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HRD full is Human Resource Development is concerned with the development of human resources in terms of knowledge, skills, and potentialities to achieve organizational, group and individual goals. Let’s explore here everything about HRD step by step.

Table of Content

What is HRD? (Human Resource Development)

In today’s fast paced dynamic global environment, the quality of employees not only differentiates organizations but also provide with unique competitive edge. Irrespective of type and size, all organizations want to have the most competent and motivated employees. In-fact, some quote that an organization is only as good as its people. Knowledge and skills that people possess has become a critical necessity of the modern economy where proper education, training and development has become an essential part of organizational strategy. This is where human resource development (HRD) becomes important to ensure that people are adequately trained and developed for present or any future work requirement.

So, what is HRD? HRD stands for Human Resource Development and is a process of developing human expertise through education, training and development, and organizational development, to enhance the knowledge, skills, and performance of people. HRD thus refers to a set of systematically planned activities designed to provide opportunities to people to develop their knowledge, skills, expertise and productivity. By developing human knowledge and skills, HRD seeks to improve overall satisfaction and quality of life, whether it is for personal prosperity or group gain, or for the benefit of an organization, community, nation, or humanity as a whole.

Evolution of HRD - Human Resource Development

The term human resource development is in use only from 1980s, however, the concept itself is much older. In the modern times, evolution of HRD can be traced back to the apprenticeship training programs in the 18th century. Because of lack vocational training institutes skilled artisans to meet demand used to employ additional workers as apprentices. Later in early 19th century manual schools were established to train unskilled unemployed people.

Need for skill development gained more importance with industrial revolution. Use of machines and scientific management practices in factories created a huge demand for engineers, machinists, and skilled workers. To meet this demand, factories created mechanical and machinist training programs, collectively called as “factory schools.”

The introduction of assembly line production in early 20th century made mass-production possible which demanded several tasks from semi-skilled workers. Training them for specific task came out as effective solution that helped in keeping the overall production cost low.

Evolution of HRD also gained impetus by the outbreak of World War I which created huge demand for military equipment. To meet demand training programs like job instruction training (JIT) was introduces to train the semi- skilled workers.

By 1960s and 1970s, professional trainers realized that their role extended beyond the training classroom. Need for employee involvement through coaching and counselling was felt. As such training and development competencies expanded to include interpersonal skills, process facilitation, and problem solving. This led to additional emphasis on employee development in the organisation.

The 1980s saw even greater changes where the T&D professionals experienced rapidly expanding realm of intervention in organizations. To encompass this growth and change the term human resource development was approved for further use. Many influential books by experts and scholars appearing in the late 1980s and early 1990s, have helped to clarify and define the HRD field. Since 1990s, strategic role of HRD has been explored as to how HRD links to and supports the goals and objectives of the organization. In recent years organizations are also viewed as high performance work systems.

What is Human Resource Development Meaning?

While learning forms the core of all HRD activities, a major focus is on workplace learning and performance. HRD meaning is reflected through engaging people in training programs, education and development courses that help them acquire proper competence necessary to meet current and future work demands. Besides training and development, which constitutes a major part of HRD activities, coaching, career development, team building, and organizational development are also some important aspect of human resource development. At its core, human resource development comprise of three key components:

  • Investment in human resource to enhance human capacities and capabilities
  • Utilisation of those human resource to enhance performance and productivity
  • Participation of human resource in quality-of-life benefits from increased productivity

Human Resource Development meaning thus can be different at individual level, organisational level and at national level. At individual level while it emphases on improving individual knowledge, skills and capabilities, at organisational level it strives to achieve organizational objectives by improving performance to the mutual satisfaction of individual and organisation. The enhanced competence and increased productivity adds to the overall quality of life at individual as well as national level.

What is Human Resource Development Definition?

Depending upon different perspectives, approaches and realm of practice, HRD definition varies. Major variance in various HRD definitions is due to source influence which may be from the school of economics and psychology, often taking a systems approach, and emphasizing on learning, human performance, and organisational development.

HRD is a crucial component of organizational management. It includes a broad range of procedures and methods intended to improve the abilities, know-how, and skills of an employee. Fundamentally, HRD seeks to enhance both individual and group performance in order to successfully accomplish organizational goals and objectives.

HRD - Human Resource Development Definition by Experts Scholar

One of the earliest definitions of HRD was given by Harbison and Myers (1964). They defined HRD as “the process of increasing the knowledge, the skills, and the capacities of all the people in the society”. Influenced by the economic school, they emphasised on higher skilling level of employees and their full utilization in the process.

Taking a psychological approach, and emphasizing on behavioural change and adult learning, Nadler (1970) defined HRD as “a series of organized activities conducted within a specified time and designed to produce behavioural change”.

