An occupation that involves close interaction with people requires from specialists not only high communication skills but also other attainments that allow organizing and maintaining a productive work process. One of such areas is adult education, a field that engages adults as target audiences to gain knowledge in specific areas to improve professional qualifications. Employees involved in this industry, as a rule, have a set of essential skills that are necessary to maintain productive contact with the target audience. One of these fields is human resource development (HRD) that aims to improve the production efficiency of both individuals involved in training programs and groups and organizations. According to Galbraith (1998), adult education professionals should possess a range of administrative and leadership skills to coordinate the learning process effectively and work successfully both in groups and individually. The HRD realm has particular specifications that include unique goals and practices, and the responsibilities and knowledge of employees engaged are important tools in creating a high-performing learning environment. The purpose of this work is to assess the features of this branch of adult education and study which functions it requires from specialists.
Human resource development aims to create conditions for productive adult education. As Torraco and Lundgren (2020) state, the field is valuable to develop and improve participants’ professional skills to increase their level of organizational, team, and individual effectiveness. This area of adult education includes managing and coordinating processes and responsibilities so that all individuals and team members could obtain the knowledge, skills, abilities, and competencies required to fulfill immediate duties. This development based on the vision of people’s future abilities and potential takes place within the framework of the overall strategic model of the organization. HRD strategies flow from business objectives and support their implementation. Groups’ current and future needs are met through the use of quality human resources.
HRD aims to create a holistic model of personnel development and maintain an environment where employees are encouraged to develop. Chen et al. (2020) point out that these activities include training programs for the development of intellectual capital and the cultivation of organizational, team, and individual learning. HRD also plans approaches to stimulate self-development with the support and guidance of the organization. Further, such aspects of this industry will be considered in detail as mission, purpose, the uniqueness of practice, and the target population involved. Analyzing these nuances of HRD can help provide a comprehensive picture of this sphere and its specifics within the framework of global adult education projects.
Mission of HRD
The key mission of HRD is to create conditions that stimulate adult learning in the context of improving knowledge, skills, and competencies in a particular work industry. At the same time, this area includes several sub-missions that are designed to address certain fields of educational practice and coordinate targeted activities in a specific direction. For instance, according to Pleasant (2017), organizational missions included in the HRD sphere are often based on the aspect of employee engagement as one of the main criteria for improving overall productivity. Thus, one can identify a number of distinctive objectives that this area poses for itself.
One of the missions of HRD in adult education programs is to provide employees with a clear and holistic vision of all organizational processes to raise awareness of the need for strategic thinking at all levels. Schmidt and Biniecki (2016) note that missions largely coincide with goals, but the main difference lies in the setting of the task. For instance, the need to develop a strategy within an organizational vision that, in addition to being compelling, is powerful and unambiguous, is a mission. Expanding the range of strategic opportunities and developing thinking, in turn, is a goal that sets the right direction for the generation of knowledge. Within the framework of visions and goals, the main missions of organizational learning become the processes of regular dialogue, communication, and discussion (Schmidt & Biniecki, 2016). The importance of developing a stimulating learning and an innovative climate is one of those missions that contribute to maintaining favorable interaction among participants in the educational process and establishing a productive exchange of experience. This complex mission structure is consistent with the advanced and multi-tiered adult education curriculum and, in particular, its sphere of HRD.
Purpose of HRD
HRD policies are related to investing in personnel and developing the human capital of organizations. One of the main goals of this sphere is to create conditions under which the hidden potential of employees will be realized. These conditions, as Ross-Gordon et al. (2016) state, include opportunities to not only acquire and use new knowledge, skills, and abilities but also accumulate unrealized ideas on ways to improve organizational performance. Within the framework of adult education, these objectives are essential as tasks that help gain new knowledge and hone the existing skills. Galbraith (1998) cites various leadership, administrative, and other skills that a specialist involved in adult education needs to possess. Consequently, one of the main goals is the transfer of experience and knowledge based on the current educational goals and the prospects for the development of professional attainments in the target audience.
