International Human Resource Development: A Leadership Perspective

Renato Ferreira Leitão Azevedo (University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil)

Journal of European Industrial Training

ISSN: 0309-0590

Article publication date: 26 July 2011



Ferreira Leitão Azevedo, R. (2011), "International Human Resource Development: A Leadership Perspective", Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 35 No. 6, pp. 623-625.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Book synopsis

This book will lead the reader through a multi‐plot experience, characterised by a fragmented narrative and various stories and cases until the final chapter, where international HRD is defined and discussed. For some readers, the layout and structure of the book may be analogous to non‐linear screenplays or movie scripts, which may provide a barrier to reading the book.

The author begins with an interesting chapter called “Breaking the code”, comparing the meaning of work with a mica crystal, a mineral shaped by environmental forces and characterised by composite layers. As mentioned by Kuchinke and Cornachione (2010, p. 60) “The changing nature of work processes requires that High Performance Technology (HPT) professionals refine their understanding of how individuals construe the meaning of desirable work, work processes, and work outcomes in order to optimize person‐organization and person‐task fits”. In that sense, the debate presented involving the meaning of work, technology and leisure is crucial in order to avoid dangerous ethnocentric tendencies in delivering training and human resource development.

The book examines cultural nuances communicated through language – highlighting the limitations and the relations among “culture and experience” then “culture and language”. Both chapters include very useful exercises and cases for the audience, grounded in multiple disciplines and presented through different countries perspectives related to the field of HRD. The transspection process (Hanvey, 1975) and the comparison with jigsaw puzzle pieces links neatly to the discussion of Hall's (1976) proxemic theory. Chapter 3 and 4 identify some trends in terms of demographics and generational differences that characterise the modern workforce and the chapters highlight some global issues that affect workforce training, competences required and learning.

The fifth chapter called intermezzo, which the author called “a pause that provides the reader with an opportunity to reflect on previous chapters” is a brief and tentative look at the changing face of management. From this point on in the book, the intermezzo seems to indicate a rupture in the writing style and presentation of new ideas. Chapter 6 continues with a review, which visits some classic and contemporary theorists regarding management, focusing on tools and visual charts. It adds a new element to the narrative with the inclusion of appendix 6A, which talks about learning landscapes in terms of visual communication. The chapter is connected with previous concepts of “high‐context” and “low‐context” cultures and reexamines some elements presented at the beginning of the book.

The author then adopts a different strategy based on a comparatively longer case, contrasting Japanese, Japanese‐American and American cultures. The fictitious Duromark example includes many of the famous ideas of Toyota in chapter 7. For scholars and practitioners of the training and HRD field looking to know more about Toyota's culture and labour‐management relations, it is preferable to skip this chapter and go read Womack et al. (1990), Womack and Jones (2003) or Liker (2004) instead.

The next two chapters adopt a communication design approach, addressing job description analysis, sports analogies, media perceptions, socialisation phenomena and knowledge management issues. Finally, chapter 10 is designed toward a definition of IHRD, having as its objective to differentiate human resource management, international human resource management, human resource development, international human resource development and their intersections and related areas, such as organisational science and organisational development.


Talking about international human resources development is something already hard to define, echoing what McLean and McLean (2001) have taught: “If we can't define HRD in one country, how can we define it in an international context?”. Potoker (2010) expresses that “as a point of departure, the book uses a demographic analysis of the workforces of a number of key countries in order to examine cultural implications for training and development and for best practice”. However, it is not clear how or why these key countries are selected. The absence of important cases, such as South Korea (in terms of educational reforms) or Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRICs) appears to be a considerable flaw for really understanding the complexity of HRD in international terms.

It would be helpful to include more countries and enlarge upon the “International” component of the title. Ardichvili (1998) in McLean and McLean (2001) mentions that in Russia, the concept of HRD is different, as the language is mostly used from the “realm of personnel staffing, selection and training and the word development is not as widely used”. Additionally, the focus is towards “managing the employee pool, rather than on helping each employee to develop his/her abilities”. It is important to recognise that developing countries have different definitions than developed countries, as pointed by Nair et al. (2007). Those phenomena should be incorporated and better covered in a book designed for an international audience.

Oscar Wilde once mentioned that “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all”. It will be hard to find someone willing to read the book over and over again, however, for adopters, this book will be useful when scholars and practitioners want to review some of the examples and tools provided at the end of each chapter.

In the author's own words

Readers of this book might wonder why the author has not yet defined the meaning of “international human resource development (IHRD)”. Is not this generally done straight away in chapter 1? Why this brazen unorthodoxy? The rationale for this decision is threefold:

  1. 1.

    It seemed important to first guide the book's target audience – i.e. all those who are committed to work‐force development, through subtleties that affect learning and communication choices in physical and virtual spaces;

  2. 2.

    To first introduce the demographics and mobile nature of the global workforce itself and the implications of all of that to training and more, and then turn to a definition that might encompass all of these factors;

  3. 3.

    To present compelling reasons to the reader to first evaluate personal preferences, assumptions, and possible biases regarding how individuals learn or should learn, choose to work, choose and use technology, make communication choices, and so on (p. 204, italics in original).

A Reviewers' details

Renato Ferreira Leitão Azevedo earned his Master degree in Accounting Education and Research at the University of Sao Paulo (USP), Brazil. He also has two bachelor degrees in Accounting and Information Systems. Professionally, he is working as an MBA Instructor, teaching Management Cases, Business Strategy Game and Cost and Management Accounting. At an undergraduate level, he teaches modules in Organisational Behavior and Accountancy related courses. His research interests centre on stereotyping, HRD in Brazil, career development and factors of choice for accounting/business students. He has been published widely and has received grants from USP, Brazilian Federal Government, Korean Federal Government, and UCLA. He was also visiting scholar at Mercer University (2009) and visiting graduate student at UCLA (2010), lecturing abroad at UEAM, Mercer University, UWM and UMN. Renato Ferreira Leitão Azevedo can be contacted at:


Hall, E.T. (1976), Beyond Culture, Doubleday, New York, NY.

Hanvey, R. (1975), “An attainable global perspective”, in Kniep, W. (Ed.), Next Steps in Global Education: A Handbook for Curriculum Development, American Forum, New York, NY, pp. 83114.

Kuchinke, K.P. and Cornachione, E.B. Jr (2010), “meaning of work and performance‐focused work attitudes among midlevel managers in the United States and Brazil”, Performance Improvement Quarterly, Vol. 23 No. 3, pp. 5776.

Liker, J. (2004), The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World's Greatest Manufacturer, McGraw Hill, New York, NY.

McLean, G.N. and McLean, L.D. (2001), “If we can't define HRD in one country, how can we define it in an international context?”, Human Resource Development International, Vol. 4 No. 3, pp. 31326.

Nair, P.K., Ke, J., Al‐Emadi, M., Coningham, B., Conser, J., Cornachione, E., Devassy, S.M. and Dhirani, K. (2007), “National Human Resource Development: a multi‐level perspective, literature review”, paper presented at the International Research Conference in the Americas of the Academy of Human Resource Development, Indianapolis, IN, February 28‐March 4.

Womack, J.P. and Jones, D.T. (2003), Lean Thinking, Free Press, New York, NY.

Womack, J.P., Jones, D.T. and Ross, D. (1990), The Machine that Changed the World, Rawson Associates, New York, NY.

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