Factors impacting on the nature of human resource development


The growth of HRD as a field of both practice and academic study has taken place over a period of time when thinking about management theory and its application has also grown, alongside changes in economic, political, and social conditions. This has resulted in many different factors impacting on the delivery of employment activities in general, and learning and development in particular. Building on Chapter 1, we consider here some of the internal and external factors which will impact on how the HRD function is established and operated.These include legislative, economic, political, and social considerations, technological advances, and workplace demographics, all of which will influence both the design and delivery of learning and development opportunities. These factors will also impact on how decisions are made regarding the measurement and evaluation of this type of investment. In addition, we consider briefly some of the challenges of delivering L & D in a global marketplace in the current climate.


By the end of this chapter the reader should be able to:

  • • Analyze the contextual influences which have impacted on the growth of the field of HRD as a specialist area of both study and practice
  • • Consider briefly the implications of delivering learning and development in a global marketplace
  • • Review how these internal and external factors might impact on the delivery of learning and development activities, in particular with regard to inclusion and diversity, and an aging workforce

Some contextual influences

As noted earlier, many of these historical developments have provided not only the backdrop to but also the basis from which many HRD (and HRM) activities have evolved into new areas of application and purpose. This has resulted in a growing focus on academic research to extend knowledge of the philosophies and practices underpinning the search for utilization of a workforce achieving optimum performance (Mulvie, 2018). Throughout this development period of the past 70 years or so, a key driver has been a move by employers away from helping employees and caring for their welfare, towards a more rigorous focus on the effectiveness of people utilization to a business. Increasingly employees have been described as assets and/or resources to be considered strategically in terms of business growth. Development of people resources to support any operation requires some degree of planning, resourcing, and evaluation. Such planning will involve consideration of environmental factors as well as internal requirements. Salaman and Asch (2003) argue that realigning the relationship between the three key factors of environment, strategy, and organizational capability lies at the heart of attempts to improve organizational performance. Organizational change and development are now seen as the means of building on existing strengths and capabilities within a workforce; innovative and intelligent strategies will help to make change; and the degree of adaptability within the organization and its members will also be a key influence (Salaman and Asch, 2003). Preparing a strategy for learning and development is a critical part of this process and will require consideration of a wide range of issues.

A number of both internal and external drivers (see Figure 2.1) will impact on the development of an organization’s people. The application and utilization of such drivers can be linked to a wider context of individual and organizational performance.

Interactions between such drivers can create a framework for measuring how they are operating and their overall effectiveness. This will be of particular importance when wishing to determine the value of strategies adopted to enhance learning and development activities. Firstly, by examining the outer elements we can see that factors which are often beyond the control of employers may impact on the way in which staff development is planned and delivered, no matter the age profile of the workforce. Secondly, when we look at the internal elements we can see how variation in approach, investment in resources, and overall focus will impact on the delivery of a range of learning and development activities. It is at this internal level there may be more requirement to consider the workforce demographic and its age profile, something which will be most pertinent when making choices about what to offer to staff and why.

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