Human resource development

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The achievement of sustained and equitable development remains the greatest challenge facing the human race. Despite good progress over the past generation, more than 1 billion people still live in acute poverty and suffer grossly inadequate access to the resources-education, health services, infrastructure , land and credit-required to give them a chance of a better life. The essential task of development is to provide opportunities so that these people and hundreds of millions not much better off, can reach their potential. The world has progressed in many unique ways and directions in the last three decades. It has developed technologically, economically and industrially. It is also richer in terms of human capabilities, facilities and quality of living. Improvements in education, communication, technology and markets have made the world a global village. People live longer today, are better informed, can communicate with one another across the world and therefore carry on economic, professional, educational, social and other activities with ease. These decades of development indicate the vast potential for creating a world of order, security and well-being. The developments of the last three decades also indicate that while remarkable progress has been made in a number of directions, the fruits of development have not benefited the world’s growing number of poor people. And where some benefits have reached the poor, new problems are appearing in the form of deteriorating social fabric and environmental degradation. The world faces two major development challenges. The first is to ensure that the fruits of development reach the neediest through equitable distribution of resources, opportunities and benefits. The second is to develop human capabilities and address the challenges of development - political, economic and social. The few countries that have been able to meet both these challenges have demonstrated the importance of investing in developing people and improving the quality of their life through the adoption of human resource development strategies.


Today, there is practically no government or international agency that does not see the importance of human resource development. The World Bank; the United Nations and its constituent bodies include UNDP, UNIDO, WHO, ILO, UNICEF, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNESCAP; regional bodies like ASEAN and SAARC; the South Commission; the Commonwealth Secretariat; international non-government organizations(NGO’s); and bilateral aid agencies, all recognize the need for , and the importance of, human resource development. The components and dimensions of human resource development which they perceive as being of strategic importance at a given point of time, for a given country or a group of countries, may vary, but the focus is uniform. The context for the renewed emphasis on human resource development is significant. The structural adjustments programmers adopted in a number of countries have brought home the vulnerability of human development variables. The linkages between investments in human development programmes and economic development have become sharper. There have been major international developments-such as the opening of global markets, the increased market orientation of economies and the restructuring in socialist countries-which have given rise to an increased competition, forcing developing countries to produce and market quality products at competitive prices. At the same time a range of concerns, including environmental issues, the changing role of women, the new information culture and demands for liberalization and democracy, are influencing policy and practice. The knowledge base surrounding human resource development is increasing rapidly, within government and agencies. It is an area where there are many pressing demands. These demands have to be balanced. Resources have to be found, frontiers agreed upon and strategies formulated. These are issues with which policy makers, planners, decision makers, sectoral planners and government managers have to contend. This course attempts to provide insights into the strategic importance of investments in developing people, methods of doing the same, strategic choices that need to be made in developing people in terms of the categories of people to be targeted, processes that could be used for effective implementation of human resource development policies and programmes, and the sectoral points of attention which are critical for development. The course focuses particularly on the developing countries and their human resource development goals, policies and implementation strategies. In doing so it gives particular attention to both the question of developing human competencies for economic and technological development and to the issue of equitable distribution of resources, opportunities and benefits to improve the quality of life. The course thus sees human resource development as both a means and an end itself.

The Concept and its Dimensions

People make things happen. If people have to make things happen, they need a set of ‘circumstances’ to make them happen. However, it is the people that create ‘circumstances’ that can help them and others to make things happen. HRD is the process of enabling people to make things happen. It deals both with the process of competency development in people and creation of conditions (through public policy, programmes and other interventions) to help people apply these competencies for their own benefit and for that of others. There are many things included and implied in such a definition of HRD. These are now briefly explained.

Competencies and Benefits

Competencies may include knowledge, skills, attitudes and values. The competencies also may deal with any field: agriculture, industry, science, technology, management, various professions (like medicine, law, engineering and teaching), politics, public administration, home science, cooking, labour, telecommunications, research and tourism. The capabilities may be developed in individuals, and communities or collectives. The competencies may be simple, like learning the alphabets, or complex, involving high technology applications relating to medicine, space, telecommunications, defense, environment, etc. the competencies so developed could ‘enable’ people to act and improve their own lives and those of others. Through such an enabling process people can create more alternatives for themselves and for others and increase their choices. The above definition also emphasizes the purpose of HRD as benefiting people, the individual, group or the community of which the individual is a member. Such benefits may be in terms of basic needs and welfare including a decent living or high level comforts, leisure and self actualizing opportunities. The individual or the group should perceive these benefits as benefits. Thus increased income or purchasing power may be a benefit for some, while freedom to choose one’s representative in the political system and freedom of expression may be benefits for others. Thus what is the beneficial depends on the time, group and other circumstances, and may keep changing


