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Human Resource Development - Performance for the Key

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Human Resource Development:

Performance Is the Key

Richard A. Swanson

The purpose of this position paper is to stimulate discussion by presenting a

range of options for viewing HRD. The major sections are (1) "Views of Human

Resource Development," (2) "Definitions," (3) "Performance With or Without

Instruction," (4) "Perfonnance--A Closer Look," and (5) "Conclusions."

Views of Human Resource Development

First, 1 propose that scholars and professionals have the opportunity to view

and position HRD at one of the following levels:

* As a major business process, something an organization must do to succeed.

* As a value-added activity, something that is potentially worth doing.

* As an optional activity something that is nice to do.

* As a waste of business resources, something that has costs exceeding the


Furthermore, 1 believe that the specific view selected by tbe HRD leader is the

one tbat will most likely become reality--a self-fulfilling prophecy And, in the

absence of a commitment from HRD leaders, management and/or government

will most likely impose a view tbat is based on misinformation or partial information.

Second, 1 propose that the theoretical foundations of HRD are drawn from

psychological theory, systems theory, and economic theory (Swanson, 1982,

1992). Tbe visual image 1 use is a three-legged stool having tbe ability to stand

secure on botb smooth and irregular surfaces (Figure 1). Furthermore, 1 believe

tbat all three are required ingredients for HRD to be considered a major

business process.

Note: This article is based on a conference keynote address to the International Research

Network for Training and Development, June 23, 1994, Milan, Italy,

FORUM is a wnrefereed section inviting readers' reactions and opinions.

HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT QUARTIBLY, vol, 6. no. 2. Summer 1993 ©Jossey-Bass Publishers 207

208 Swanson

Figure 1. Theoretical Foundations of HRD


Human resource development: Human resource development is a process of developing

and/or unleashing human expertise through organization development

and personnel training and development for the purpose of improving


Components oj human resource devehpmenl: The two major components of

HRD are (1) traimng and development and (2) organization development. In

addition, HRD has three critical application areas: human resource management,

career development, and quality improvement.

Organization development: Organization development is the process of systematically

implementing organizational change for the purpose of improving


Training and development: Training and development is the process of systematically

developing expertise in individuals for the purpose of improving


Performance: There are three levels of performance: organizational,

process, and Individual.

HRD values: HRD practices should be theoretically and ethically sound.

HRD calls upon theories from multiple disciplines. Thus, the problem of connecting

sound theory and sound practice within a theoretically sound and ethical

framework is an important part of HRD theory and practice.

Perjormance h the Key 209

Performance--With or Without Instruction

The historic root of the HRD profession is the training and learning component

(Swanson and Torraco, 1995). In order to understand the contemporary

role of HRD, it is important to revisit the role of learning in the profession (see

Dooley, 1945; Campbell, Campbell, and Associates, 1988; Gagne, 1962; Jacobs,

1992; Jacobs and Jones, 1995; Senge, 1990; Watkins and Marsick,

1993). 1 love learning. 1 love the process of learning and the results of having

new knowledge. More than learning, 1 love expertise. I love ihe personal sense

of self that results from heing efficient and effective. Learning is only one component

of expertise (Bereiter and Scardamalia, 1992; Stolovitch and Keeps,

1992), More than expertise, 1 love perjormance. Expertise is only one component

of performance (Figure 2). Worthy performance from the perspective of

business and industry can be viewed at the organizational, process, and individual

levels (Rummler and Brache, 1990; Swanson, 1994).

Performance--A Closer Look

For HRD to become a core husmess process, performance is the key. The performance

perspectives of levels, variables, and measures



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