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HRD: Not Everyone's Cup of Tea

(Paper presented at the Seminar on Emerging Trends in Human Resource Development for Poverty alleviation, held at NIRD, Hyderabad, on January 18-20, 1989.)

M. J. Arul


Resources may be wasted by neglect, depleted by consumption, destroyed by misuse or enhanced by developmental intervention. The human being is indeed the resource of all resources. No one, therefore, would ever think of wasting, depleting, or destroying this prime resource. And yet, humans do face such a predicament. This predicament, it is argued, is primarily because of the absence of an appropriate ideology or set of values in those in charge.

Accommodating the value dimension in the very definition of HRD, this paper goes on to present the activities of an organisation engaged in HRD and raise a few issues which confront such organisations.


The greatest resources of the world are the humans, without whom nothing could ever be a resource! Of what value, for instance, would gold or silver or other natural endowments be if there was no man? The homo sapiens is, indeed, the resource of all resources.

Resources may be wasted by neglect, depleted by consumption, destoryed by misuse or enhanced by developmental interventions. Obviously no one will ever advocate neglect, depletion or misuse of the greatest of resources we have. And yet, humans have for long wallowed in these very predicaments -- for reasons of either ignorance or failure of the chosen few to recognise and appreciate the potential of their fellow humans. The times are changing, now. The human potential and the need for conscious attempts to develop it are more readily acknowledged today than ever before in many parts of the world. The creation of a ministry for HRD by the Government of India bears testimony to this awareness and concern at the national level. Efforts are afoot at various quarters in the country today to devise and implement methods of developing human resources. It is in this context that clarifications of the concept become necessary: What is HRD?

Towards a Definition

A great many definitions of HRD have been offered by authors in articles and by discussants in seminars. Debates have also gone on as to whether it should be termed a process or activity. Rather than re-presenting the various available definitions (I beg your pardon for departing from the well-honoured academic tradition), I shall present one myself for the sake of proceeding with the discussion. The discussion could be just as fruitful, if you chose to proceed from another definition -- as long as we share, and are urged by, a common concern. Before constructing the definition, however, it may be useful to circumspect a little:

About forty per cent of our country's population is under the poverty line. Would poverty alleviation programmes constitute HRD? Victims of various disasters appear every year, requiring relief. Are these human victims resources worthy of development? Would relief programmes be HRD? Over sixty per cent of our people are illiterate. Aren't literacy programmes HRD? Maybe, these are all too inclusive and encompassing. Narrowing down, then, one may say that professional education is true HRD. How about focussing further: on-the-job training, for instance?

There are also in our society children who are underdeveloped, the spastics, the deaf and dumb and those with physical deformities. Are they no resources? Is HRD relevant to them? Then there are the school drop-outs, drug addicts and other misguided adults. Isn't there anything that HRD could offer these humans? The millions of workers in the industrial sector of our economy -- are they the prime target of HRD? Then, what about the agricultural labourers? Aren't managers and landlords also human resources?

HRD as a concept cannot, de jure, preclude any segment of society. Yet its definition must be workable; it must be capable of being translated into action. Besides having to be so universal and operational, the definition of HRD, I would like to argue, must also be permeated by a philosophy, an ideology or certain values. Concepts in m/any other field(s) may be adequately defined free of values, but value-free concepts are bound to be abortive in the field of development.

A value-based definition must also urge and guide relevant action rather than just portray a scene. I would, therefore, begin by calling HRD a set of activities rather than a process -- not, in the least, implying thereby that process is of little significance. The set of these activities would, for example, include construction of reliable and valid instruments, designing of training programmes, administration, evaluation, interviewing, placement, performance appraisal, refreshers, etc. These activities would require a sequence, implying mutual cause-effect dependencies; they are all inter-related.

[Some readers of this page pointed out to me that the distinction between activity and process is not quite clear. Well, activities and processes may be distinguished by considering the fact that one and the same activity could be carried out in several different ways. The way you do the activity is referred to as process. Proceeding to different levels of analysis, however, a given process may be broken down into various sub-activities! And yet, it is useful to distinguish the way of performing an activity from the activity itself. The distinction is like the "what" and the "how" of something that is done.

Each one of the various activities that constitute HRD could be carried out in different ways; some ways of doing them would make our HRD efforts more effective than some other ways of doing the same activities. Take, for example, the interviewing activity: one way of conducting it makes the interviewee more relaxed and more open, while another way of conducting it drives the interviewee to be more tensed up and less open, or angry and even violent! True, you would DO or SAY something in the interview to help the interviewee relax or make him/her tense. You might like to call those little things you did or said as "activities". And ... when you SAY something, you could say it in different ways, too! Those ways could again be broken down to their component activities and the latter's ways of delivery considered as process; .... on and on! Relative to the focal activity, however, the other little "activities" constitute the process.

