The Career Development of African Americans in Training and Organizational Development

Article excerpt

As population diversity increases rapidly in the 21st century, organizations everywhere are experiencing rapid transition. Academic, business, and popular literature are proliferated with statistics, forecast assumptions, predictive scenarios, and analysis regarding the potential challenges of valuing and managing this emerging cultural mosaic (Cox, 1993; Glass Ceiling Commission, 1995). The term "workforce diversity" is used to describe the changing demographic mix.

Although some organizations are attempting to manage and value cultural differences by instituting policies and programs to facilitate the career advancement of minorities, something remains ominous. Despite some gains in negotiating the corporate hierarchy, minorities are thwarted in their efforts to realize their full career potential. Organizational culture and structural, attitudinal, and personal barriers continue to be formidable impediments preventing minorities from fully developing their careers in many U.S. organizations (Leong, 1995; Thomas, 1990).

The Role of Training and Organizational Development

In a rapidly changing global marketplace, organizations must be adaptable and adoptive in order to remain competitive. Training and organizational development are expected to play critical roles in assisting organizations and their members to adapt to economical, technical, and social changes. Rothwell and Kazanas (1994) acknowledged that human resource and organizational development refers to the philosophy, policies, procedures, and practices related to managing people within an organization. Despite the strategic importance increasingly being accorded to the role of HROD in organizational transformation and success, African Americans seem to experience little career success in training and organizational development.

This preliminary study serves as the basis of what will be a larger quantitative study that will survey an organization of Black human resource developers in a major U.S. city. The questions guiding the study were:

1. What structural, attitudinal, and personal factors facilitate the career development of African Americans in the fields of training and organizational development?

2. What structural, attitudinal, and personal factors inhibit the career development of African Americans in the fields of training and organizational development?

Significance of the Study

The career development and career experiences of African Americans in the HROD profession make up a complex social issue requiring urgent attention and thorough investigation. A search of the literature did not uncover any research that focused specifically on the career development of African Americans in the fields of training and organizational development. This current research begins to fills that gap in the literature.


Best suited for this study was a qualitative design anchored in career development theory, multicultural theory, and the theoretical perspectives of valuing cultural diversity.

The Sample

This purposeful sample consisted of 10 African Americans who worked in the areas of training and organizational development and who met predetermined criteria:

1. African Americans who self-identify as either African American or Black;

2. College-educated, some with graduate degrees;

3. More than 30 years old;

4. More than five years experience in the field of training and organizational development;

5. At least two years with the current employer;

6. Males and females.


The factors with an impact on the career development of the participants were examined through three broad categories: structural factors, attitudinal factors, and personal factors. Through rigorous comparison of the data, sub-themes emerged.

Structural Factors Affecting Career Development

The participants identified the following structural variables as factors with a profound impact on their professional aspirations and development:

1. …