The HRD goal in adult education is not single since a number of aims need to be realized and achieved to ensure productive learning. Lee and Kim (2018) mention several significant objectives that professionals in the relevant field should strive for and realize. They include developing individual learning strategies, improving organizational education, and knowledge management. In addition, the formation of intellectual capital is a goal that HRD specialists pursue to improve the skills of participants in such programs, thereby creating a favorable environment for talent management and other strategic approaches. Enhancing the professional qualities of executives allows addressing specific objectives that are planned to be achieved within the framework of employee communication programs at enterprises through a vertical interaction system. Therefore, the strategic capacity of HRD in adult education is based on the aforementioned goals, which, in turn, are integral aspects of skilled training.
Practice of HRD
The practice of specialists involved in HRD in the framework of adult education programs is multifaceted. The aforementioned goals and missions confirm the multi-layered structure of interventions aimed at enhancing the professional competencies and skills of the target audience. For instance, according to his classification, Galbraith (1998) identifies administrative skills and functions that employees of the corresponding profile should possess. However, when taking into account the specifics of HRD activities, this field is characterized by individual practices and approaches designed to create a productive work environment. According to Anderson (2020), the development of learning activities through specific practices involves individual, group, and organizational learning, knowledge management, leadership development, the promotion of emotional culture, and several other methods. All of these practical models serve to achieve specific goals and can be aimed at realizing distinctive objectives.
Nevertheless, despite the variety of practical approaches to targeting, HRD employees share a common goal. Collins et al. (2017) analyze this area of adult education at the national level and note the importance of personnel development as a key element in the human resource management system of organizations. Various techniques allow developing a methodological approach to the formation of the training system. As information sources, hands-on training in HRD typically includes theoretical and applied research materials in the field of human resource management. This means that regardless of the size of an educational program, be it at the national level or courses within one enterprise, both theoretical and practical approaches bring benefits (Collins et al., 2017). Thus, one can talk about the universality of HRD techniques and practices in different environments. The goals set and specific tools utilized as key educational instruments contribute to teaching relevant materials, but the general background is similar – increasing the professional competencies of involved employees.
Those programs that HRD specialists offer aim to reach a wide range of participants. In addition to ordinary employees who undergo professional development and are trained in individual skills to improve organizational performance, emotional resilience, and other attainments, managers are also involved. Moreover, as Kato (2017) notes, individual communities are brought in as groups to address relevant aspects of a specific industry and increase the likelihood of the successful resolution of challenges in these environments. In other words, different stakeholders are included in targeted adult education programs that aim to expand the professional potential of participants. Kato (2017) mentions not only organizational but also other topics that special HRD practices promote and gives an example of the project of interaction with the aging Japanese population. The author describes this project as a course designed for those responsible for improving the quality of life of this population category (Kato, 2017). Thus, multiple stakeholders can take part in such educational projects and valuable theoretical and practical experience to increase their qualifications.
As a valuable addition, one should pay attention to the perspectives of engaging different stakeholders in adult education in the form of HRD programs. Dewantara et al. (2019) review projects dedicated to promoting HR practices among a large sample and argue that key modern approaches aimed at increasing organizational effectiveness and other valuable components of the workflow are effective. If employees from one enterprise pass an appropriate training program, this is an objective reason for the management to make higher demands on these subordinates. Employees, in turn, have the right to count on a higher assessment of their personal responsibility for the activities performed due to the confirmed qualifications and a sufficient number of skills to apply. In other words, both parties can benefit, which makes HRD training an important and valuable step in increasing work productivity and achieving operational objectives. Therefore, different categories of participants are involved in such education, which contributes to expanding their professional competencies and influences the results of their activities positively.
Size and Scope of HRD in the USA and Globally
Due to the demand for the work of specialists providing professional training for employees on organizational performance, individual qualifications, and other aspects, HRD activities have expanded significantly. Although initially, these practices were applied in the US only, today, many countries have adopted the experience of such programs, and special educational projects are offered by companies of different profiles and sizes. This means that both managers and employees are interested in this educational industry and its valuable implications.
