The process of development HR Management

The word ‘development’ is often used quite loosely, but here we use it to mean the process whereby, over time, the individual becomes more complex and differentiated through the ninteraction of internal and external factors. Learning plays a part in development. For example, the individual’s innate tendencies towards growth and maturation are facilitated or constrained – shaped – by the influences in the individual’s specific context, and by how the individual responds to them.

Development is difficult to conceptualise, though the systems thinking discussed in Chapter is helpful. It is also difficult to study, embracing as it does both the individual’s (or organisation’s) inner life and the changing nature of a complex world, often with the lifespan as the time dimension. Researchers and theorists may therefore have focused upon segments of the lifespan and drawn implications for the remainder, or upon aspects, rather than the whole range, of development.

Some developmental theorists have devised models to represent universal, normative patterns of experience – all individuals follow similar patterns of experience – and these models suggest that some degree of prediction could be made about the basic outline of individual lives (for example, Levinson et al., 1978). Further, as has already been noted, development – as in ‘career development’ – is sometimes used to connote progression or advancement.

In other words, it is being assumed that there are accepted norms against which an individual’s development can be calibrated, and that those norms and the individuals’ experiences can be clearly identified. If you recall the nature of various assumptions about social and personal reality discussed in Chapter, you will recognize that these are positivist assumptions. Positivist assumptions about individuals and the social and economic environment within which their lives are led (construed as an objective, orderly, stable framework) give rise to the definition of development in terms of sequential phases or stages, often with their own developmental tasks.

However, these models frequently interpret the experiences of women and black people in terms of those of white males. Those working with these assumptions might also recognise that individuals have subjective experiences that cannot be studied in this scientific manner. They might therefore disregard them, although individuals base decisions about their life on their subjective experiences.

However, as Chapter outlined, there are alternative approaches. The phenomenological approach acknowledges the significance of a person’s subjective experiences, and the social constructionist approach recognises that, because individual experiences are socially constructed, the context of the individual has to be taken into account. These alternative assumptions lead to a focus upon individual cases and the search for insights rather than generalisable conclusions.

They also emphasise the significance of context, and the dynamic, intersubjective processes through which individuals interpret and make decisions about their lives and careers.When trying to understand development, then, it is important to be aware of the kind of assumptions that are being made about it.

  • Lifespan development

Lifespan development embraces the total development of the individual over time, and results from the interweaving of the biological, social, economic and psychological strands of the individual’s life. People develop through their lifespan, achieving greater degrees of complexity, even transformation. They are therefore continuously engaging in learning processes as they seek balance between changing self and changing environment. The theories and models of lifespan development have several implications for human resource development, for the organisation is one of the major arenas in which this adult development is taking place.

  • The influence of the socio-cultural context

There are two perspectives in the literature upon the influence of the socio-cultural context on the individual’s lifespan experiences. The first interprets that there are tendencies towards common patterns in individual experiences resulting from socialisation. In any given social setting, whether culture, class or organisation, the members of that social group experience pressures to conform to certain patterns of behaviour or norms.

Sometimes these pressures are expressed as legal constraints: the age of consent, marriage, attaining one’s majority (becoming an adult); or as quasi-legal constraints such as the age at which the state pension is paid and hence at which most people retire from the labour force; or as social and peer group expectations.

For example, Neugarten (1968) recognises how family, work and social statuses provide the ‘major punctuation marks in the adult life’, and the Organisations also have their own ‘clocks’. Sofer (1970) writes of his respondents’ ‘sensitive awareness’ of the relation between age and organisational grade, for they were: The other perspective, however, emphasises that the environment offers different opportunities and threats for individual lives.

The process of development or elaboration takes place as the individual’s innate capacity to grow and mature unfolds within a particular context, which in turn facilitates or stunts growth, or prompts variations upon it. For example, it is argued that there are significant differences in physical, intellectual and socio-economic attainments between children from different social classes (Keil, 1981).

