What is Human Resource Development (HRD)? Definition, Functions, Importance, Process

  • Post last modified:8 October 2021
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What is Human Resource Development (HRD)?

Human Resource Development is a series of organized activities, conducted within a specialized time and designed to produce behavioural changes.

Human Resource Development was the most proactive sub-function of the specialization because it began at the level of training need identification, conducting climate surveys and actually conducting training programs.

The training was an ongoing but short-term process while organizational development was goal-directed and long term and both had a direct role in the organization’s corporate culture building.

Human Resource Development Definition

Some of the important definitions of HRD (Human Resources Development) are as follows:

Human Resource Development is the across of increasing knowledge, capabilities and positive work attitudes of all people working at all levels in a business undertaking

M.M. Khan

Human Resource Development is a process by which the employees of an organization are helped in a continuous and planned way to:

  • Acquire or sharpen capabilities required to perform various functions associated with their present or expected future roles.

  • Develop their journal capabilities as individuals and discover and exploit their own inner potential for their own and or organizational development purposes.

  • Develop an organizational culture in which superior-subordinate relationships, teamwork and collaboration among sub-units are strong and contribute to the professional well being, motivation and pride of employees.

Prof. T.V. Rao


Concept of Human Resource Development

For organisations, it is very difficult to categorize these activities under a single label. Rather, they have some other ways to do the things i.e. they can be brought under the umbrella of Human Resource Development.


For better understanding that one can ever be engaged in some form of human resource development, we need to get answers in yes and the activities are:

  • Have you ever trained a new employee to do his or her job (either formally or informally)?

  • Have you ever taught another person how to use new technology, for example, how to conduct an effective PowerPoint presentation?

  • Have you ever attended an orientation session for new employees?

  • Have you ever taken part in a company-sponsored training program, for example, diversity training, sexual harassment awareness, and prevention, or career development?

  • Have you ever gone through an experiential training experience, such as a ropes course or other outdoor learning experience?

  • Have you ever completed some type of career planning project or assessment for example, a vocational interest inventory?

  • Have you ever participated in an organization-wide change effort, for example, your organization was seeking to change its culture and move toward a flatter, more team-oriented structure?

It is a convention that an organization is only as good as its people. Be it any type and size of organizations, including schools, retail stores, government agencies, restaurants, and manufacturers, have at least one thing in common: they must employ competent and motivated workers.

In the dynamic economy, this need has become even stronger as organizations grapple with the challenges presented by a fast-paced, highly dynamic, and increasingly global economy.

To compete with all these challenges and survive, many organizations are including employee education, training, and development as an important and effective part of their organizational strategy.


Human Resource Development Functions

Human Resource Development, as we discussed, can be a standalone function. Or it can be one of the primary functions within the HRM department.

The structure of the HRD function and its scope has been shaped by the needs faced by organizations. The study identified four trends affecting modern HRD:

  • There is greater diversity in the workforce.

  • More people involved in knowledge work, which requires judgment, flexibility, and personal commitment rather than submission to procedures.

  • Greater expectations of meaningful work and employee involvement.

  • A shift in the nature of the contract between organizations and their employees.

The ASTD study documented a shift from the more traditional training and development topics to a function that included career development and organization development issues as well. The study depicted the relationship between HRM and HRD functions as a “human resource wheel”.

The HR wheel identifies three primary HRD functions:

  1. Training and Development: The training and development (T&D) focus on changing or improving the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of individuals. Training typically involves providing employees with the knowledge and skills needed to do a particular task or job.

  2. Organization Development: Organisation development (OD) is defined as the process of enhancing the effectiveness of an organization and the well-being of its members. Organization development can be done through planned interventions that apply behavioural science concepts.

    These interventions emphasize both macro and micro organizational changes.

  3. Career Development: In the career development process, the individuals’ progress through a series of stages because it is an ongoing process. Each stage in the process is characterized by a relatively unique set of issues, themes, and tasks. The career development process involves two distinct processes:
    • Career Planning and
    • Career Management.

Importance of Human Resources Development

Some of the importance of human resource development are as follows:

  1. To Develop Competencies
  2. To Mitigate Some of the Evil Consequences of Industrialization
  3. To Bring About System-wide Changes
  4. To Develop a Proper Climate in the Organization

To Develop Competencies

If the employees are not competent in terms of knowledge, skills and attitudes, no organization can survive. The competent employees are as much the necessity of a non-profit organization as a profit-making organisation and both types of organizations need competent employees for the success of their internal and external operations.

To Mitigate Some of the Evil Consequences of Industrialization

It is common information and fact that the factory system has dehumanized and deskilled various jobs. HRD satisfies their needs of advancement, growth, self-respect, recognition, creativity and autonomy by enriching workers’ roles.

To Bring About System-wide Changes

In traditional methods, often top management personnel have the attitude that all is well with them, and it is only the lower level in the organization which needs to be trained and developed.

Such an attitude of top management makes these programs ineffective because by keeping interdependent and interacting higher levels out, these levels continue to remain plagued by forces of mistrust, jealousy and authoritarianism.

The HRD programs bring about a system-wide change and they gradually enrich the entire socio-technical system.

To Develop a Proper Climate in the Organization

No other traditional method can do this and the executives in most of the traditional organizations seem to hold different types of values. These values when held by themselves lead to the following consequences: Values are learned commands which once internalized, coerce human behaviour in specific directions. The executives generally remain unaware of the human problems of their subordinates.

It is because the latter suppress their emotions and disguise their feelings. In organizations, decision-making becomes less effective because there is dropping off of experimentation and risk-taking with new ideas. As a result, people become more open, independent, authentic, creative and collaborative in their behavior.


Vision of Human Resource Development

  • The HRD function must be given a place in corporate mission statement and organisational culture.

  • The HRD function is perceived as an internal consultant to management and as part of the businesses of the organisation.

  • These functions are committed to strategic planning, organisational change, and organisational goals.

  • These functions have the ability to diagnose problems and anticipate needs of human resource development.

  • The HRD function is strongly committed to facilitating fulfillment of objectives of line and staff departments.

  • The members of the HRD Staff should develop themselves as experts so that they can fulfill the vision of organisation into the reality.

It is expected from them that high level of HRD staff teamwork, creativity and flexibility will contribute positively to what is required in present era.


Scope of Human Resource Development

Human resources can be viewed as the sum of knowledge, skills, attitudes, commitment, values and the like of the people of an organization. Development is the acquisition of capabilities that are needed to do the present job or the future expected job.

Human Resource Development is a positive concept in human resources management. The purpose of Human Resource Development is to enhance an employee’s capacity to successfully handle greater responsibilities, through formal or informal means.

Any effective HRD program must satisfy the needs of an organization.To this end, management must outline the needs of the organization and convert them into objectives with a view to formulate a workable program.

Macro Level: At the macro level HRD is concerned with the development of people for the nation’s well being. It takes health, capabilities, skills, attitudes of people which are more useful to the development of the nation as a whole.

Micro Level: HRD has concern for grass root development in the organizations. Small wonder, then, that HRD was well received by companies’ management as they realized its importance and foresaw its future contribution for the individual and organizational development.

Generally, Human Resource Development at micro-level talks of the organization’s manpower planning, selection, training, performance appraisal, development, potential appraisal, compensation, organizational development, etc.


Problems of HRD and Challenges for Future

  • Organisational environment is not generally conducive to the application of the knowledge which is gained by the trainees in the training programmes.

  • The biggest challenge is that the training needs are not properly identified.

  • The advanced countries developed a considerable number of training packages and video tapes but these are not of much use to trainees due to language and cultural differences.

  • In the HRD practices, the main stress is on lecture method whereas the use of audio visual aids, case studies, group work and project work is limited.

  • The present reality is that the training profession is not honoured and career progression is not lucrative. As a result of this, the dedicated and competent persons are reluctant to join the training/HRD department.

  • The financial and other incentives are inadequate and due to this the internal faculty members on various subjects don’t get interested, within the organisation.

  • The external faculty generally lack expertness and competence and were also inadequate.

  • The internal and external trainers ere inadquate and at the same time, here is inadequate number of advanced training institutions to cater to various industrial undertakings.

  • Many organisations are not very serious and conscious about HRD and do not make available adequate resources and funds for HRD activities.


  • The emphasis is more on-the-job training rather than on the development of employees. The development is necessary to assume higher responsibility or meet the challenges of change in technology/environment.

