Bob Hamlin UK [BH], Winfried Heidemann DE [WH], Peter Kuchinke US [PK],
Jim McGoldrick UK [JM], Darlene Russ-Eft US [DR], Jim Stewart UK [JiS],
William Venables US [WV], Jean Woodall UK [JeW]
I would be interested in the panel's view on what are the distinguishing
characteristics between lifelong learning and HRD, because it's fuzzy in
my mind. I'm living in a country with a much different, or some would say
non-existent, model of social partnership. Winfried talked about the role
of organisations in lifelong learning; that is close to what concerns HRD.
Are there other aspects that lifelong learning has, that supersede perhaps
HRD? So what is it exactly?
Let me kick off by bringing together two strands of an argument here. There
is an undertone of the prototype that is agreeable to competitive advantage
in a knowledge economy. Then there is a competitive advantage to be gained
by having smart people, or people who are better trained, or adaptable
and ready to learn. If you are moving from manufacturing to service economy
that may be a very important thing. I come from a fairly small country
which is trying to say that one of the greatest resources it has are its
people, with a very sophisticated system of further and higher education
to serve a highly educated population, relative to some other countries.
What we've also got is lifelong learning as a construct to carry too much.
So there's the whole competitive advantage of nations linked with it. There
is also the thing about citizenship and community, because some of the
contradictions of advanced economies is that there are some places you
would not want to live in. So I would part with Peter that it's fuzzy.
I think that one of the risks is to try and nail it down and make it clear,
because lifelong learning is so ambiguous in terms of its meaning that
it fits perfectly with the ambiguity of what HRD means.
Yet you describe it in terms of country level and development rather that
organisation and specific institutional level -
I was only making that point that in a small country of 5 Mill. people
the feeling among the government is that it can be done, because there
are 20 higher education institutions that can talk to each other, there
are only a dozen enterprise companies, there is not a big manufacturing
base any more. ... I still think that it has been asked to carry too much
Sabine has made the point in her brief presentation that lifelong learning
is viewed from the side of the individual - lifelong learning of human
beings, and HRD is a collectivist view from the organisation. Organisations
aim at certain outcomes, in their view human beings are human resources.
If we speak of the policy of lifelong learning, this is a point to organise,
to develop structures which are able to learn. I think the two sides, lifelong
learning of human beings and HRD as a collectivist view, have to be brought
I wonder whether there are any contributions that are more concrete, which
people would like to take up. There is an issue of principle, there is
also an issue of implementation and practice, and I think that's what are
the real problems. We have so many aspirations around HRD and what it could
possibly be, yet we are faced with evidence of that contradiction.
Just a point to help out Peter’s understanding. In our European research
we viewed HRD as primarily an organisation function contributing, or not,
to facilitating, supporting and promoting lifelong learning. So, societies
want their individual citizens to be lifelong learners and HRD can have
a role in achieving that.
It's a very astute observation. There is a point that Sally Sambrook once
made about the fact that we talked HRD into existence y having meetings
like this. It doesn't exist in a concrete form, it has different meanings
depending on where you are. Monica (Lee) has made a few theses to define
it and wins prizes for so doing. I think the European government has much
gone to the idea of lifelong learning as being somehow important, without
being able to capture what the essence of that importance is. If you talk
about company based programmes of development, you've got to look alongside
the idea that there is no job for life, the flexicurity, the bits that
Winfried had raised in his contribution. I think that's devastating; the
natural order of things is tension and paradox. That's my worry, a point
to be controversial, that it gets into the policy machine, and then resources
go into it, and we still don't know what it really is.
It seems to me there is one word that can be used to sum it all up: performance.
We have been talking about what a nation is; one can think of a nation
essentially as being made up of organisations: public, private and
not for profit. Ideally all should be high performing, with the profit
making organisations capable of competing effectively in the global economy;
but high performing organisations are made up of high performing teams
and groups; ideally these are made up of high performing individuals who
subscribe to the goals of the organisation, and therefore engage in lifelong
learning that helps them perform and maximise their contribution to achieving
the aims of their organisation. The challenge for HRD is to help
everyone see the connection between learning and high performance.
One controversy is whether the focus of HRD is performance or learning.
Although some researchers concentrate on one or the other, both are important
to organisations. The second issue is whether we – the research community
– have talked HRD into existence. Frankly, there are other fields that
have been talked into existence: These include many of the social sciences
-- psychology being one, sociology being another. So what's wrong with
talking into existence HRD?
I wasn't making a critical comment. I think that one of the things we tried
to articulate is to define that space. I am a sociologist originally, and
I remember a really great conference where the British Sociological Association
presented this argument which was called 'space for sociology', because
it was a new field which had to make its way. I think it's when we make
exclusive claims to knowledge rights, that raises questions.
I would like to come back to Darlene's question: it's learning; lifelong
learning is for the individual, HRD is for the organisation; so it's learning
for the individual, it's performance for the organisation. We have to have
learning in order to have performance. But I think, basically, it's more
about cultural constructs going back to Hofstede, and time perspective.
HRD that leads to a crude performance today or making a profit today, can
also lead to shortcuts in terms of performance. If you have a longer perspective,
the thing that really matters is that specific performance requires learning.
It's the learning that leads to viable, longer term investment in individuals
and groups, and that is increasing the technical performance today, but
focusing always on learning, in terms of development both for the organisation
and the individual.
I agree with a lot of that. It strikes me that there is almost a dialectic:
there is episodic learning, at schools, colleges etc, programmes that we
do to advance specific skills; and there is experiential or personal learning,
which is about learning that we do by living; that's about ourselves as
persons; whether we are motivated to do or not, we learn every day. What
we are trying to bring into one is the properties of the other. Sometimes
you think about what episodic learning would I need that would be about
enhancing my capability to make a living. I think that, because we learn
stronger in the other domain, the employers are trying to get that. This
is a very complex interplay that, when you provide people the opportunity
to do something creative it's not always going to be for the organisation.
And just in time training, that never leads to high performance, since
everything needs a specific context, a process.