Jones (1981), combined both psychological and economic approach and emphasizing on performance, as well as organizational and personal goals, defined HRD as “a systematic expansion of people’s work-related abilities, focused on the attainment of both organization and personal goals”.

Taking cues from economics and psychology, Swanson (1987), emphasized on organisational performance, and taking a systems approach defined HRD as “a process of improving an organization’s performance through the capabilities of its personnel. HRD includes activities dealing with work design, aptitude, expertise and motivation

Smith R. (1988), further explicitly added training and development to the above approach (Swanson, 1987) and defined “HRD consists of programs and activities, direct and indirect, instructional and/or individual that positively affect the development of the individual and the productivity and profit of the organization”

Watkins (1989), further adding emphasis on learning capacities, individual and organizational development, defined “HRD is the field of study and practice responsible for the fostering of a long-term, work-related learning capacity at the individual, group, and organizational level of organizations. As such, it includes— but is not limited to—training, career development and organizational development”.

Most scholars while putting forth their HRD definition have kept Human Resource Development definition grounded in economic and psychological theories with systems approach and emphasizing on learning activities and performance improvement. The later scholars while keeping the same approach have expanded the HRD definition to include, training and development, organisational development, career development, continuous performance improvement and learning organizations as well.

HRD definition may reflect multiple approach in many ways, but at its core it is a process which can be a system as well as a journey at the same time. It engages different people at different times located in different places both inside and outside the organization. From organizational practice point of view, it emphasizes on training and development and organizational development. It focuses at organizational as well as individual level and connects individuals with the organizations

HRD Process

HRD works is a practical environment. One of its primary objective is to help people cope up effectively with the unsatisfactory state of day-to-day activities. HRD programs and interventions are employed to address a large numbers of problems in an organisation. To ensure that desired goals are achieved it is very critical to design and implement HRD programs with due diligence and care keeping in mind the importance of HRD process

The most common approach while designing and implementing an HRD process is based on the systems theory where a four-step process is adopted - needs assessment, design, implementation, and evaluation.

Need Assessment for HRD Intervention  (Identifying Gaps in Knowledge, Skills, Abilities)

HRD programs or interventions are always geared towards addressing some need or gap in an organization. It can be any deficient results such as poor performance or need for upskilling to meet future requirement. HRD need assessment is an important process to determine the gap between the current capabilities and competencies of existing employees and required optimal level. It helps identify specific area for intervention along with the participants who would require such involvement. Further it also helps in determining the initial design of the program.

In HRD process, need assessment involves three important considerations:

  • Need Assessment at Organizational level or Organizational Analysis: Analysis of organizational outcomes, along with future organizational needs can help in assessing gap. An assessment of KSAs of current pool of employees and their readiness to meet current and future requirement can serve as a starting point of organizational analysis for need assessment.
  • Need Assessment at Job level or Task Analysis: Task analysis is carried to identify specific skills and competencies required to carry out job successfully. Apart from looking at KSAs and competencies, assessment of work environment, time constraints, equipment and safety, performance standards also needs to be considered while assessing the gap.
  • Need Assessment at Individual level or Person Analysis: Person analysis helps in determining employees’ readiness for a task. It assesses whether employee possesses required KSAs and competencies with respect to required levels and that particular program will enhance their skill level. Personal analysis includes evaluation of personal abilities, attitude, beliefs, motivation, input, output, consequences and feedback.

Both qualitative as well as quantitative methods are used to collect data while conducting need assessment. These information are further used to:

  • Priorities for particular HRD efforts
  • Define specific training and HRD objectives
  • Establish evaluation criteria

​Designing the HRD program or Intervention

Once the need assessment is completed, the identified issues or gaps, need to be converted to clear   objectives. These objectives serve the basis of the HRD programs to be facilitated with clear lessons   plans. The appropriateness of the training or intervention method is decided and designed. The   design process involves selecting and developing the content of the program. It involves a set of   specific activities which is essential consideration for the proper formulation of the entire program   such as:

  • Selecting the specific objectives of the program.
  • Developing an appropriate lesson plan for the program.
  • Developing or acquiring the appropriate materials.
  • Determining who will deliver the program.
  • Selecting the most appropriate method or methods to conduct the program.
  • Scheduling the program.

Design phase thus helps in determining the content and suitable setting for the program as to whether it will be on the job, in a classroom, online, or other; whether it will be delivered as a lecture,  discussion, role play, or simulation, or whether the program will be developed in-house or purchased consideration for goal, budget and delivery methods is important reliction of this phase.

Implementation of the Planned Program or Intervention

Post need assessment and design, the HRD program or intervention is implemented using most   appropriate methods so that it becomes effective. Delivering such programs may pose numerous  challenges such as executing them as planned, creating environment that enhance learning, or any  other problems that may arise during program

Broadly there are two kinds of program delivery. One is the Off-the-job training method where generally lecture like classroom training, computer based training, or games and simulation based training are employed. The other is On-the-job method where generally job instruction technique, job rotation, coaching and apprenticeship training methods are employed.

