Record European perspective of HRD

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Subject HRD in Europe at the crossroads (Barry Nyhan)
Context Referring to 'humanistic-developmental' versus 'instrumental-utilitarian' approaches to HRD
Summary This paper examines the concept and practice of HRD from a European perspective. It locates HRD, which is seen to refer specifically to learning, training and development activities in companies, within the context of underlying 'people-management' theories (HRM) or what can be termed 'industrial or working-life cultures'. This paper contrasts two theories of HRD derived from two different ways of conceiving HRM. The first of these, which is seen to have much in common with classical European industrial and working life values, is the 'humanistic-developmental' tradition. The competing model, which it is argued is growing in prominence in Europe, is characterised by an 'instrumental-utilitarian' way of looking at human resources. The paper concludes that at the present time HRD policy makers in Europe are caught up in a debate about these two approaches. In fact, Europe can be seen to be at the crossroads searching for a signpost leading to human resource management and development policies that promote lifelong learning for everybody at work with the view to building a strong and sustainable economy. 
Debate Participants: Barry Nyhan (BNy), Tarja Tikkanen (TT), John Walton (JW) and a colleague from Texas (XX)

[JW:] The question you presented is the dichotomy between the functional and the humanistic. It seems to me this is a conditional paradigm which has got two choices. The concept of having two choices conveys the idea of a lack of values. Taking the utilitarian concept for example The trains in Northern England were on strike, basically because they sacked train drivers when they didn't need them; now the need them they can't get them. This is a major problem all round the country because we don't have national organisations which train them any longer. this is just a personal feeling, an experience from yesterday which colours my judgement of this dichotomy you are presenting. I think it's a very simplistic one if one is presenting just polarised approaches. Society is pluralistic, is dynamic.
[BNy:] I accept your point about polarising the different values, but I think there is a sort of movement within HRD in the way it functions. I mentioned choice, but I also mentioned the mediating role: how does one mediate between very different approaches; how does one argue these things, ow does one negotiate in a European context. 
[XX:] I am curious as well about the dichotomist aspects of your paper. My research focuses on Central and Eastern Europe and government action related to HRD. I see the mediating role in that context to be closely related to social policy, to democratisation. I am wondering if your study went into the regional differences between Northern-Southern and Western-Eastern-Central Europe, whether there is any evidence with regard to the mediating aspect at a social policy level.
[BNy:] What I don't do is to study or analyse the traditions. I see the situation the countries in Central and Eastern Europe are in a very chaotic state, in a transitional state; they are moving very much towards the liberal way of running their countries; there is an enormous amount of learning with regard to their communist dominated past. There are very distinctive features the UK has got. There is the continental tradition with Germany and also the Netherlands and Denmark, based on apprenticeship systems, small companies, and links to the social systems. The Nordic tradition, such as the Swedish model, is based on societal values, on egalitarianism. In France, Spain and Portugal there is a more bureaucratic tradition, with a sort of top-down legislation for trade unions, and a rigid structure of society and of membership. So there are great differences within Europe. 
[TT:] It's going tricky for HRD because it seems that, as Barry Nyhan is suggesting, lifelong learning is becoming so powerful. So what HRD was doing in companies earlier might now merge under a still broader approach to learning. This broader approach is lifelong learning; the challenge is really on another level now. In those companies that we investigated the employees seemed to be willing to do their work with continuous learning. A central issue in this was management: how managers cope with the challenge of learning.

Key terms Learning economy, lifelong learning, learning in interaction between company and environment
Source Nyhan, Barry. HRD in Europe At the crossroads. Abstract. Conference Programme of the HRD conference at Edinburgh 2002, p. 4. See also Nyhan 2001 (Vol. II, pp. 233-248). Recording of the discussion related to the presentation by Barry Nyhan at the HRD Conference in Edinburgh 2002 (see proceedings).
Descriptors D-HRD  EP00          R03
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