The interaction and accommodation between individuals and their environment therefore cannot be meaningfully expressed in a model that is cross-cultural or universal. Hence Gallos (1989) questions the relevance of many of the accepted views of development to women’s lives and careers, while Thomas and Alderfer (1989) note that ‘the influence of race on the developmental process’ is commonly ignored in the literature.

  • Models of lifespan development

There are many different models of the lifespan: here you can see two that have been influential in lifespan psychology. It is important to be aware of the assumptions underlying these models, as discussed above. Their implications for human resource development will be noted below.

Erikson’s psychosocial model

Erikson (1950) conceives of development in terms of stages of ego development and the effects of maturation, experience and socialisation (see Levinson et al., 1978; Wrightsman, 1988). Each stage builds on the ones before, and presents the expanding ego with a choice or ‘crisis’. The successful resolution of this ‘crisis’ achieves a higher level of elaboration in individuality and adaptation to the demands of both inner and outer world, and hence the capacity to deal with the next stage.

An unsuccessful or inadequate resolution hinders or distorts this process of effective adaptation in the subsequent stages. For example, the adolescent strives for a coherent sense of self, or identity, perhaps experimenting with several different identities and as yet uncommitted to one; entry to work and choice of work role play a part here. A choice, however, has to be made and responsibility assumed for its consequences: unless this occurs, there is identity confusion. Young adults have to resolve another choice. This is between achieving closeness and intimate relationships or being ready to isolate themselves from others.

Erikson paid less attention to the remainder of the lifespan, but indicated that the choice for those aged 25 to 65 is between the stagnation that would result from concern only for self, indulging themselves as though they were ‘their own only child’ (Wrightsman, 1988: 66), or ‘generativity’. This is the reaching out beyond the need to satisfy self in order to take responsibility in the adult world, and show care for others, the next generation, or the planet itself. The choice of the final stage is between construing life as having been well or ill spent.

The model of Levinson et al.

Levinson et al. (1978) studied the experiences of men in mid-life, and from these constructed a model of the male lifespan in terms of alternating, age-related, periods of stability and instability. In the stable period, lasting six to eight years, a man builds and enriches the structure of his life: work, personal relationships and community involvement. That structure, however, cannot last, and so there follows a transitional period, of four to five years, when the individual reappraises that structure and explores new possibilities.

These can be uncomfortable or painful experiences, but they are the essential prelude to adapting or changing the life structure, and so achieving a further stable period. You can read more about this model in Daloz (1986) and Wrightsman (1988), but should be aware of the assumptions underpinning it.

The definition of the periods within the lifespan in terms of chronological age – for example, between ages 22 and 28 a man embarks on a stable period and entry into the adult world, and between ages 33 and 40 enters another stable period in which he settles down – reflects an assumption about the universal, normative patterning of experiences.

  • Career development

Individual development interacts with the organisation and its development through the individual’s career. Career development therefore is of significance for both individual and organisation, and hence for human resource development.

  • Defining career

Although the term ‘career’ is well understood in everyday language, the concept is a complex one with several levels of meaning. It is therefore open to several definitions. The core of the concept suggests the experience of continuity and coherence while the individual moves through time and social space. As with development generally, an individual’s career results from the interaction of internal and external factors.

As individuals become more skilled and flexible through learning and development, they gain more opportunities for intra- or interorganisational moves, including promotion. Their learning and development also influence the rewards they gain from their work, their relationship with their employer, the role of work in their lives, and the way they view themselves and are viewed by others.

However, ‘career’ refers not only to their observable movement through and experiences in organisations and the social structure generally. That is their objective career, while the personal interpretation they make of those experiences, the private meaning and significance it has for them, is their subjective career.

Because career is such a broad, often ambiguous, yet widely used concept, there are several perspectives that can be taken upon it. For example, it can be considered as a concept in both social science and everyday speech. This is the focus adopted by Collin and Young (2000). Inter alia, they identify the various stakeholders in this concept, such as the individual, the employer, the career counsellor, the government, and society itself, and draw attention to how the power relationships are glossed over by the rhetorical use of this concept.

