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Subject Do they do HRD in the Post-Command Economies? The measurement of meaning transfer across cultural boundaries
Devi Jankowicz, University of Luton, United Kingdom
Outline The rhetoric of the knowledge transfer process of the last 15 years, during which the good news of the market economy was offered to the post-command economies of central and eastern Europe, has tended to emphasise the negatives of the situation under State socialism and the positives of the market-orientated approach. Clearly, there was much that was fatally and terminally wrong about the socialist arrangement, not least in the development of human resources; nevertheless, our western analysis sometimes neglects the highly developed and exquisitely adapted survival strategies and skills learnt by managers in those times. A review of some of these suggests that it is possible to oversimplify one’s approach to international knowledge transfer.
    The suggestion is made that just such an oversimplification may currently be taking place as we offer our western definitions of human resource development, well-suited to our own cultures and style of market economy, to the post-command economies. An analysis of the present state of human resourcing in Poland suggests little if any adherence to HRD practice as we would define it western-style in the indigenous firms in Poland, some adherence among the newly-formed consultancy firms, and a more general adherence in western-owned joint ventures.
    Why might this be? One reason relates to the ways in which the notion of development varies between cultures, as encoded within the languages in question. And this is not a matter of translation, but of representation: some terms in one language simply don’t translate into another because the two languages slice up reality differently.
    Some implications are elucidated. One of these forms the conclusion of the presentation, which is that in a global economy, if we seek to make sense of experience in collaboration with others, we need to be sensitive to these differences in representation. This is not a simple matter of custom and practice, but a fundamental outcome of differing meaning structures between cultures. The neo-liberal approach to globalisation, with its hope of ‘one best way’, is problematic if we have difficulty in agreeing what we are talking about, never mind deciding what is best, when HRD issues are discussed across national boundaries.
Source Paper presented at the 5th conference on human resource development research and practice across Europe: International, comparative and cross-cultural dimensions of HRD. University of Limerick, 27-28 May 2004 (Abstract; full paper incl. in CD-ROM).
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