HRD in Small Organisations: Research and Practice

By Jim Stewart; Graham Beaver | Go to book overview

4

Now you see it now you don’t

Comparing traditional and discourse readings of HRD in small organisations
Clare Rigg and Kiran Trehan
Objectives
Research into human resource development within SMEs has been dominated by representationalist perspectives of organisation, by narrow definitions of HRD as training and by quantitative research methods. There have been more recent exhortations to advance the understanding of SME HRD through qualitative and longitudinal methods but, as a consequence of limited theorising on HRD, there has also been a lack of clarity over what might be researched. Within the small firms literature, intensive studies of the workplace are comparatively rare, yet, as Curran et al. (1996) argue, snapshot approaches based on survey evidence have frequently been used to formulate views on HRD activities. How then can research be encouraged that involves in-depth scrutiny of HRD within SMEs and small organisations more generally?This chapter will argue for the potential offered to researching, understanding and practising HRD in small organisations, of taking a learning view of HRD and a discourse perspective on organisation and learning. The arguments are demonstrated through comparing a traditional and a discourse interpretation of research material collected ethnographically in three small companies.We aim to contribute to a research approach which we believe will deepen understanding of HRD in small organisations by combining three strands that have not generally been integrated: ideas from recent debates on what HRD comprises, perspectives on learning, and a discourse perspective on organisation. Our argument is that this integration offers new insights for fruitful research into and practice of HRD in small organisations.In summary the objectives for this chapter are to:
explore the value of a discourse perspective in understanding HRD activity within small organisations;
compare traditional and discursive readings of HRD.

The chapter is structured as follows: the next section introduces the three case study companies, providing brief details on their size, business and engagement with formal HRD activity. This is followed by an outline of the theoretical context, which

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