(For a discussion of rhetoric see Chapter) Collin and Young (2000) also suggest that career may be changing from being a linear, future-oriented trajectory to becoming more of a collage of experiences. Another viewpoint upon career, found within vocational psychology, and underpinning career guidance theories and practice, focuses upon career choice and the most effective ways of matching people to jobs (for example, Holland, 1997).

Or the concern may be with career development through life (for example, Cytrynbaum and Crites, 1989; Dalton, 1989). A further perspective looks at the nature and management of careers in organisations (for example, Arnold, 1997; Arthur et al., 1989; Arthur and Rousseau, 1996; Hall and Associates, 1996; Herriot, 1992; Jackson, 1999), while yet another adopts a self-help approach to careers (for example, Bolles, 1988).

  • Traditional theories of career development

Because career is such a rich concept, there are many theories that have attempted to explain it. Although it is not possible to examine all these theories here (for further details see Watts et al., 1996), by classifying them into families we can see something of their range and major concerns:

  • Theories concerned with external influences upon the individual’s career:
  • the economic system and labour markets;
  • social class, social structure and social mobility;
  • organisational and occupational structure and mobility.
  • Theories concerned with factors internal to the individual:
  • factors such as age, gender;
  • psychoanalytical explanations;
  • personality traits;
  • lifespan development;
  • implementation of self-concept.
  • Theories concerned with the interaction of internal and external factors:
  • decision-making;
  • social learning.
  • Theories concerned with the interpretation of the individual’s subjective experiences
  • narrative approaches;
  • social constructionist approaches.

The theories of career development have similar characteristics to those of lifespan development. Because of the assumptions commonly made about objectivity and subjectivity, they:

  • are more frequently formulated from a positivist than from a phenomenological or constructionist stance;
  • focus upon objective rather than subjective experience;
  • emphasise intra-individual rather than contextual factors;
  • make assumptions about the universality of career, disregarding the significance of diversity: gender, race and social class (see Hopfl and Hornby Atkinson, 2000; Leong and Hartung, 2000; Marshall, 1989; Thomas, 1989).
  • Careers in the twenty-first century

The theories above reflect our traditional understandings of career. However, the flatter and more flexible forms of today’s organisations, and the changing relationship between employees and employers (‘the new deal’, according to Herriot and Pemberton (1995)) could well change the nature of career dramatically. There are also some slow, deepseated changes taking place in the context of career.

Demographic changes and shifts in public and private values, for example, may over time have significant impacts upon individuals’ opportunities, attitudes and aspirations. It is for this reason that questions are being asked not only about future careers (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 2002b), but also about the future of the concept of career itself (Collin and Young, 2000).

The potentials and implications of some of these changes – for individuals, employers educationalists, careers guidance practitioners and policy-makers of various kinds – are being discussed widely (see Jackson et al., 1996). It has been suggested that it is the traditional ‘onward and upward’ form of career that is under threat. However, Guest and McKenzie Davey (1996: 22), who have found little evidence of major organizational transformations in their own research, caution ‘don’t write off the traditional career’.

Theorists are attempting to understand what career is likely to become in the twentyfirst century: three examples of their views are given here.

Bureaucratic, professional and entrepreneurial forms of career

Kanter (1989b: 508) draws our attention to the way in which the ‘bureaucratic’ career, defined by a ‘logic of advancement’, although only one of three forms of career, has come to dominate our view of organisational careers generally. The ‘professional’ form of career (Kanter, 1989b: 516) is wider than that pursued by members of professional bodies. It is defined by craft or skill; occupational status is achieved through the ‘monopolization of socially valued knowledge’ and ‘reputation’ is a key resource for the individual.

