Wang, Greg G., et al.
(2017). Means vs Ends: Theorizing a Definition of Human Resource Development. PersonnelReview, 46(6), 1165–1181. doi:10.1108/pr-11-2015-0306. Thisarticle examines the current definition of Human Resource Development and aimsto formulate a new definition based on trends in research and literature.
With globalization and the interaction ofpeople in diverse environments become more prevalent, the authors explore definitionsof Human Resource Development that would be less Western centric. The authors make the argument that the wayHRD is defined shapes it’s identity as a discipline and in-turn this influencesthe knowledge that’s produced. Inexploring this topic, the authors attempt to arrive at a definition that isflexible in various sociopolitical, cultural and organization context and develop a framework where thedefine theory can be generalized and better understood by clients.
SummaryTo examinethe construct, the authors designed their study by doing a word search ofnotable scholarly journals on topics relevant to defining HRD. The authors noted that the journals used foranalysis were English based journals and were U.S. centric. To be considered a couple criteria wereestablished.
First, the result must be relevant to the definition beingresearched and second, the results must add new understandingof HRD that’s currently absent in its current definition. Based on analysis by the authors,32 definitions were found. The vastmajority of the definitions reflected activities and functions of the HRD fieldor observations or desired outcomes from HRD activities. The reoccurring issue found was that the definitionswere organization-centric and could notbe generalized. This poses a problem withincreased globalization and cross-cultural engagement. Anotherfinding of the study was that the definitions discovered were focused oninspiration aspects of HRD in the Western context but ignore the harshrealities and traumatic outcomes in non-Western contexts. As theauthors formulated their definition, they leveraged existing definitions as a baseline to improve upon.
The criteria’sused were, fist, the definition must demonstrate HRD’s unique identity as adiscipline. Second, the definition must embraceall HRD functional activities and also flexible to accommodate advances in thepractice. The definition mustaccommodate multilevel HRD phenomena but be also focused. Forth the definition must be generalizable inmultiple contexts and organizations. The authorsarrived at the following new definition of HRD. “Human resource development isa mechanism in shaping individual and group values and beliefs and skillingthrough learning-related activities to support the desired performance of thehost system.
” (Wang et al, 2017). Thisnew definition better crystalizes the HRD function, while also having theutility to be generalized to include non-Western centric perspectivesImplicationHaving aclear definition that’s encompassing and sustainable has great implications for the HRD field and profession. Not only will there be a sense of identity toHRD, but there will also be a cleardefinition of the field which would leadto better understanding of HRD and its potential value. Another implication of this studyis the ability to generalize the new definition. With the world becoming more global andcross-cultural interactions becoming commonplace,having a definition that’s not Western-centricdrives inclusion and opens the field to new perspectives that may not have beenpreviously explored. AnalysisThe authorsdid a good job examining HRD and formulating a new definition but based on myassessment, I believe their arrival at a definition is an improvement fromprior definitions, but premature.
The data collected was U.S. Centric andskewed heavily towards English publications. This poses a risk and a claim can be made that the definition cannot begeneralized in various sociopolitical and organizationalcontext. Anotherarea that needed further examination was surrounding the increased focus of HRDon the harsh realities of the profession.
Given that the scope of the article was on formulating a definition ofHRD, I can understand why the authors do not go into great depth exploring thisphenomenon. Further research should explorethis assertion so better understanding is gained which would lead to a more holistic viewpoint.Thisresearch is important because it aims to address issues in the HRD field not bylooking at the functions or the value delivered by HRD, but by examining theconstruct itself. Having a common definition would provide increased focus for researchers andpractitioners and advance the field of study to provide even more value.