For making HRD effective, I would say, besides choosing the right activities, one must pay adequate attention to their process, too. Here process refers to the specific style, method or the way in which one implements a particular activity. The process can make or mar any activity. The process of carrying out an HRD activity is to be guided by the anticipated impact and ultimate concern for human dignity.]

The activities must be goal-oriented and selective: Goal-oriented to have direction and selective because an all-inclusive development would be neither feasible nor desirable. As Campbell (1975) argues, while some aspects of human nature are to be curbed for optimal coordiantion, ...narrowing down by random choice would also fail to achieve optimum results. (See also Milgram, 1974 and Campbell, 1956).

Goals are contextual, no doubt. But contexts and goals are adopted by preference, surfacing from an undercurrent of values or an ideology -- often sub-conscious. Bereft of such an undercurrent, expediency would drive HRD by fits and starts and the human resources would wither away. The sustaining spirit (the elan vital) can emanate only from an ideology or a set of values underlying the concern for HRD. And yet, not all ideologies or values would warrant the right of admission to HRD interventions in our society. If they did, the training camps of terrorists would by far be the paragons of HRD!

Here, then, is my definition of HRD: HRD is a set of inter-related activities, by which human potentialities are assessed, selectively upgraded and appropriately deployed for achievement of envisioned goals that foster human dignity.


We shall now explore applications of this definition. Various organisations in the country are engaged in developing human resources. Rao & Abraham (1985) give a good account of the HRD practices in Indian industries; these practices represent attempts to meet the in-house HRD needs of various organisations. There are also organisations whose attempts are to provide human resources to other organisations. One set of the latter kind are the institutes of management. The Institute of Rural Management, Anand, (IRMA) is one such organisation, engaged in HRD for the producers' co-operatives in the country. (See Appendix, below, for the structure of these organisations.) These co-operatives have hitherto failed to attract qualified managers into their fold.

Hooked on to the national goals of rural development, IRMA has set itself the objective of developing human resources for the producers' co-operatives and for some non-governmental organisations working for rural development. As means to this end, IRMA undertakes short-term management development programmes, a full-time two-year postgraduate programme in rural management and consultancy assignments. The remainder of this paper takes a look at some of the issues and problems that confront IRMA vis-a-vis its HRD role.

The following diagram depicts the activities of IRMA. By reading our definition of HRD into the diagram, it is possible to recognise the HRD tasks that reside in IRMA's lap. (See diagram).

While the activities depicted in the diagram may appear to be similar to those of any institute of management or professional education, specific differences peculiar to IRMA emerge from the contents of box-1, which circumscribes the clientele.

The major issues facing IRMA are to: Actively identify in more and more clear terms the clientele's specific demands, which seem to elude the clientele's own consciousness; convert the demands so identified into person specifications; classify the specifications into "givens" (properties possessed by aspirants at the time of entry to the Institute) and the "makings" (properties to be acquired at the Institute); devise effective methods of detecting and attracting the givens; design and offer a programme that is efficacious in bringing about the makings; check the efficacy by establishing feedback loops at appropriate times and junctures; make corrections and modifications as found necessary.

IRMA's Values

IRMA, like any other professional school, has a double HRD role: Development of its internal human resources for its own effectiveness and HRD for the client organisations. In carrying out this double role, it is fairly easy to recognise the need for the various tasks shown in the diagram above. How about the values or ideology that we referred to in the definition?

The Institute enshrines an ideology which may be worded as follows: The poor need not, and ought not to, remain poor; they require external support; the resource-rich are morally bound to extend support even at some personal cost; the necessary condition for actualising such support is an attitude of concern for, and "identification" with, the aspirations of the resource-poor.

That is the ideology of a formal organisation, called IRMA. People who join the organisation, however, bring their personal values with them. Would a summation of these individual values spell the organisation's ideology? Very often, not. And yet, the organisation's ideology would be consequential only to the degree the individuals in the organisation identify with the ideology, reflect it or share it. How does one, therefore, bring about this congruence? Turning to our distinction of the "givens" and the "makings" again, the Institute may, by appropriate methods, screen in a Faculty that matches the ideology or rope in those who hold out a clear promise of being "scripted" on through adequate and well-planned induction and socialisation. A combination of these strategies may also be practical: A part of the Faculty be screened in for congruence and the rest be made congruent by in-house socialisation or indoctrination. Whatever the strategy, the results are crucial: If (rural) development is value-dependent and the agents pressed into it have, consequently, to be oriented to the values in question, then the efficacy of the trainers of these agents will suffer an unaffordable erosion--should the trainers not embody, embrace or be inspired by the same values.

But how does one assess another's ideology or values, especially when having to hire people in an environment ridden with the ills of unemployment? Wouldn't we need valid and reliable methods of doing it? The same issues and problems hold true for the recruitment, selection and training of students, too.

Who should do HRD?