Career opportunities are not dependent in the same way as in the ‘bureaucratic’ career upon the development of the organisation, nor is satisfaction as dependent upon the availability of extrinsic rewards. Some professional careers may be only weakly connected to employing organisations. The ‘entrepreneurial’ career develops ‘through the creation of new value or new organisational capacity’ (Kanter, 1989b: 516). Its key resource is the capacity to create valued outputs, and it offers freedom, independence and control over tasks and surroundings.

However, while those with a ‘bureaucratic’ career have (relative) security, and ‘professionals’ can command a price in the marketplace, ‘entrepreneurs’ ‘have only what they grow’. It is the ‘bureaucratic’ form of career that is now under threat, but attributes of the ‘professional’ and ‘entrepreneurial’ forms are likely to be found far more extensively in the twenty-first century (Collin and Watts, 1996; Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 2002b).

The subjective career

Weick and Berlinger (1989) argue that in ‘self-designing organizations’ (the learning organisation of a later section), the focus will be on the subjective career. In the absence of the typical attributes of career such as advancement and stable pathways, ‘the objective career dissolves’ and the subjective career ‘becomes externalized and treated as a framework for career growth’ (Weick and Berlinger, 1989: 321), and a resource for the further organisational self-design.

They liken career development in such organizations to what Hall (1976) describes as the ‘Protean career’, in which people engage in interminable series of experiments and explorations’. Such a career calls for the acceptance of frequent substantial career moves in order to incorporate a changing, complex and multi-layered sense of self; the ‘decoupling’ of identity from jobs; the preservation of the ability to make choices within the organisation; the identification of distinctive competence; and the synthesis of complex information (Weick and Berlinger, 1989: 323–326).

The boundaryless career

Arthur and Rousseau (1996: 3) indicate that whereas careers traditionally took place ‘through orderly employment arrangements’ within organisations, many are now ‘boundaryless’, crossing traditional boundaries – between organisations, and home and work.

  • Implications of the changing nature of career

Many have regarded the traditional career as elitist, available to only a few, characterized largely by social background and education. The future career may also be elitist, available to a few, but perhaps a different few. At this point it is possible to identify some of the winners and losers from the changes that are taking place. So far the losers have included workers in manufacturing, unskilled workers of many kinds, clerical workers of many kinds, middle managers of many kinds, and full-time workers of many kinds; many of these have been men.

The winners have been the knowledge workers, those with the skills required by the new technologies, those with the attitudes and skills needed in service jobs, those who are able (or want) to work only part-time. Women seem to be benefiting from some of the changes. To be employed and to have a career in the future – to be self-programmable (Castells, 1998, see earlier) – individuals will have to remain employable, as this chapter has reiterated, with the ability to learn new knowledge and skills, and above all to learn how to learn.

The changing nature of career is of considerable significance for society as a whole, as well as for individuals and for the economy. For example, the future orientation that a career gives an individual is essential when making decisions about such key issues as starting a family, taking out a mortgage, changing one’s occupation, re-entering education, or retiring from employment. Uncertainty about career could therefore over time affect the structure of the population or the housing market, while the effects of unemployment could damage the social fabric severely.

  • Development of the individual within organisations

We shall now note some ways in which individuals develop within organisations – or are developed by their organisations.

  • Employee development

One definition of employee development is:

Although, as the chapter has already argued, it is important for the organisation to develop its employees generally, many British employers have traditionally neglected employee development. This is reflected in the quotations from Cooley (1987) used in this chapter. However, recent interest in knowledge management, human capital and the learning organisation, and the establishment of the Investors in People award , are raising employers’ awareness of the need for employee development and the benefits that flow from it.

Furthermore, those employers who have already recognised their own self-interest in their employees’ continuous learning and employability often encourage their employees to engage in learning activities for self-development (see below). In employee development schemes, of the kind established by a consortium of TECs (now Learning and Skills Councils; and local employers, the employer provides for employees some degree of financial support for activities that are not necessarily related to their jobs.