At the end of the 20th century, a movement to advance adult education in popular areas of human training originated in the United States. According to Cseh and Crocco (2020), in 1993, the Academy of Human Resource Development (AHRD) was founded by a group of scholars. At that time, the organization focused on the American labor market exclusively, which was natural in the absence of developments in this field in other countries. However, as the AHRD expanded, as Cseh and Crocco (2020) argue, in its first ten years of active work, in addition to the Americans, 12 foreign representatives became part of the team (p. 60). This factor became a decisive factor in the spread of HRD practices in the world. Since then, by 2016, the international membership of the AHRD accounted for approximately 15% of the total membership, which was a high figure (Cseh & Crocco, 2020, p. 60). Thus, the American HRD model has become the background for the rest of the world.
Today, the practice of HRD has spread throughout the progressive world. Adult education for employees of different profiles is often based on the involvement of specialists from different companies and organizations to work to hone specific individual or team skills. Cseh and Crocco (2020) note that courses and training workshops are conducted by experts from different countries and compare the approaches of American and British authors of individual programs. At the same time, the researchers emphasize that, despite the relative novelty of HRD as an academic discipline, the introduction of organizational learning projects has become global (Cseh & Crocco, 2020). As a result, in addition to Western countries, Eastern states have also joined the global HRD implementation program, and today, targeted programs can be found in many countries in this region (“Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and Taiwan”) (Cseh & Crocco, 2020, p. 60). This spread of HRD models proves that this field of adult education is in demand and can claim a place among other disciplines.
At the same time, even taking into account the globalization of the HRD trend, the American background in this area is predominant. According to the study conducted by Cseh and Crocco (2020), in 2018, almost half of the scholarly articles published under the auspices of the ADHR (46%) were by the authors from the United States (p. 61). This indicator proves that the American school of training specialists in adult education has retained its status as one of the leading in the world. The adaptation of specific teaching practices and policies to a specific environment, in turn, allows establishing an optimal learning regime and influencing the target audience as effectively as possible. Thus, the global spread of the HDR trend is largely due to the work of Western experts, in particular, scholars from the United States.
Specialized and General Professional Organizations
In the field of adult education, the HRD sphere occupies an important place because today, much attention is paid to the development of employees’ professional potential to achieve high operational results. The number of organizations providing educational services of this nature is growing, and they offer a wide range of opportunities for the implementation of both general and specialized approaches to training employees of different professions. In the global context, the list of these groups is not very large, but they all address the HRD industry and use modern educational practices to convey valuable experiences to the target audience.
Since the United is the founding country of this type of educational activity, all major companies have offices in it, but they, at the same time, open a large number of branches around the world. Duval (2015) looks at the largest groups offering adult education services in HRD and mentions 11 organizations of this profile. For instance, the author describes the activities of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and notes that this community is the largest in the world in its field and operates in more than 160 countries (Duval, 2015, para. 4). The aforementioned AHRD also figures on this list along with other major companies promoting specialized areas. Among them, Duval (2015) highlights the International Association for Human Resources Information Management, the National Association of African-Americans in Human Resources, the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, and some other organizations. For each of them, the individual specificity of the activity is characteristic, but they all operate in the HRD sphere. These groups have an extensive client base all over the world and are reputable companies providing educational, mentoring, coaching, and other services.
In most cases, the activities of such organizations have unique approaches and practices for each country involved. Harrison et al. (2020) compare HRD programs in the UK, the USA, and some eastern states and note that the content of educational projects differs depending on the labor culture. In addition, the researchers draw attention to the distinctive structure of training specialists through business programs based on business schools, intra-organizational projects, and other ways (Harrison et al., 2020). Despite the uniqueness of the HRD sphere, the field of human resource management (HRM) is related, and certain aspects of education largely overlap. At the same time, the industry in question has unique concepts and academic approaches that are expressed in an emphasis on the development of individual employee potential but not on stimulating competent management. Therefore, today, HRD is an individual field with peculiar educational methods.
