Bridging the HRD research-practice gap through professional partnerships

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [Universitaets und Landesbibliothek]On: 02 May 2013, At: 15:28Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T3JH, UK</p><p>Human Resource DevelopmentInternationalPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rhrd20</p><p>Bridging the HRD research-practice gap throughprofessional partnershipsBob Hamlin a , Margaret Reidy b &amp; Jim Stewart ca Principal Lecturer, University of Wolverhamptonb Postgraduate, Nottingham Trent Universityc Reader, Nottingham Trent UniversityPublished online: 28 Jul 2006.</p><p>To cite this article: Bob Hamlin , Margaret Reidy &amp; Jim Stewart (1998): Bridgingthe HRD research-practice gap through professional partnerships, Human ResourceDevelopment International, 1:3, 273-290</p><p>To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13678869800000038</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Full terms and conditions of use: http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes.Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan,sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone isexpressly forbidden.</p><p>The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make anyrepresentation that the contents will be complete or accurate or up todate. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae, and drug doses shouldbe independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall notbe liable for any loss, actions, claims, proceedings, demand, or costs or</p></li><li><p>damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly inconnection with or arising out of the use of this material.</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [U</p><p>nivers</p><p>itaets</p><p> und L</p><p>ande</p><p>sbibl</p><p>iothe</p><p>k] at</p><p> 15:28</p><p> 02 M</p><p>ay 20</p><p>13 </p></li><li><p>Bridging the HRD research-practice gap through professional partnerships A case study </p><p>Bob Hamlin Principal Lecturer, University of Wolverhampton Margaret Reidy Postgraduate, Nottingham Trent University Jim Stewart Reader, Nottingham Trent University </p><p>Abstrab: This article strongly supports the case for more research informed practice within the field of HRD, particularly organizationally-based research conducted as part of an 'HKD Professional Partnership' of the kind advocated by Jacobs (1997). A UK-based example of such a partnership set within one part of the British Civil Service is presented. This demonstrates how HRD prac- tice can be profoundly influenced and enhanced by robust rigorous internal research, and illustrates the successful bridging of the much talked about 'HRD research-practice gap'. A number of lessons are drawn from this case study of particular relevance both to HRD practitioners, HRD academics and organiza- tional leaders concerned with cultural and other strategic change issues. </p><p>Keywords Strategic change, cultural change, evidence-based management, research-based organization development, change through HRD, HRD professional partnerships </p><p>Introduction </p><p>In recent years various authors in the UK have called for more research-based approaches to management development and human resource development (see Jacobs and Vyakarnarn 1994; Davies 1996; Hamlin and Davies 1996). Others have argued the case for more internal research to underpin organ- izational change programmes (see Quirke 1995; Stewart 1996; Hamlin and Reidy 1996,1997). Active participation in such research by HRD practitioners and members of the research community, whether business academics or consultants, is believed by the authors of this article t o bc a vital requirement for effective HRD practice; a view shared with Swanson (1997) in the USA. </p><p>HRDl 1:3 (1998), pp. 273-290 O Routledge 1367-8868 </p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [U</p><p>nivers</p><p>itaets</p><p> und L</p><p>ande</p><p>sbibl</p><p>iothe</p><p>k] at</p><p> 15:28</p><p> 02 M</p><p>ay 20</p><p>13 </p></li><li><p>274 Articles </p><p>He advocates that HRD professionals should advance their professional practice by becoming truly expert practitioners through what he calls 'back- yard' research. He describes this as 'the systematic investigation and inquiry embedded in the ongoing work of the organization but condztctel with the rigour of academic research' (emphasis added). Commenting from the US perspective, he argues that 'HRD void of operating principles, theories and good research to guide the HRD effort leads to poor professional practice and undermines the whole credibility of HRD'. In contrast he observes that 'thoughtful and expert HRD practitioners do indeed apply research findings in their day-to-day work decisions'. Similarly Leimbach and Baldwin (1997) argue that 'research will enhance any HRD intervention, improving its efficiency, effectiveness and impact on organizations, teams and individuals', whilst Jacobs (1997) contends that 'the HRD field depends on research being considered an essential counterpart to practice, not an optional activity when convenient nor an extravagance when financially possible'. However, drawing on the observations of Leimbach (1995) and Ferris e t al. (1995), Jacobs draws attention to the fact that 'there have been relatively few instances in the field of HRD that actually illustrate how HRD practice has been profoundly influenced by research and vice versa'. </p><p>As already indcated above, from our own experiences as HRD practitioners and HRD academics operating mainly within the UK context, we strongly support the case for more research-informed practice within the HRD field, particularly organizationally-based HRD research done in collaborative part- nership between HRD practitioners and HRD academics. Our reasons are the same as those put forward by Jacobs (1997) who argues HRD collaborations between organizations and universities should be 'professional partnerships', as opposed to 'service agreements' which have been the basis of most