Rich Douglas, Ph.D., PMP

Strategic Human Resource Development

What is Strategic HRD?

Historically, HRD has been focused on work- and career-related learning and development. Recently, we've seen the thinking on HRD extended beyond L&D towards workplace performance. A terrific development, but it doesn't tell the whole picture.

If HRD is focused on individual and team performance, Strategic HRD (SHRD) is the use of human resource development to accomplish the strategic objectives of a business or organization.

What is the difference between HRD and Strategic HRD?
It really boils down to the difference between tactics and strategies. HRD provides a real baseline of skills and techniques necessary to perform in this practice. Analyzing requirements, identifying objectives, developing programs to meet those requirements, and evaluating the results are all key to successful HRD operations. But they're not enough. SHRD practitioners are strategic partners in the enterprise, helping lead it, preparing its workforce to move towards the future while taking care of today's challenges. The more strategic an organization is regarding its operations, the more the human resource developer can be strategic as well.

Do Chief Learning Officers (CLOs) practice SHRD?
Sometimes. It depends on (a) how strategic their organizations are and (b) how prepared they are to be SHRD practitioners. To earn my doctorate in HRD, I interviewed 20 CLOs, gathering and analyzing their lived experiences. Many were actively engaged in the strategic management of their organizations, but others were primarily "order takers," putting on training programs at the request of senior managers, who were often not very strategic in their own thinking! I wonder, however, how many could have a strategic impact if they were prepared to be SHRD leaders.

Who is "in the know" regarding SHRD?
Human Resource Development is both a practice and an academic discipline. There are practitioners out there really advancing how we do things in the workplace. There are also scholars conducting research and building models that really help us understand our field. But two problems persist.

First, practitioners in HRD are not talking about SHRD, per se. They refer to many practices that are strategic, but it all lacks direction. Scholars talk and write about SHRD--there's a lot of good stuff out there. But practitioners aren't seeing it. This leads to the second, more pervasive problem: the Scholar/Practitioner Gap in HRD. Both sides are extremely active in advancing their respective flavors of HRD, but they're not communicating with each other! There are no mutual forums for sharing ideas and teaming up on challenges facing us all. Practitioners keep looking for "best practices," which is a limited exercise. Scholars write about the gap, but they do little about bridging it. This has got to change.

How can I become a strategic leader of human resource development?
Well, you can do a lot of studying on your own. You can find and read the literature available on the subject--specific materials developed by scholars as well as related topics written by practitioners in magazines like Chief Learning Officer and ASTD's T+D. Or you can pursue a program of study purposely designed to make you an SHRD leader. For more information on the program I'm proposing for development, click on the Professional Doctorate link on the right.