Differences Between Human Resource Development And Training

In the last quarter of the 20th century, the turf of management of personnel shifted its focus from staff handling and its related activities and focused more on the development of individuals with the aim of turning them into resources that will benefit the organization (Sims, 2006). According to Sims (2006), this shift resulted in the inception of human resource development, a critical field in today’s organizations. Initially, human resource development was referred to as training, which evolved to training and development. This change in terminology that has resulted in the confusion many have regarding human resource development and training and development. For the purpose of this essay, the definition of the terms, human resource development and training and development will be reviewed. Additionally, to further differentiate the two concepts, the main objectives and strategies of the two practices will be discussed.

Human Resource Development

The practice of human resource development is hard to define owing to its evolving nature. Bates (2009) states that the fluid nature of human resource development is evident from increasing the number of companies seeking to incorporate the practice into their operations with the aim of attaining a global economy. In this regard, different companies will define human resource development according to their respective practices, mission or goals. Harbison and Myers (1964) offered the first broad definition of human resource development which incorporated aspects of culture, economy, society and politics. In their definition, Harbison and Myers (1964) state that human resource development can be viewed as the accrual of human capital when observed from an economic standpoint. The authors go on to describe human resource development as a tool that prepares an organization’s personnel for adult political participation, especially in a democratic society (Harbison & Myers, 1964). From the cultural and social viewpoint, Harbison and Myers (1964) contend that human resource development enhances the lives of people and helps the break from tradition. From this last view, human resource development is seen as a learning experience for employees that helps improve their performance.

Training and Development

Training and development can be defined as an area that relates to the activities of an organization with the aim of improving the performance personnel and groups within the organisation. Khan et al. (2011) contend that training plays a crucial part in the attainment of institutional objectives through the incorporation of interests from both the workforce and the organization. In this regard, training has become one of the most significant factors for businesses as the practice increases efficiency and effectiveness of the organisation as a whole. Furthermore, Khan, et al. (2011) state that training is an imperative factor in determining an employee’s performance.

Both definitions on human resource development and training and development show some similarities, particularly in their quest to improve an organisation’s performance. Nevertheless, their focuses are different. From the above definitions, training and development concentrate more on improving the employees’ performance while human resource development is designed to improve practices of the organisation.

Key Objectives

Human Resource Development

As defined earlier, the key objective of human resource development is to enhance an organisation’s potential. Nonetheless, Swanson and Arnold (1996) contend that scholars are in constant debate over the actual purpose of human resource development. For some, the practice aims at augmenting performance requirements for host organisations and in the particular output of the employees, while for others it focuses on developing individuals in a broader manner (Swanson & Arnold, 1996). According to Swanson and Arnold (1996), tying the practice of human resource development to an organisation’s strategic goals may be vital in identifying its main purpose. In this regard, human resource development will assume a similar level of rank as the other primary processes of an organisation: funding, production, and advertising (Swanson & Arnold, 1996, p. 15).

Training and Development

Numerous literature emphasizes the importance of training and development for individual improvement. From their study, Jehanzeb and Bashir (2013) identified the benefits of training and development to be for both the individual and the organisation. Individual benefits included career capabilities, job contentment and improved potential (Jehanzeb & Bashir, 2013). Organisational benefits include market progression, improved institutional potential and workforce retention (Jehanzeb & Bashir, 2013).

It is crucial to note that while the primary resolve of training and development is individual improvement, which is among the key functions of human resource and development, it should not be thought of as a subset of the latter concept. Human resource development is the combined use of training, career, organisational and performance developments to enhance performance at an individual, group and organizational level.


Human Resource Development Strategies

Implementing human resource development strategies is essential in realising organisational goals and increased performance. According to Joy-Matthews et al. (2004), relating human resource development to strategy emphasizes on learning, which directly contributes to an organisation’s goals. This can be achieved by having a clear summary of the correlation between an organisation’s mission, planned agenda, and the environment. Identification of special needs is made possible by assessing the existing workforce capacity. From the above, a system for evaluating target competencies should be built to enable examination of whether these proficiencies will help realise the organisation’s goals. Lastly, competent leadership and a sustainable organisational culture is fundamental.

Tseng and McLean (2008) lists six benefits for organisations that use strategic human resource development practices. The first advantage is that the practice improves flexibility in the workplace. Secondly, these practices help an organisation to integrate its mission, vision, practices and strategies better. The third advantage is that strategic human resource development practices will increase diversity in the workplace. The fourth benefit is that individuals and the organisation alike improve their performance. Penultimately, strategic human resource development practices will encourage innovation among the employees and help come up with new and more streamlined methods of problem-solving. The last, but certainly not least, the benefit of these practices is consumer and employee satisfaction (Tseng & McLean, 2008).

Training and Development Strategies

Before delving into the strategies of training and development, it is important first to understand the approaches to this practice. Niazi (2011) identifies three major approaches to training and development. The first approach is the reactive method. Niazi (2011) contends that this is the traditional way of training, incorporating tactical conveyance of practical skills (Niazi, 2011). The second method is the proactive approach. In this method, all learning activities are aligned with the corporate business strategies and emphasize on developing capabilities (Niazi, 2011). The last approach is the active learning method, where the trainees are exposed to real issues and situational problems under the guidance of their facilitator. According to Niazi (2011), this approach enhances long-term retention and is vital for innovation.

Nevertheless, there is a need for developing a mechanism that examines the proficiencies of training and development in an organization for that institution to realize its objectives. Niazi (2011) identifies four strategies for training and development. The first strategy is identifying the training needs for employees. Secondly, identification of the strategic human resource plan. The third strategy involves instituting plans aimed at personal development. Lastly, evaluation of the outcomes of training and development through assessments (Niazi, 2011).

As discussed above, human resource development and training and development have common points. Nonetheless, there are slight differences that make human resource development a more tactically concerned with organizational procedures.


In this paper, the definitions of human resource development and training and development have been discussed. Although both concepts are in constant evolution making it difficult to come up with clear definitions, differentiation was possible. Additionally, review of the key purposes and strategies of the two practices have been done in a bid to differentiate these two concepts. From the discussions in this paper, it is clear that human resource development focuses more on organizational processes, and the practice goes beyond training and development. As mentioned before, human resource development integrates training and development and other host factors to achieve organizational effectiveness. On the other hand, training and development focus more on the individual. Niazi (2011) outlined three approaches to training and development and emphasized on the active learning method to ensure long-term retention and innovation. In this regard, proper training will ensure enhanced employee performance which translates to an overall improvement at the organizational level. Therefore, organizations should adopt these two concepts to ensure effectiveness and efficiency of their processes and guarantee consumer satisfaction.

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