International Human Resource Development: Learning, Education and Training for Individuals and Organisations (3rd ed.)

Development and Learning in Organizations

ISSN: 1477-7282

Article publication date: 28 January 2014



Wilson, J.P. (2014), "International Human Resource Development: Learning, Education and Training for Individuals and Organisations (3rd ed.)", Development and Learning in Organizations, Vol. 28 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

International Human Resource Development: Learning, Education and Training for Individuals and Organisations (3rd ed.)

Article Type: Suggested reading From: Development and Learning in Organizations, Volume 28, Issue 2

John P. Wilson, Kogan Page, London, 2012, ISBN: 9780749461065; Price: £39.99 ($70.00) (paperback); 502 pp.

It is surprising that, in an age of global competitiveness, there are so few resources available in international HRD. The only one I have used is Marquardt et al. (2004), but it is now sadly outdated. A more recent publication is Potokor (2010), but I have not seen it. Other books focus on international HRM (e.g. Briscoe et al., 2012); organization behavior (e.g. Adler and Gundersen, 2007); and management (Chanlat et al., 2013). There is definitely room for another current textbook that focuses specifically on international HRD.

1 Definitional foundation

Any text in this field is going to have to establish the meaning of the keywords in its title. I immediately wanted to discover how the editor had defined “international” and “human resource development,” as both have a wide range of perspectives that could have been taken.

The first chapter does an excellent job of introducing the concept of human resource development and the breadth of perspectives that exist on its definition. The author did not push for a singular definition but recognized that there can be value in a diversity of definitions. The author also did an excellent job of dealing with definitions historically through the present.

Surprisingly, however, less attention is given to defining the concept of “international”. The author does suggest that “cross-national” would have been a more descriptive term. The author suggests that “global” or “transnational” could also apply (all quotes from p. 13). There are problems with these alternatives. First, it is not clear whether the authors are going to talk about global concepts (i.e. they apply across the globe – if that is even possible) or between any two countries or two regions or what, explicitly, is intended. Second, there has been criticism about studies that have used the artificial boundaries of a country as a means of identifying “cross-cultural” constructs. Failure to provide a clear definition of “international” may account for the inconsistent attention to international concepts across chapters.

The author does a good job at exploring the range of definitions for the other keywords in the title: learning, education, and training, as well as development. This exploration also combined historical with current views.

2 Book synopsis

The book is divided into five major sections:

International HRD and learning.

Organizational learning.

National and international learning, education, training and HRD.

The training cycle.

Managing HRD.

Much of the book is foundational to HRD in general, without tying the concepts to international HRD.

The contents of the book are organized around the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) competencies, a very important credentialing organization in the UK, but it is of little interest to others. This is a dilemma that publishers face; this book is intended to focus on international HRD, yet an ethnocentric framework was selected, probably based on the expectation that the major audience is in the UK.

One of the challenges in writing a specialist book in the context of a larger field is in deciding about what prior knowledge a reader has. In this case, the editor decided that readers would have minimal prior knowledge about HRD, national HRD, learning, development, and components of all of these concepts, thus providing comprehensive coverage in this 502-page book, a lot to read in one semester, especially if supplemented by current readings. Major portions of the book are not directly related to international HRD but, rather, are foundational HRD. On the other hand, such a book provides for students with diverse backgrounds.

As with all edited books, there is some redundancy between authors. This can be a strength, as it provides an opportunity to repeat content to emphasize important concepts. The diversity of authors and their countries provide a good opportunity to view differing perspectives. The extensiveness of the book and review word limits make it impossible to do a chapter-by-chapter review. I have selected a few chapters of greatest interest to me and provide here my observations. Extensive coverage is provided for training and education, with less coverage on organization development and change management and almost no coverage on career development, all concepts included in HRD in McLagan’s (1989) HR Wheel, still a major organizer for curriculum in the USA.

I prefer a text that provides a critical perspective to the subject matter. This text does this differentially, depending on the chapter authors. For example, I liked the differentiation between management and leadership development. While I do not totally agree with the distinctions made, I appreciate the recognition that they have different meanings. Another example of the appropriate use of a critical approach is the chapter on evaluation. After presenting a detailed explanation of Kirkpatrick’s (1998) four levels of evaluation, the author provides a brief description of Holton’s (1996) classic critique. I wish the author had explored a broader set of approaches to evaluation, to include, for example, balanced scorecards, qualitative interviews, observations, and so on. No approach to evaluation can really show the effectiveness of training except experimental approaches. The author explores this approach, but it is unlikely that any company will really undertake experimental approaches. And, as companies are increasingly demanding the use of return on investment (ROI), I would have liked a stronger argument about how causal relationships from training are simply not possible. And where are the international implications? For example, in Asian or Latin American contexts, where there is high power distance, the reaction phase of Kirkpatrick does not work well because trainees are not likely to criticize trainers. Likewise, the learning phase of Kirkpatrick may not work well because of the potential for trainees to lose face. The cultural components of evaluation could have been explored further.

Textbooks often serve the sole purpose of providing an overview of well-established knowledge and synthesize that knowledge. It is exciting to find a textbook, such as this, that reveals new information that has not previously been published. This is particularly true of the chapter on National HRD. This is a rapidly growing aspect of HRD, and it was very interesting to read this chapter and learn much that I have not read previously.

Extensive references are provided throughout the book at the end of each chapter. Personally, I prefer for references to be provided in one complete list at the end of the book, with page references as to where the references were used. Having the references in one place can help to determine where redundancy might exist and help to provide a way to determine how a reference might be used in different ways by different authors.

3 In the editor’s own words

The reality is that the landscape of international human resource development is a dynamic one that responds to individual, group, organizational, national and international learning requirements. Yet, despite its maturing years, its component parts are still being debated … The most important point about HRD is that it is an applied subject and practitioners are getting on with the job of supporting people to achieve objectives efficiently and effectively (p. xxvi).


Adler, N. and Gundersen, A. (2007), International Dimensions of Organizational Behavior, 5th ed., Cengage Learning, Independence, KY

Briscoe, D., Schuler, R. and Tarlque, I. (2012), International Human Resource Management: Principles and Practices for Multinational Enterprises (Global HRM), 4th ed., Routledge, London

Chanlat, J.F., Davel, E. and Dupuis, J.P. (2013), Cross-cultural Management: Culture and Management Across the World, Routledge, London

Holton, E.E. III (1996), “The flawed four-level evaluation model”, Human Resource Development Quarterly, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 5–21

Kirkpatrick, D.L. (1998), Evaluating Training Programs: The Four Levels,

2nd ed., Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, CA

McLagan, P.A. (1989), Models for HRD Practice: The Models, American Society for Training and Development, Alexandria, VA

Marquardt, M., Berger, N. and Loan, P. (2004), HRD in the Age of Globalization: A Practical Guide to Workplace Learning in the Third Millennium, Basic Books, New York, NY

Potokor, E.S. (2010), International Human Resource Development: A Leadership Perspective, Routledge, London

Reviewed by Gary N. McLean

This review was originally published in European Journal of Training and Development, Vol. 38 No. 1/2, pp. 150-153.

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