Some agencies and individual writers have made a distinction between human resource development and human development. For some, human development is a much larger and all-encompassing concept, while HRD is limited to the skill development and knowledge acquisitions often demanded by organizations for employment purposes. They take a limited view of HRD and attribute it as relevant to personnel management practices of the organized sector. Such a distinction, however, is slowly disappearing with the realization that the broadness and all-inclusive nature of the concept of HRD depend on the context in which it is used. For example, it may have somewhat restricted meaning when used in an organizational context, though even in an organizational context there is evidence of it being used in the same sense as human development (Silvera, 1990; Pareek and Rao, 1981). However, there seems to be a convergence of the needs and priorities set out by various national governments, international agencies and experts in this area, whether they use the term human development or human resource development. The main objection raised by a few to the term human resource development is that it is a narrower concept and it connotes more of skill development. Another objection, rather a mild one, is that the word ‘resource’ somehow seems to imply that human beings are treated like material and other resources and as ‘instruments’ of development rather than the beneficiaries of development . The differences are more linguistic than conceptual and seem to depend more on the region or affiliation. Thus those associated with the UNESCAP, ILO, CIDA, Commonwealth Secretariat and other agencies seem to prefer the term human resource development and the UNDP prefers human development. In the recent past, even UNDP has indicated a broad meaning it is giving to the term HRD within the context of human development. It defines HRD as referring to those

Policies and programmes that support and sustain equitable opportunities for continuing acquisition and application of skills, knowledge and competencies which promote individual autonomy and are mutually beneficial to individuals, the community and the larger environment of which they are a part(UNDP, BPPE, 1991, p.19).

This definition was initially proposed by Lawrence (Occupational Information and International Development UNDP December 1990 p. 13).


Implied in the above conceptualization of HRD are the main facets of development of people including their physical, intellectual, emotional, social, moral, political, spiritual and all other forms of development. People cannot function or make things happen unless they are physically well developed, healthy and free from disease. Thus food, nutrition and freedom from disease become important. People need to earn their food and living by working for it. They need to engage themselves in productive activities for which again a combination of both physical development and intellectual development are important. Intellectual development comes through the process of education and socialization. Social development involves developing the ability to live as a member of the society or a group and contribute to it, at the same time deriving benefits from it. The need of coexistence of all human beings makes this development imperative. Political development ensures human dignity through freedom of expression, democratic participation and an opportunity to influence things that is turn influence the individual’s living. Moral and spiritual development is required to bring order, discipline and peace into life and ensure that one person’s comfort does not become his neighbor’s poison. Thus all forms of development of people can be included in the definition of HRD.

Targets of Development

Such a definition of HRD implies that people may be developed individually, or as groups, or as communities and collectives. When an individual acquires capabilities, they enable the individual to make things happen. However, societies are much more than individuals. They are required to function as groups and for historic reasons they may also be grouped into collectives - for example, the poor or the landless are a collective of people who are poor and without land; some of them may organize themselves to form action groups. Human resource development also looks at the process of developing such groups and collectives to function better or transform themselves by acquiring new competencies. Although such competencies are acquired by individuals, there are competencies which apply only to a group. For example, the ability of a group to ensure that credit is available to its members from a rural bank and that the individuals repay the loan as per the understanding. Thus HRD focuses not only on the development of individuals but also on the collectives. The target groups for development can be many: doctors, politicians, businessmen, civil servants, fieldworkers, teachers, voluntary workers, rural leaders, farmers, unemployed youth, scientists, engineers, slum-dwellers, children, girls, illiterates, women, labor (skilled and unskilled), primary school goers, university students, etc. the target groups can be classified on the basis of their age, sex, current socio-economic status, past deprivation, profession, occupation, etc. some of these groups have well-developed HRD systems or mechanisms that are already in operation as a part of their respective sectors and/or government intervention. The teachers in most countries, for example, have a good system of preparing themselves for their roles and continuously updating their competencies. So are the other professionals like doctors and managers. Their efficiency and effectiveness could be improved through sectoral interventions, as well-stabilized sectoral institutions, departments and/or ministries exist to ensure their development and bring it in line with the needs of the country. Some of the groups in a country have a strategic significance due to the multiplier effect their development has on others. Women and girls form one such group which is important because of the multiplier effect they have on the development of others through families. Women and girls have been found to influence the education and the well being of the entire family. Groups which have been deprived for a long time due to external factors are another important group for equity considerations. Similarly, unemployed youth and the poor also are important target groups - the youth, for the role they play in building the future of any nation, and the poor, for the impact they can have on the economy once they develop besides equity consideration. Development of the poor becomes a critical step for ensuring a sound economic development. In summary, HRD should be treated as an integrated concept. It deals with the development of all people and is not limited to any one section or sector. It is important and equally critical for all sectors wherever people are involved and are required to make things happen. It is needed for all groups, but particularly the underprivileged; it is needed for the unemployed, underemployed, the employed and the self-employed; it is needed by the politicians, bureaucrats and intellectuals to play their roles better and more effectively; it is needed for running the governments effectively, for improving the effectiveness of various agencies and their services; it is needed for NGOs to be effective and play a strategic role; it is needed for mobilizing resources, community participation and involvement; it is needed for ensuring economic, scientific and technological development of nations; it is needed to ensure that people leave a healthy place of living for future generations. As discussed earlier in this hand-out, HRD encompasses two major undertakings; the inculcation of competencies and capabilities in individuals, groups and communities and, creation of conditions through various mechanisms to help them apply these acquired competencies and capabilities, the first part of this course therefore, deal with understanding of human beings as individuals and, the second part revolves around different interventions, policies and programs required to create optimal conditions so that the benefits of HRD become far-reaching and long-lasting for the whole community.