International Federation of Training and Development Organisations

A Diverse Global Network of Organisations Focused on People & Performance

Comparative HRD Practice (Joint IFTDO UFHRD research)



Comparative HRD Practice (Joint IFTDO UFHRD research)

Amanda Lee; Sophie Mills


Initial Findings of Research investigating Global Human Resource Development Practices; Sophie Mills and Amanda Lee

Initial findings from the IFTDO and UFHRD jointly funded project comparing HRD practice across Europe, Africa and Asia, were presented by Sophie Mills, at the IFTDO Conference in Kuala Lumpar. The research team also comprises Professor Jim Stewart  (Coventry University Business School). The latest phase of the research draws on themes and issues emerging from the focus groups conducted in India, Taiwan, Nigeria and Ireland. Both similarities and contrasts are noted within the three regions.

Key themes emerging from the Indian focus group highlight that responsibility for HRD and HRM lie mainly with HR departments. A coming together of these terms and functions is also observed. Training and Development is identified as the most important responsibility of HRD practitioners, and as such often benefits from heavy investment.  Employee development is supported by a combination of on and off-the-job training opportunities, and the opportunity for career advancement is considered a strong motivator. There does not appear to be any standardisation of HRD practices within the public sector and Central Government involvement is seen as bureaucratic. Within larger organizations HRD functions tend to include a range of interventions such as: succession planning; training evaluation; career development and organization development. Less attention is paid to the HRD function in smaller organizations, however, there is growing involvement from line managers.

The focus group in Taiwan predominantly comprised employees within the Civil Service and other public sector organizations. Discussions revealed the terms HRD, HRM, training and industrial relations are often used interchangeably. HRD is identified as leaning towards responsibility for learning and development, or training strategy. A range of on-the-job, off-the- job and self-development interventions are used and there is heavy engagement and investment in e-learning. Line managers are involved in the identification of development needs and social competencies, or relationships with others, are given significant value in Taiwanese organizations.

Some similar themes around the interpretation of HRD and HRM were observed in the Nigerian focus group, with little or no distinction being made between these terms. Training activity is predominantly ascribed to the term HRD and it is the intervention utilised most by both SMEs and MNCs in Nigeria. There is a trend towards the devolvement of HRD to line managers. However, participants cautioned that line managers might not have the expertise to champion HRD activities.  It was felt that management enabled HRD by providing the necessary financial resources, but could also inhibit delivery of development interventions by withholding them. Other enabling factors include organizational culture, market competition and line managers’ support. Nigeria’s ‘collective’ culture is thought to influence potential for favouritism in staff selection for training or HRD interventions.

As noted in other countries, the Irish focus group participants reported a merging of the HRD and HRM specialisms. However, larger organizations may have a stand-alone HRD function. Smaller organizations tend to refer to learning and development or training, whereas larger organizations use terms such as workforce development, competencies management, and organizational capability, to refer to HRD activities. In contrast to the other countries, HRD strategy is often aligned with business strategy and, in many organizations, a structured approach is taken to the evaluation of L&D. However, this is not universal. There is engagement with apprenticeship schemes and a rise in the use of graduate programmes. Reverse mentoring (where younger staff members mentor older staff members), with new technologies is also identified. In common with other countries, line managers are involved in learning and development.

Detailed analysis of the data is on-going, but these initial findings provide a useful and revealing snapshot of HRD activity internationally. Differences in terminology and the influence on strategy exist between the participating countries, and the nature of ‘Global HRD’ needs further consideration. The study was limited to just a few countries in the respective continents and participants were drawn from mainly public sector sources. As such, there is a need for further research and scope to widen this study to include additional countries within these continents, and other continents. Data analysis will be complete by December and the final research report will be produced in January. These findings, together with a full summary of the research project, will be presented at the 45th IFTDO World Conference in Bahrain.