During the existence of HRD as a branch of adult education, basic concepts have been formed. Harrison et al. (2020) state that knowledge has become a key unit for assessing the success of training specialists, and distinctive competencies, conversely, have lost their significance. This may be due to the desire to improve the quality of educational interventions by engaging people of different backgrounds and encourage sharing of experiences as a productive learning practice. One of the major achievements, as Harrison et al. (2020) argue, is the development of HRD as an individual specialization for higher education. At the same time, on the basis of different schools and companies, courses are organized in which adult employees are involved in improving their professional qualifications. These aspects of the development of the HRD area explain its relevance and value in today’s business environment.
Critical Duties of Adult Education Leaders
HRD leaders providing services to adults should have a number of important skills to effectively educate their target audience. However, in addition to attainments and knowledge, specialists in this profile have specific critical responsibilities that they are to follow. As Galbraith (1998) remarks, not all leaders are required to perform administrative functions, which narrows the range of their professional responsibilities and eliminates the need to regulate the conventions of the educational process. At the same time, the set of requirements that are presented to them as specialists in adult education is wide. Caldwell (2017) examines the HRD industry from the perspective of its leaders’ duties and argues that cultural engagement is one of the most important criteria for professionalism. The author notes the importance of integrating and communicating cultural elements of interaction among employees to build mutual trust and engage participants in educational programs (Caldwell, 2017). This requirement is reasonable in the context of the cultural diversity of participants involved in such programs.
Another essential duty that HRD leaders should adhere to is ethics in interacting with the target audience. As Caldwell (2017) states, kindness towards members of educational programs may be considered a prerequisite since humanism and altruism can affect the public stronger than authoritarianism and subjective bias. Appreciative behavior is part of HRD leaders’ training because building contact with an adult audience requires not only impeccable knowledge but also adherence to the norms of corporate conduct. This approach, as Caldwell (2017) notes, can bear fruit since the motivation for productive learning is more efficient if participants in educational programs are aware of their professional growth prospects and can feel an objective assessment. According to Alagaraja et al. (2017), objective feedback is significantly more valuable in terms of the value of learning than the practices of peerless authority promoted by leaders with high ambitions. In conditions when the involvement of each participant in educational activities is necessary, violating moral and ethical norms of interaction is fraught with the lack of such feedback. As a result, an ethical approach to interacting with the target audience is HRD leaders’ critical duty.
In addition to the aforementioned moral, ethical, and behavioral responsibilities, one of the main roles of HRD leaders is to create a productive educational environment. Alagaraja et al. (2017) argue that competency building is a key aspect of these employees’ work since their training role involves creating conditions for continuous training. As the authors note, unclear responsibility, conversely, impairs the quality of the learning process and hinders building a dialogue with the target audience (Alagaraja et al., 2017). The principle of competency building includes several duties that need to be respected. They are a clear delivery of educational materials, the introduction of strategies for productive knowledge sharing, the establishment of the atmosphere of professional growth, and some other aspects. A qualified HRD leader cannot afford to neglect the interests of the target audience and avoid commitment since such behavior not only violates the moral and ethical code but also ruins the basic rules of competency building. Thus, those critical duties that leaders in the designated area of adult education should observe imply both professional and moral conformity to the status of an educator.
Leadership Skills and Areas of Knowledge
Those leadership skills that HRD leaders need to go beyond the ability to maintain a productive educational process. Specialists of this profile should be able to coordinate interaction with the target audience both through professional communication and emotional culture. El Mansour and Dean (2016) focus on social skills that are the attainments in managing relationships and building networks to obtain academic results from others. The abilities to find common ground and build relationships with the target audience are the criteria of effective HRD leadership and included in the spectrum of key professional competencies. Having a high degree of emotional culture is a necessary quality for a successful leader. El Mansour and Dean (2016) argue that due to this skill, HRD leaders can “function as part of a team,” which, in turn, corresponds to their status and allows them to interact with participants in educational programs effectively (p. 40). The absence of this attainment entails the lack of contact with the audience and hinders the development of training program members’ potential. Therefore, the field of knowledge for the designated specialists should include the aspects of emotional culture.