Evaluation of the HRD Program or Intervention

In this final phase HRD process is evaluated by measuring their overall effectiveness. Such evaluation   may involve information on participants’ reaction to the program, assessing their learning and observe  whether they use those learning on their job. And if so these are positive, whether the program has  improved the organization’s effectiveness in terms of some concrete measures on bottom line. This  information allows managers to make better decisions about various aspects of the HRD effort, such  as:

  • Continuing to use a particular technique or vendor in future programs
  • Offering a particular program in the future
  • Budgeting and resource allocation
  • Using some other HR or managerial approach (like employee selection or changing work rules) to solve the problem

It is important that HRD professionals provide evidence that HRD programs improve individual and organizational effectiveness.

Functions of Human Resource Development (HRD)

Functions of HRD can be a stand-alone purpose or it can be one of the primary functions with the realm of Human Resource Management (HRM) department. McLagan (1989) identified three primary functions of HRD:

Training and Development

Training and development (T&D) is geared towards improving the KSAs of individuals. Training involves providing employees required KSAs and competencies needed to do a particular task or job. While, development activities focus on longer-term impact like preparing for future work responsibilities along with increasing employee capabilities to perform their current jobs.

Once employees become proficient in their jobs, HRD activities focus more on developmental activities like coaching and counselling. Through coaching employees are encouraged to accept responsibility for their actions, address any work-related problems, and achieve and sustain superior levels of performance. Counselling help employees deal with personal problems that may interfere with the achievement of these goals.

HRD training and development programs also ensure that managers and supervisors have the knowledge and skills necessary to be effective in their positions. These programs may include supervisory training, job rotation, seminars, or college and university courses.

Organization Development

Organization development (OD) is the process of improving the effectiveness of an organization and the well-being employees through planned interventions.At macro level, OD interventions intend to enhance the effectiveness of the organization as a whole, while at micro level OD interventions are directed at individuals, small groups, and teams.

In its OD intervention roles, HRD generally functions as a change agent. The HRD professional may carrying out intervention strategy, facilitating the planning and implementation of actual change process to the desired effect.

Career Development

Career development is “an ongoing process by which individuals progress through a series of stages, each of which is characterized by a relatively unique set of issues, themes, and tasks.”Career development includes career planning and career management. Through career planning an individual, assess his or her skills and abilities to establish a realistic short term and long term career milestone. Career management refers to taking necessary steps to achieve that plan. HRD activities help in preparing employees for future responsibilities and put them to a deterministic career development path.

Importance of HRD

HRD is a field of practical importance dealing with functioning of people in productive systems. Two core concept in HRD are individual and organizational learning and individual and organizational performance. The intend of HRD is continuous improvement and human success. While importance of HRD in training and development, organizational development and career development need not be overemphasized, some recent trends and challenges posed by the global dynamic economic environment further amplifies the importance of HRD in today’s business.

Competing in a global economy: Competing in the global economy requires more than educating and training workers to meet new challenges. While there is a proliferation of newer technologies demanding better-educated and trained workers, retaining talent, managing process improvement and change efforts are equally important. High involvement programs, learning cultures have become important to compete in an increasingly sophisticated market. Proper HRD programs can help organization compete in the global economy.

Eliminating the skill gaps: Organizations must keep skilled and competent employees to succeed and thrive in today’s economy. Since business needs and technological impact keep changing, workforce need to be constantly learning and be aligned with organizational goals. Importance of HRD in upskilling the employees’ competencies, eliminating skill gaps and enhance organizational effectiveness cannot be overstated.

Increasing Workforce Diversity: Increasing diversity in workforce is going to continue. Racial, ethnic, language and cultural differences, increasing numbers of women in the workforce,aging population etc. highlights the importance of creating HRD programs that recognize and address the diversity related issues.

The Need for Life-long Learning: Today organizations face rapid changes which makes imperative that employees must keep learning continuously throughout their career. This lifelong learning can be met with HRD which is a continuous process but organizations need to keep investing in HRD.

Facilitating Organizational Learning: It is recognized that organizations need to become learning organizations which can learn, adapt and change. In order to do so it is important to address the learning principles, its relation with performance and fundamental change. HRD can help develop learning tools that enhance individual development and overall organizational learning.

Addressing Ethical Dilemmas: There is a deluge of business scandals in recent years that prick troubling questions for organizations, government, society and business education. Ethical issues also arise from human resource development. Efforts to address this like rolling out“standards on ethics and integrity” document has been done in the past but newer situations may arise asking for global HRD code of ethics.

High Performance Work Systems: There is an increasing emphasis on high performance work systems which is based on autonomy, participative decision making and self-motivated teams culture. HRD can facilitate organizations to cultivate such culture within organization.

