Theory of Human Resource Development (HRD)

This module covers the HRD function in organizations from a wide variety of perspectives. At the outset, after the introduction to the module in the previous article, it is time to look at some theoretical perspectives about the HRD function.

When the field of management science and organizational behavior was in its infancy, the HRD function was envisaged as a department whose sole role was to look after payroll and wage negotiation. This was in the era of the assembly line and manufacturing where the HRD function’s purpose was to check the attendance of the employees, process their pay and benefits and act as a mediator in disputes between the management and the workers. Concomitant with the rise of the services sector and the proliferation of technology and financial services companies, the role of the HRD function changed correspondingly.

For instance, the RBV or the Resource Based View of organizations was conceptualized to place the HRD function as a department that would leverage the human resources from the perspective of them being sources of strategic advantage.

The shift in the way the human resources were viewed as yet another factor of production to being viewed as sources of competitive advantage and the chief determinant of profits was mainly due to the changing perceptions of the workforce being central to the organization’s strategy. For instance, many software and tech companies as well as other companies in the service sector routinely identify their employees as the chief assets and something that can give them competitive advantage over their rivals. Hence, the HRD function in these sectors has evolved from basic duties and is now looked upon as a critical support function.

With the advent of globalization and the opening up of the economies of several nations, there was again a shift in the way the HRD function was conceptualized. In line with the RBV and the view of the resources as being international and ethnically diverse, the HRD function was thought of to be the bridge between the different employees in multiple locations and the management.

The present conceptualization also means that employees have to be not only motivated but also empowered and enabled to help them actualize their potential. The point here is that no longer were employees being treated like any other asset. On the contrary, they were the center of attraction and attention in the changed paradigm. This called for the HRD function to be envisaged as fulfilling a role that was aimed at enabling and empowering employees instead of being just mediators and negotiators.

Finally, the theory of HRD also morphed with the times and in recent years, there has been a perceptible shift in the way the HRD function has come to encompass the gamut of activities ranging from routine tasks like hiring and training and payroll to actually being the function that plays a critical and crucial role in the employee development.

The theory has also transformed the function from being bystanders to the organizational processes to one where the HRD function is the layer between the management and employees to ensure that the decisions made at the top are communicated to the employees and the feedback from the employees is likewise communicated to the top.


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