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Learning and Development vs Human Resource Development

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The definition of skill or knowledge upgrading in Merriam-Webster dictionary is to advance to a job requiring a higher level of skill especially as part of a training program. In Learning and Development (L&D) the essence of knowledge and skills upgrading, is the attempt to improve current or future performance by increasing individual ability to perform through learning and aim to enhancing performance and productivity to bridge the gaps for growth. (Sadler-Smith, 2006)

Distinction and overlaps of L&D vs HRD
The concept of L&D in the field of management research and practice is concerned with how individuals acquire or create knowledge and skills which enable them to perform and grow in their role. Whereas in the context of Human Resource Development (HRD) there is no specific research finding to identify the scope and to define its but according to Nadler 1970, Davis and Mink 1990s, McLean 2001, or Stewart 1999 (referring to appendix) from the Learning and Development for Managers textbook, all of them deem HRD as a series and wide range activities that resultant in behavior change for positive impact as an outcome of development. It seems to be no consensus, despite the fact that numerous efforts made to explain their own perspective of HRD. As for Lee (2001), he contested that some writes refused to define HRD and could not be defined sufficiently.

However, Harbison and Myers (1964) being the first to define HRD definition as “…the process of increasing the knowledge, the skills and the capacities of all the people in a society. In economic terms, it could be described as the accumulation of human capital and its effective investment in the development of an economy. In political terms, HRD prepares people for adult participation in the political process, particularly as citizens in a democracy. From the social and cultural points of view, the development of human resources helps people lead fuller and richer lives, less bound to tradition. In short, the processes of HRD unlock the door to modernization”. The definition is rather broad as it covers basically all aspect from culture to economy, social and political instead of individuals and organisation but
overall still encapsulate the process for improvement.

Key differences are the strategic deliverable activities to meet business intent Overlaps area is the objective of both driver: “development” for improvement

Personally I don’t find any distinction differences between the two in term of the above claim from the textbook. The ultimate meaning from both perspectives is acquiring skill and knowledge for the purpose of achieving effective performance and to enhance or improve the abilities of individual to meet some desired outcome. In short, HRD is a transformation word from L&D to change the perception of L&D from an operational department that dealt with day-to-day activities of learning need and implemented without aligning it to organisation objectives and strategic focus.

If we break the word L&D it means learning and development, which restricted to the word learning to grow. Whereas HRD would sound more holistic as it mean Human Resources Development that could encompassed with all rounded advancement through not limited to “learning” but training, education, strategic intent and all other aspect in advancing and developing people “the human resources” for better performance. The ultimate objectives of both concepts are driving in the arena of development for individual growth to bridge the gap for current or future job.

Relationship of knowledge and skill upgrading in the concept of HRD and L&D

Generally in view of organization perspective I deem both L&D and HRD are meant to enhance individual performance through upgrading and thus improving organization effectiveness and productivity except whether or not it is meeting the strategic intent of the business strategies to enhance future organization wellbeing. Although some research on HRD is covering broader aspect of development but the fundamental is the same as it focus beyond learning but greater aspect to acquire knowledge and skills for the same objectives that is individual improvement and organization productivities and effectiveness.

Concept of knowledge and skill upgrading in my organization

In my organization we have L&D department who manage employee learning and training programs, strategic performance and talent management, competencies model for career and succession planning. Although the department is named after L&D but the roles does not lack behind aligning to organization objectives or doing solely day to day operation. If the distinct different between the L&D and HRD is its strategic intent, then I would second that my L&D department is HRD.

For example my L&D will identify the key strategies for action items to meet it organization long term human resource required skill and knowledge for business sustainability and competitive advantage instead of per request basis type of training management to run day to day filling and training administration.

A specific L&D vision was reformed in 2008 to meet it company new objectives to be an Excellent Company. This became it guiding principle to encapsulate its strategic drive to develop the 3 main focus group; Talent Management, Sales Force Development and Management Development. Each level will have its objectives and lists of development programs to materialize the individual capability that reinforce to its focus area.

In the case of talent management and sales force development, because regionally there are distinct gaps between emerging and developing countries’ sales force capability. To build-up the skill and knowledge in emerging country such as Vietnam, exchange program was introduced. The objective is to build a future workforce that can bring the necessary skills and knowledge back to home country to effectively demonstrate and contribute to the organization growth. A series of learning, training and education programs are rendered to build capability and evaluation and assessment are carry-out from pre to during and post training. Constant upgrading is an on-going activity to help employees in their career planning and integrated program for succession planning to ensure business continuity and not
dependently for some key position. Mgmt Development

The term HRD claimed by Garavan, 1995a; Harrison, 2000 is a strategic and business approach to training and development of human resources function in an organisation for performance improvement but in reality, be it you named it as L&D or HRD if your actual learning or training programs is not properly envisage and align to organization objective and the future required human resource skill and ability, the training department is as good as transactional operation training department. If one don’t change the way it function in training or learning activities for organization improvement it may simply not meeting it business strategies for it development of organization competencies.

Learning and Development for Manager, by Sadler-Smith

Nadler 1970, he defined it as ‘a series of organized activities conducted within a specified time and designed to produce behavioural change.

Davis and Mink in the 1990s as a wide range of interacting, integrating processes aimed at developing greater purpose and meaning, higher levels of performance and achievement and greater capacity for responding to an ever –changing environment leading to more effective individuals, teams and organization.

McLean(2001: 4) defined it as any process or activity that, either initially or over the long term, has the potential to develop adults’ work-based knowledge, expertise, productivity and satisfaction, whether for personal or group/ team gain or for the benefit of an organization, community, nation or ultimately the whole of humanity.

Stewart 1999: 19, described as ‘planned interventions in organizational and individual learning processes.

Grieves and Redman argued that the distinguishing characteristics of HRD are that it is a strategic intervention where there is some devolvement of responsibility to line managers and which assumes a positive set of attitudes to learning with an emphasis on the workplace as a context for learning.


Davis, L. N. and Mink, O.G. 1992. Human resource development: an emerging profession – an emerging purpose, studies in Continuing Education, 14(2): 187-202

Harbison, F. and Myers, C. A. (1964) Education, manpower and economic growth: Strategies of human resource development. New York: McGraw-Hill

Lee, M. (2004) A refusal to define HRD. In J. Woodall, M. Lee and J. Stewart (eds), New Frontiers in HRD. London: Routledge

Nadler, L. 1970. Developing Human Resource. Houston, TX: Gulf.

Merriam-Webster, Dictionary 2012 [Online] Available at: [http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/, [Accessed 23 September 2012]

McLean, G. N. and McLean, L. 2001. If we can’t define HRD in one country how can we define it in an international context? Human Resource Development International, 4(3):313-26

Sadler-Smith E. (2006) Learning and Development for Manager. Australia: Blackwell, pp.2-28

Stewart, J. 1999. Employee Development Practice. London: FT Pitman Publishing.

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