Interaction with participants with different cultural and professional backgrounds determines the need for HRD leaders to adapt to a dynamic educational environment. In this regard, Turner and Baker (2018) highlight the importance of transformational leadership as a skill that enables one to work in a diverse team. Knowledge in this area includes the ability to adapt to the level of a specific audience, apply relevant communication concepts based on the needs of participants in the educational process, and other attainments. This variety of skills determines the need to use behavioral theories as tools allow establishing interaction with all the members of the educational process and prevent violations of the moral and ethical norms of communication. At the same time, exceptions should not be made for any categories of leaders. Turner and Baker (2018) cite the example of women coordinating adult learning groups and note that in the context of the HRD practice, these leaders’ work can be organized through either approach. Thus, the abilities to adapt to the current educational environment and adhere to the principles of ethical interpersonal interaction are included in the spectrum of HRD leaders’ knowledge.
In the area of administrative skills, HRD leaders can and should adhere to specific learning strategies in this field of adult education. According to Galbraith (1998), these attainments include coordination, critical thinking, community knowledge, programming, and some other valuable skills. Moreover, all these skills need to be implemented appropriately, which requires HRD leaders to have knowledge in the organization of the educational process, the basics of interpersonal communication, and other aspects of direct interaction with an adult audience. Hands-on experience is a valuable addition, but a theoretical background is the basis for demonstrating authority and realizing all acquired attainments. In case any aspect of this training is ignored, gaps can lead to the inefficiency of the learning process even if participants of educational programs are sufficiently prepared to cooperate. In particular, no productive communication will be established due to the omission of crucial teaching elements. Therefore, the combination of theory and practice is of high importance for HRD leaders as broad-based specialists.
Professional and Personal Interest in the HRD Area
The considered HRD area as a sphere of adult education arouses my professional interest as a field that is a potentially valuable background for improving individual qualifications. McLean (2017) argues that this industry does not stand still and is regularly developing not only within a single country but also globally. In this regard, I, like any other person, can access international HRD practices that have been optimized for specific conditions and adapted to unique business environments. This, in turn, can help me improve my professional level of training and gain valuable experience in analyzing foreign approaches to this branch of adult education. As a result, when choosing a profession, I will be able to apply the knowledge gained to determine which direction of career development suits me best and how I can realize my potential comprehensively.
Another reason why the HRD field attracts me is an opportunity to explore related industries that are essential for obtaining a holistic vision of paths for professional advancement. For instance, as McLean (2017) states, today, given cultural diversity as a common phenomenon in business groups, traditional approaches to interpreting culture are irrelevant. In other words, generally accepted models for assessing the cultural aspects of human interaction are regularly transformed, and one should not focus on one specific concept for evaluating specific learning conditions. Conversely, the more varied is the environment, the higher is the likelihood of unrelatedness in the basic algorithms. Accordingly, being involved in the HRD field can help me gain more insight into how contemporary cultural issues are addressed in different work environments. Moreover, other topics are also involved in this area, for instance, interpersonal interaction, leadership approaches, and other valuable aspects of working with people. Therefore, from a professional perspective, getting to know the HRD area can allow me to gain in-depth knowledge and expanded experience.
At the same time, from a personal standpoint, this area of adult education is also of interest to me. An opportunity to communicate with different people and learn modern approaches to hone individual and team skills is an exciting prospect for me. I see this learning activity not as an obligatory or routine process but rather as an exciting mechanism for expanding my horizons. Among my acquaintances, there are many people who have advanced educational specialties. However, among them, there is no one with a confirmed HRD degree. Therefore, my individual motives for studying this industry lie in the acquisition of unique and valuable knowledge that can help me both in professional and personal development due to the coverage of numerous topics.
To create sustainable and effective adult education programs, HRD industry specialists use different methods and tools to interact with the target audience and develop this field in the global context. This area has unique expressions and specific goals to achieve. The spread of the HRD practice in the world led to the emergence of large organizations coordinating this activity. HRD leaders as broad-based specialists are to have a number of essential skills and a wide range of knowledge, in particular, practical training and theoretical background to combine. Despite its origins in the United States, the HRD field has become common in an international format with unique practices. For me, this area is of interest both professionally and personally due to an opportunity to improve my individual qualifications and gain new knowledge in various spheres.
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