Highlight Round table: Theory, policy and practice in lifelong learning

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Subject How does HRD connect with lifelong learning? (Rosemary Harrison & Joseph Kessels)
Outline In our view, HRD as an organisational process comprises the skilful planning and facilitation of a variety of formal and informal learning and knowledge processes and experiences, primarily but not exclusively in the workplace,  in order that organisational progress and individual potential can be enhanced through the competence, adaptability, collaboration and knowledge-creating activity of all who work for the organisation.
    Our definition reflects a perspective on HRD that is in accord with the current macro-level policy emphasis on lifelong learning and development. One of the main tasks of public funded education is to invest in the development of a high level workforce. Across the European Community the need to  invest heavily in human capital has for over a decade expressed itself in a drive for life-long learning. 

How does HRD connect with the European lifelong learning agenda?

  • By accepting the need for the development of human capital to be a shared responsibility: Within organisations the learning, and the development of knowledge on which economic and social well-being greatly depend should be pursued through a partnership process.
  • By focusing on the development of social as well as human capital: In organisations where the tacit dimension of knowledge and its social construction form a vital source of competitive advantage the HRD investment should be focused strongly on the building of social capital, which is to do with the interactions of all workers in an organisation.
  • By recognising the primacy of organisational context: HRD policies within the firm are most powerfully shaped by top management's visions and values, by management style and actions, by HR strategies and practice and by the employment system of the firm. So HRD activity should be integrated with wider HR and business practice in order to achieve its goals.
We conclude that the emergence of a knowledge economy offers exciting opportunities to the HRD profession, and to those involved in the education and continuing development of its members. We believe that the primary task is to work with organisational stakeholders to create a synergy between the learning, development and knowledge-creating capability of all organisational members, the thrust of strategising and organising, and the progress of the organisation as its boundaries grow ever more fluid in a turbulent world. 
Source Selected passages from the authors' notes and paper "Human resource development: Key organisational process in a knowledge economy" prepared for presentation at the HRD conference in Toulouse, May 2003 (see proceedings and catalogue of references: Harrison et al. 2003/ Harrison et al. 2003a )
Descriptors D-HRD            
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Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO