teece, David, J., Pisano, Gary, & Shuen, Amy. “Dynamic Capabilities and Strategic Management”. Strategic Management Journal Vol. 18. 7 (1997): 509–533

Wernerfelt, Birger. “A Resource-Based View of the Firm”. Strategic Management Journal Vol.5 (1984) 171–180

Whittington, Richard. What Is Strategy, and Does It Matter? 2nd Ed, London: Thompson Learning, 2001

Yergin, Daniel, & Stanislaw, Joseph. The Commanding Heights, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002

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