A much-quoted example of this is Ford Motor Company’s Employee Development and Training Programme (Corney, 1995). Moreover, many organisations have now established learning centres that often support opportunities for learning beyond what those organisations specifically need. Others have set up corporate universities, such as Motorola and Unipart (Miller and Stewart, 1999; see also Coulson-Thomas, 2000). (See also the subsection on e-learning.) Nevertheless, even though their employers may not formally ‘develop’ them or encourage them to develop themselves, people still continue to learn, as we shall note later in the chapter.

  • Staff development

This is similar to employee and professional development, but generally refers to the development of administrative, technical and professional staff in organisations, such as local authorities, in which such staff form a large proportion of those employed. Its aim is to enable such employees to perform their current and future roles effectively, but does not generally include their systematic development as managers.

  • Self-development

Self-development is the term used to denote both ‘of self’ and ‘by self’ types of learning (Pedler, 1988). People developing themselves take responsibility for their own learning, identify their own learning needs and how to meet them, often through the performance of everyday work, monitor their own progress, assess the outcomes, and reassess their goals. The role of others in self-development is not to teach or to train, but perhaps to counsel or act as a resource.

It is now becoming widely recognised that, with the increasing flexibility of organizations and their contracts of employment, individuals need to engage in lifelong learning. However, many (including managers) do not receive from their employers the training and continuous development they need, so their need for self-development, associated with their need for employability, is likely in the future to be greater than ever.

Although self-development is regarded positively as proactive and entrepreneurial, it can be difficult for the individual to provide evidence of it without some form of accreditation. This has often involved arduous part-time study, which can increase the pressures on, and conflict between, the individual’s work and home roles. Such programmes of study have in the past been largely dictated by the traditions and values of the educational providers, rather than the specific needs of the learner.

This has now changed with the establishment of the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme, the Accreditation of Prior Learning and of Experiential Learning (see Chapter 9). Moreover, the approach and framework of S/NVQs (see Chapter ) now allows individuals to gain recognition for aspects of their work performance. Employee development schemes (see above) should also help individuals in their self-development, whether systematic or sporadic.

  • Management and organisational development

It is not within the remit of this chapter to examine management development – this forms the subject of Chapter – or organisation development, but they are included here for completeness. However, it should be noted that organisations, like people, need to develop to become more flexible, differentiated and adaptable to their environment. Indeed, the very development of organisational members will contribute to the development of the organisation itself. For example, as Chapter recognises, management development is both needed by the developing organisation and sets in train further organisation development.

  • Continuing professional development

Many professional institutions (see Arkin, 1992) require their members to engage in continuing professional development (CPD) because the changing environment is rendering obsolete some of their original professional skills and knowledge, and demanding the development of others. However, CPD is more than updating: it calls for a continuous process of learning and of learning-to-learn, and so is likely to have considerable benefits for organisations employing professionals, especially when part of the overall corporate strategy (Young, 1996).

Likely to be of particular relevance to readers of this book is the requirement for CPD that the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) places on its members. For the Institute, Whittaker (1992) states that CPD is needed to ensure that members remain up to date in a changing world and that the reputation of the profession is enhanced; and to encourage members to aspire to improved performance and become committed to learning as an integral part of their work. She identifies the following principles underlying CPD:

  • Development should always be continuous, the professional always actively seeking improved performance.
  • Development should be owned and managed by the learner.
  • Development should begin from the learner’s current learning state – learning needs are individual.
  • Learning objectives should be clear, and where possible serve organisational as well as individual goals.
  • Investment in the time required for CPD should be regarded as being as important as investment in other activities.

CIPD members ensure their continuing development by engaging in professional activities, formal learning, and self-directed and informal learning (see also Haistead, 1995). The subsection on career development referred briefly to the ‘professional’ form of career, and suggested that it might be more widely adopted in future.

Continuing development, even where not required or monitored by a professional body, would be an important element of this. It should also be noted that the framework of vocational qualifications outlined in Chapter is expected to accommodate the work of professionals at its level 5 (see Welch (1996) and Whittaker (1995) on the routes to the personnel and development profession).


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