In short, it can be said that given the dynamic business environment, HRD has become a very important function in an organization and its importance is only going to increase further.

Goals of HRD

The primary goal of HRD is to enhance individual learning and performance thereby improve organizational effectiveness and productivity. Today, successful HRD intervention is considered a key to engage employees for higher performance leading to higher productivity and greater profitability. Some primary goals of HRD are:

  • Develop individual capabilities to enhance individual performance and to realize their full potential
  • Make people more competent by helping them develop new skills, knowledge and attitude and prepare them for future requirement
  • Create more committed workforce
  • Create an environment of trust and respect
  • Increase employee acceptability towards change
  • Manage change through OD interventions
  • Employability and adaptability forms the core goal of HRD

In short the goals of HRD can be summed as

  • Access to organization proficiency.
  • Increasing quality and efficiency.
  • Promotion in growth and individual development.
  • Integrating people into business.

It should however be noted that HRD goals must be strategically aligned to the organizational goals.


HRD and HRM difference can be summarized with the phrase, HRD in HRM. In some organizations, HRD is a stand-alone function or department; however, in most of the organizations, training or human resource development is a part of the human resource management.


HRD in HRM - HRD is a primary function within the HRM department. But in recent years there is a shift from traditional training function to also include career development, organizational development and individual development activities alike coaching and counselling. The HRD function, though a part within HRM, is seen as a new discipline in itself. The core function of HRD includes training and development, organizational development and career development.

Training and development focuses on changing or improving KSAs and competence of employees with respect current as well as future requirement. Employee orientation, skill and technical training are some of its aspects while coaching and counselling are also conducted as a long term development measures. HRD is also responsible for management training and development to ensure availability of capable managers and supervisors.

In their OD function, HRD usually acts as a change agent. It facilitates change or advises line function on strategies leading to desired change.

Career planning and management are incorporated within the overall training programs of the organization and HRD plays an important role in skilling and preparing employees for future roles.

Today the most important challenge as well as opportunity for HRD professionals is to play a more strategic role in the functioning of the organization. The strategic capability of HRD can be realized in three primary ways:

  • Directly participating and aligning to organizational strategic process,
  • Providing training and development to line managers in the concepts and methods of strategic management and planning
  • Providing training to all employees aligned with the goals and strategies of the organization.


HRM deals with effective selection and utilization of employees to achieve goals and strategies of organization, as well as the employees. It should be also noted that the responsibility for HRM is shared by human resource specialists as well as line management. Some of the key functions of HRM are:

Human resource planning: It refers to activities that predict changes in management strategy affecting future human resource needs. These may arise due to rapid changes in external market demands beside others. HR planning charts organizational plans, programs, and actions to be followed in a short term.

Equal employment opportunity: HRM is responsible for satisfying both the legal and moral responsibilities of an organization through the prevention of discriminatory policies, procedures, and practices. This includes decisions affecting hiring, training, appraising, and compensating employees.

Recruitment and Selection: An important function of HRM is recruitment and selection. Proactive identification of potential applicants for current and future openings and evaluates applicants in for the selection process.

Compensation and benefits: HRM is responsible for maintaining an equitable internal wage structure, a competitive benefits package, and incentives programs applicable to individual, team, or organizational performance.

Employee relations: HRM is responsible for maintaining healthy employee relations. These may include developing a communications system through which employees can address their problems and grievances.

Health, safety, and security: HRM seeks to promote a safe and positive work environment. This may include actions such as safety training, employee assistance programs, and health and wellness programs.

Human resource development:HRD in HRM: HRM is also responsible to ensure that employees have required skills or competencies to meet current and future job demands.

Organization/job design: HRM is also concerned with interdepartmental relations within the organization and definition of jobs.

Performance management and performance appraisal systems: HRM uses performance management for establishing and maintaining accountability throughout the organization.

Research and information systems: HRM is also concerned with Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) that helps in making evidence based human resource decisions.

HRM functions usually have staff authority. Staff authority in an organization usually refers to advising and consulting role to the line functions. However, HRM department must exert adequate influence to ensure that employees have the competencies to meet current and future job demands. At times this may require some type of OD interventions to achieve desired organizational values and goals where HRD programs and processes become important.


HRD, is a part of the larger human resource management system. It mainly refers to training and development, career development, and organization development programs and processes. To be effective HRD must be aligned with the organizational goals and strategies. The HRD professionals also need to have expertise on a number of competencies to meet the challenges facing organizations in this new century. These challenges may include increasing workforce diversity, competing in a global economy, eliminating the skills gap, meeting the need for lifelong learning, becoming a learning organization, and addressing ethical dilemmas. Finally, HRD interventions need careful consideration when operationalized for effective impact. The systems or HRD process framework - assess, design, implement, evaluate – should be given due diligence and utmost consideration when deciding a HRD program or intervention.



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