The article explores the growth of EDAP‐style employee led development (ELD) schemes in the 1990s and critically appraises the arguments offered in their support. The dominant claims for ELD sit with equal comfort in the discourse of trade unionists promoting “bargaining for skills”, and managerialists promoting populist notions of the “learning company”. However, the article draws on recent research which suggests that ELD is better understood as a marginal addition to the effort‐reward bargain; a “fringe benefit”, a “way of giving something back” in a period characterised by an intensification of effort, upheaval and uncertainty. Its contribution, therefore, to the emergence of sustainable human resource development is minimal – at least in conventional terms. Through the exposition of two case studies a reformulated argument is offered which seeks to place ELD in a framework of theory and practice which is both more durable and liberating. The article concludes that the ability to make and act upon an informed and rational interpretation of one’s interests, as an individual, or as a member of a collective within the workplace, must surely be premised on the development of an ongoing educational process; a process toward which a reformulated notion of ELD may well contribute.
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