  • The rate of technology change and advancement in the world is much faster than the rate of technology transfer and understanding among the developing countries as the gap is growing and it is the biggest challenge.

  • The line supervisors and managers lack their interest in developing their subordinates. The reason is as this factor has almost no weightage for their emotions.

  • The ther challenge is the manager’s lack of interest in organisation’s to develop expertise in the training methodology in HRD staff.

  • The educational systems on the National and regional level lags behind the requirements of the industry which is threat for the industry and the outcome is underperformance and not able to reach upto the standard.

Challenges to Organisations and to HRD Professionals

The present five challenges currently facing the field of HRD includes:

  1. Changing workforce demographics,
  2. Competing in a global economy,
  3. Eliminating the skills gap,
  4. Meeting the need for lifelong individual learning, and
  5. Facilitating organisational learning.

HRD Matrix

The HRD Matrix shows the interrelationships between HRD instruments, processes, outcomes and organizational effectiveness.

  1. HRD Instruments
  2. HRD Processes
  3. HRD Outcomes
  4. Organizational Effectiveness

HRD Instruments

These include performance appraisal, counselling, role analysis, potential development, training, communication policies, job rotations, rewards, job enrichment programs, etc.

These instruments may vary depending on the size of the organization, the internal environment, the support and commitment of the top management, the competitive policies, etc.

HRD Processes

The HRD instruments lead to the generation of HRD of processes like role clarity, performance planning, development climate, risktaking, dynamism in employees.

Such HRD processes should result in more competent, satisfied and committed people that would make the organization grow by contributing their best to it.

HRD Outcomes

HRD instruments and processes make people more committed and satisfied, where they tend to give their best to the organization enthusiastically.

Organizational Effectiveness

Dimensions Such HRD outcomes influence the organizational effectiveness, which in turn, depends.


HRD Process

Human Resource Development (HRD) process has the following four-phase:

Need Assessment Phase

A process by which an organization’s HRD needs are identified and articulated. It identifies:

  • An organizations’ goals and its effectiveness in reaching these goals.
  • Gaps between current skills and the skills needed to perform the job successfully.
  • Gaps between employees’ skills and the skills required for effective current job performance.
  • The conditions under which the HRD activity will occur.

Design Phase

The second phase of the training in the HRD process involves designing the HRD program and intervention. In this phase the following activities are carried out:

  • The objective of the program should be defined

  • Develop an appropriate lesson plan for the program

  • Develop and acquire the appropriate materials for the trainers to use

  • Determine who will deliver the program

  • Select the appropriate method to conduct the program

  • Schedule the program

Implementation Phase

This phase is to implement effective HRD programs or interventions after the assessment and design phase, which aims that the program must be delivered and implemented by using the most appropriate methods.

Delivering any HRD program generally presents numerous challenges such as executing the program as planned, creating an environment that enhances learning, and resolving problems that may arise.

Evaluation Phase

This is the final phase in the training and HRD process after which the effectiveness of the HRD intervention is measured. This determines whether a program is accomplishing its objectives. It identifies the strengths and weaknesses of HRD programs and determines the cost-benefit ratio of an HRD program.

This phase also decides who should participate in future HRD programs. This phase identifies which participants are benefited the most or least from the program. This also helps in gathering data to assist in marketing future programs and establishing a database to assist management in making decisions.


Strategic Management and HRD

Strategic management involves a set of managerial decisions and actions and these are intended to provide a competitively superior fit with the external environment. The purpose is to enhance the long-run performance of the organisation.

It involves several distinct processes, including strategy formulation, strategy implementation, and control which can be understood as follows:

  • At the formulation level, the top management first assess the viability of the current mission, objectives, strategies, policies, programs, technology, workforce, and other resources.

  • After formulation, they must monitor and assess different external environments that may pose a threat or offer potential opportunities.

  • Finally, in light of all the assessments, the management must identify strategic factors that need to be changed or updated.

The emphasis has been on more fully integrating HRM with the strategic needs of the organisation. For this, two types of fit or alignments are necessary which are explained below:

  • Firstly, external alignment is necessary between the strategic plans of the organisation and the external environment that it faces.

  • Secondly, internal alignment is necessary within the organisation i.e. the strategy of the organisation must be aligned with the mission, goals, beliefs, and values that characterize the organisation.

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