Wang, Greg G., et al.
(2017). Means vs Ends: Theorizing a Definition of Human Resource Development. Personnel
Review, 46(6), 1165–1181. doi:10.1108/pr-11-2015-0306.


article examines the current definition of Human Resource Development and aims
to formulate a new definition based on trends in research and literature.  With globalization and the interaction of
people in diverse environments become more prevalent, the authors explore definitions
of Human Resource Development that would be less Western centric.  The authors make the argument that the way
HRD is defined shapes it’s identity as a discipline and in-turn this influences
the knowledge that’s produced.  In
exploring this topic, the authors attempt to arrive at a definition that is
flexible in various sociopolitical, cultural and organization context and develop a framework where the
define theory can be generalized and better understood by clients. 


To examine
the construct, the authors designed their study by doing a word search of
notable scholarly journals on topics relevant to defining HRD.  The authors noted that the journals used for
analysis were English based journals and were U.S. centric.  To be considered a couple criteria were
established.  First, the result must be relevant to the definition being
researched and second, the results must add new understanding
of HRD that’s currently absent in its current definition. 

Based on analysis by the authors,
32 definitions were found.  The vast
majority of the definitions reflected activities and functions of the HRD field
or observations or desired outcomes from HRD activities.  The reoccurring issue found was that the definitions
were organization-centric and could not
be generalized.  This poses a problem with
increased globalization and cross-cultural engagement. 

finding of the study was that the definitions discovered were focused on
inspiration aspects of HRD in the Western context but ignore the harsh
realities and traumatic outcomes in non-Western contexts. 

As the
authors formulated their definition, they leveraged existing definitions as a baseline to improve upon. The criteria’s
used were, fist, the definition must demonstrate HRD’s unique identity as a
discipline.  Second, the definition must embrace
all HRD functional activities and also flexible to accommodate advances in the
practice.  The definition must
accommodate multilevel HRD phenomena but be also focused.  Forth the definition must be generalizable in
multiple contexts and organizations.   

The authors
arrived at the following new definition of HRD. “Human resource development is
a mechanism in shaping individual and group values and beliefs and skilling
through learning-related activities to support the desired performance of the
host system.” (Wang et al, 2017).   This
new definition better crystalizes the HRD function, while also having the
utility to be generalized to include non-Western centric perspectives


Having a
clear definition that’s encompassing and sustainable has great implications for the HRD field and profession.  Not only will there be a sense of identity to
HRD, but there will also be a clear
definition of the field which would lead
to better understanding of HRD and its potential value. 

Another implication of this study
is the ability to generalize the new definition.  With the world becoming more global and
cross-cultural interactions becoming commonplace,
having a definition that’s not Western-centric
drives inclusion and opens the field to new perspectives that may not have been
previously explored.


The authors
did a good job examining HRD and formulating a new definition but based on my
assessment, I believe their arrival at a definition is an improvement from
prior definitions, but premature. The data collected was U.S. Centric and
skewed heavily towards English publications. 
This poses a risk and a claim can be made that the definition cannot be
generalized in various sociopolitical and organizational

area that needed further examination was surrounding the increased focus of HRD
on the harsh realities of the profession. 
Given that the scope of the article was on formulating a definition of
HRD, I can understand why the authors do not go into great depth exploring this
phenomenon. Further research should explore
this assertion so better understanding is gained which would lead to a more holistic viewpoint.

research is important because it aims to address issues in the HRD field not by
looking at the functions or the value delivered by HRD, but by examining the
construct itself. Having a common definition would provide increased focus for researchers and
practitioners and advance the field of study to provide even more value.   

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