chapter  7
26 Pages

Human resource development

Throughout this chapter we will consider various aspects of these levels and begin initially by considering the importance of how national government policy impacts on HRD.

It is often argued that a nation’s competitive advantage depends on the skills and inventiveness of its people. Often the manner in which organizations seek to respond to this issue will be determined to a large extent by the views of the government. Increasingly in the UK from the 1980s onwards there was an emerging consensus from government, policy-makers and practitioners that HRD and the up-skilling of the workforce should be encouraged within organ izations for the greater good of the economy. Despite the seeming acceptance by government and employers of the importance of training and development and the need to encourage it, there is a good deal of debate as to whether, in reality, there has been the revolution claimed with regard to the up-skilling of the UK workforce (see, for example, Keep and James, 2010). This point recognizes that the UK’s record on developing people is poor compared to other nations such as Germany, Japan and Sweden, who are felt to invest heavily in a range of HRD activities. In this sense the UK has often been characterized as voluntaristic with regard to training and development, meaning that the state takes a hands-off view in terms of encouraging employers to train their employees (Grugulis, 2007). Instead, individual employers are largely left to their own devices with regard to how much, or indeed, how little training and development they provide. Consequently, there has been much debate about the levels of expenditure and commitment to training and development from employers. Hyman (1996: 306-7) exemplifies this scepticism in his recognition that ‘what is more questionable . . . concerns the extent to which the majority of British employers have taken responsibility for strategically training and developing their employees’, with much activity simply being of the reactive ‘fire-fighting’ type. For many, then, there may be a gap between the perceived importance of HRD activities and the willingness to do something about it, with suspicions that in the UK too many organizations still see HRD activities as a cost and not an investment. Indeed, it could be argued that such a view may simply reflect the short-termism inherent in British business, where corporate objectives tend to be short term and defined by short-term profit and financial criteria.