Human Resource Development: Function & Role

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  • 0:00 What Is Human Resource…
  • 1:54 The Function Of Human…
  • 3:15 The Role Of Human…
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Katryn Stewart

Katryn has a Masters degree in Management, has been PHR certified, and has taught college business and human resource management courses.

An organization's focus on improving the knowledge, ability, skills, and other talents of their employees is referred to as human resources (HR) development. Read on to learn about the function and role of HR development within an organization.

What Is Human Resource Development?

Human resources development refers to an organization's focus on improving the knowledge, ability, skills, and other talents of their employees. Companies that care about the success of their employees and want to improve company performance recognize this is done by the skills of employees and will be willing to spend time and money on the growth and development of their employees.

Similarly to how a company would upgrade their technical resources, such as computer software or hardware to make their computers operate more effectively, human resource development improves the 'human resources'--the employees--so that they can be more effective in their roles.

The Association for Talent Development (now known as 'TD') reported that in 2013, organizations spent an average of roughly $1200 per employee on training and development, equating to 31.5 hours of training per year ( While the cost, time, and methods of training and development change according to industry and company size, it is clear that development of employees is important to many organizations.

The development of employees takes numerous forms, many of which cannot be measured in time or cost, and require no additional cost, such as on-the-job training. Development of employees can also happen one-on-one in management and employee meetings or even between employees. If one employee explains specific processes or functions to another and helps to develop the knowledge of the second employee, human resource development is occurring.

Development also occurs via instructor-led trainings, online trainings, and self-led education. Development can take the form of college education, professional development, or industry or career specific certifications or trainings. Any form of education or training that adds knowledge or skills to one of the organization's human resources is human resource development.

What Is the Function of Human Resource Development?

The function of human resource development is to improve performance and ability. While employees are often expected to know a certain amount about their jobs or have a specific degree or level of education upon hire, much of what an employee learns about their job is developed over the course of doing the job. This development includes specific organizational knowledge or job-specific duties that are not necessarily taught in the classroom.

Regardless of the form the development takes, it functions as a means to improve the overall performance and ability of employees in the jobs they are doing and in future positions. Human resource development can function to improve performance or individual abilities in an area in which an employee is weak (such as management skills or accounting practices). It can also function to teach an employee about an area in which the employee has had no prior experience, such as when transitioning from one role into a different role (i.e., cross-training).

HR development may also function to help an organization conform to government regulations or guidelines by training employees on relevant laws or regulations for which they are responsible. It may also take the form of professional development by educating in specific areas or fields. The Professional in Human Resources certification, Project Management Professional certification, and Six Sigma Black Belt are examples of courses and certifications designed to train and develop professionals in these specific fields.

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