Understanding Human Resource Development: A Research-Based Approach

By Jim McGoldrick; Jim Stewart et al. | Go to book overview

6

RESEARCHING HRD IN SMALL ORGANIZATIONS

Rosemary Hill


Aims and contributions

If this volume is an axiomatic recognition of the need for a serious examination of research in the specific field of HRD, then this chapter recognizes an equally demanding need - that of HRD enquiry into small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In accepting the arguments that smaller organizations are not scaled-down versions of large ones (Westhead and Storey 1996) and that the majority of the HR literature in the UK derives from large organizations (Harrison 1997) it would seem sensible to want to address such a potentially serious omission through an understanding of how the research process in SMEs might inform both the ontology of HRD and the epistemological issues in researching it. Proposals for a new body - the Small Business Service (SBS) - 'to act as a voice for small business at the heart of Government' (DTI 1999:1) recognize the importance that the UK government places upon the contribution of small organizations to the nation's socio-economic infrastructure.

Against this academic and commercial rationale, the chapter examines an episode of case-study research into HRD in three small organizations located in the Wirral, in the north-west of England. In the chapter, the theoretical context of HRD and the smaller organization is explored and the research context explained; but its main focus is to describe the case-study methodology used. This it does in two ways: first, by discussing case-study research from a conceptual perspective; and second, by describing the data collection and analysis techniques adopted. A critical analysis of issues raised by the research and how the characteristics of the small organizations studied may have shaped the casework design and analysis techniques in practice is then offered. The chapter proceeds with a comparison of the different HRD approaches found in the three cases, and closes with a discussion of research conclusions and implications.

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