Implementation of HRD as defined in this paper will certainly call for construction and use of techniques. Cut-and-dried techniques are useful and necessary at the operational level and they must be developed, validated and used; people must be trained for evolving these techniques. But, HRD itself is not the technician's cup of tea. These technicians, if allowed to take over HRD, will gradually consume the resources; they will utilise humans for production of some identifiable, short-term satisfaction for sure, but develop them -- they cannot!

Philosophy controls behaviour. By philosophy I mean the idiosyncratically integrated map a person has evolved in the mind to represent reality for him- or herself. As such, it subsumes the person's assumptions and beliefs. When values, either as part of the original map itself or as subsequently ingested material, enter the map, they trace a path along congenial elements (supportive assumptions and beliefs) in the map and give rise to a liveline (an ideology), which urges and directs the person's behaviour or actions as well as further perceptions. When this happens, all other motive forces (such as those of a job-description under contractual terms) are only secondary and inferior in their potency and effectiveness. Should that indeed be so, imagine the prospects of HRD, if it was taken up by or was assigned to one who believes, for example, that humans are born either high or low and the latter are, by destiny, the raw material (like clay or metal) to be moulded or beaten to shape to subserve the needs of the former!

One might say that people by and large do not carry such deterimental assumptions or beliefs in their mental maps. Well, if I may draw an analogy here from Douglas McGregor's (1960) Theory X and Theory Y: There seem to be a lot more managers in the world who at the conscious level express a belief in Theory Y than who actually hold theory-Y beliefs; it is more than likely that theory-X managers far outnumber theory-Y ones. Here's some evidence, relating to managers from 30-odd Indian organisations: When asked to rate themselves on an X-Y scale, 144 out of 156 managers from different parts of the country rated themselves to be positively on the Y side of the scale. While responding to behaviourally anchored X-Y items (not labelled as such), however, only three out of the 144 came off as theory-Y managers -- albeit to a diminished degree. Twelve assessed themselves to be theory-X managers on both the exercises. That leaves us with 98 per cent of the managers holding assumptions which are acceptedly inappropriate today -- and of them 92 per cent are normally unaware that they carry such assumptions and beliefs!

Although McGregor's Theory-Y has been advocated as superior to Theory-X in management, it remains inadequate for purposes of HRD. Theory-Z, as propounded by Maslow (1971) and Ouchi (1981), comes closer to what HRD requires. HRD, to be effective in the long run, must be spearheaded by those who espouse a developmental ideology that is humanistic; those who have faith in the human beings; those who believe in the intrinsic worth of humans; those who are urged by an inner fire to help and guide others to grow; those who derive happiness from seeing others scale the ladder of the latter's potentialities. Others should keep their hands off HRD and content themselves with training and management of personnel. Subscription to HRD just because it is fashionable to do so, will not stop short of manipulative practices that will cripple whatever human resources exist today.

As for who should be developed, there is no choice; everybody can and must be the "target" of HRD. Would there be enough HRD people, going by the criterion of the preceding paragraphs, to cater to such an enormous target in the country? Such people appear to be on the verge of extinction in these days of speeding materialism and individualism. Nevertheless, few and vanishing as they are, these are the people who should be entrusted with the responsbility of HRD.


The Typical Structure of Anand Pattern Co-operatives

The basic unit is the Village Milk Producers' Co-operative (VMPC). All milk producers who wish to market their milk cooperatively are eligible to join the VMPC--one member from each family. These members elect from amongst themselves a management committee of nine, who in turn choose one of them to be their chairman.

The chairmen of all the VMPCs of a district elect from amongst themselves a Board of Directors to form a District Union. The Board appoints a professional as Chief Executive to manage a processing plant (which is usually located near a district town or city) and allied activities. The Union not only processes and markets the milk from its members, but it also organises mobile veterinary clinics (which visit every VMPC once a week, apart from attending to emergency calls), artificial insemination centres, supplies of balanced cattle feed, etc. All these door-step services are to enable the member farmers to enhance milk production.

A State-level Federation is formed by a board of governors elected from among the chairmen of District Unions. The Federation, with its professional managers and staff, enables its member unions to coordinate their production planning and conducts a joint marketing of their products. The profit realised by the Federation is shared by the member-unions, who in turn share it with their member VMPCs, who distribute it to their member farmers.


Campbell, D.T. On the conflicts between biological and social evolution and between psychology and moral tradition. American Psychology, December 1975, 1103-1123.

Campbell, D.T. Adaptive behaviour from random response. Behavioural Science, 1956, 105-110.

Maslow, A.H. The Father Reaches of Human Nature. Viking Press: New York, 1971.

McGregor, D. The Human Side of Enterprise. McGraw-Hill: New York, 1960.

Milgram, S. Obedience to authority. Harper & Row, New York, 1974.

Ouchi, W.G. Theory Z: How American Business Can Meet the Japanese Challenge. Addison-Wesley, 1981.

Rao, T.V. & Abraham, E. Human Resource Development: Practices in Indian Industries--a Trend Report, 1985.

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