HRD collaborations in the past. In a 'service agreement' the organizationally-based HRD practitioner tends to set the requirements for the research study. This often results in limiting the HRD academics' opportunity both in terms of the scope and time-scale for the research. In following the organization's wishes this usually means the rcscarch study does not go beyond meeting an immediate short-term need, and more often than not there is insufficient rigour or focus in the research. This limits the usefulness of the findings beyond the present situation and limits any wider application of the research within the organization. Thus, in a 'service agreement', the balance of emphasis 'is tilted to the wishes of the practitioner without rcgard bcing given to advancing HRD as a field of practice or study'. In contrast, Jacobs contends that organization partners in an HRD professional partnership are Gvilling to invest in research to advance the HRD field as well as to meet the organiza- tional needs'. Also the 'professional partnership' recognizes that </p><p>HRD scholars and HRD pracadoners enter with their own respective goals for the collaboration, that maintaining the integrity of those goals for the common </p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [U</p><p>nivers</p><p>itaets</p><p> und L</p><p>ande</p><p>sbibl</p><p>iothe</p><p>k] at</p><p> 15:28</p><p> 02 M</p><p>ay 20</p><p>13 </p></li><li><p>Hamlin et 01.: Bridging the HRD research-practice gap 275 </p><p>good is important and, although the goals may differ, they complement each other. Thus, with a professional partnership, there is a dual goal of advancing the HRD field as well as improving the organization. </p><p>However, he comments that the task of getting HRD collaborations viewed as 'professional partnerships' rather than as 'service agreements' remains a chal- lenge for HRD professionals. Holton et al. (1998) have recently presented a US example of a 'professional partnershp' that was pivotal in planning the implementation of a performance consulting model of HRD practice in a municipal government HRD department. The case study dustrates how HRD research and theory, which were integrated into practice through a university- organization HRD professional partnershp, enabled HRD practitioners to advance their practice significantly. </p><p>The aim of this article is to describe and discuss a UK-based example of such a 'professional partnership', which dustrates how HRD practice was profoundly influenced through a successful bridging of the HRD research- practice gap. The partnership was set within an executive unit of one of the Departments of the British Civil Service. Namely the Anglia Region of H M Customs &amp; Excise (HMCE) which is one of fourteen executive units compris- ing HMCE within the UK. The partners in this instance included Dick Shepherd, the regional head of Anglia, Margaret Reidy his internal research officer/HRD consultant, and Bob Hamlin and Jim Stewart who are HRD acadernics/practitioners at the University of Wolverhampton and Nottingham Trent University, respectively. The case study concerns the issue of effecting change in the management culture of Anglia, and describes how second-order organizational change was and continues to be brought about effectively and successfully through HRD initiatives based on the findings of robust internal academic research. </p><p>The research programme included, amongst others, an extensive ethno- graphic longitudinal case study on the changing culture of the organization and its inherent attitudes and behaviours, plus a complementary empirical research study into the criteria of managerial effectiveness. Enabling managers to recognize and understand better the cultural characteristics of their organization, through the findings of this research, is considered to have been critical to the success of the action research-driven HRD interventions deployed in effecting change in the management culture. The use of action research as an HRD method was neither novel nor innovative, for it is an established O D approach that has been well documented (see for example French and Bell 1990; Harvey and Brown 1994). However, the authors believe that a number of factors were of particular significance in determining the success achieved in this case. First, the research was more rigorous than many projects associated with HRD consultancy. This was because the internal HRD practitioner who conducted the field work was relatively more informed and skilled in the behavioural sciences and in the design and conduct of internal research than often applies; she was also working in collaborative </p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [U</p><p>nivers</p><p>itaets</p><p> und L</p><p>ande</p><p>sbibl</p><p>iothe</p><p>k] at</p><p> 15:28</p><p> 02 M</p><p>ay 20</p><p>13 </p></li><li><p>276 Articles </p><p>partnership with business academics. Second, as an employee of the organiz- ation she had a deep understanding of the organizational history and context, and was acting with the full and visible support of the Regional Head, Dick Shepherd. The authors suggest that these factors were significant in providing added credibility and 'face' validity to the research findings which, in turn, gave greater confidence in the decisions and actions that were subsequently based on the research. </p><p>From here the article sets out to provide some additional contextual background to the organizational setting and the nature of the HRD professional partnership that was formed. It then describes in limited detail the empirical research programme on managerial effectiveness, the results of whlch were used specifically to inform and shape the development of HRD inter- vention tools for bringing about change in the management culture. This is then followed by a discussion of the research-based HRD practice and HRD professional partnership as experienced within Anglia. The article closes with several concluding comments and observations drawing the attention of both HRD practitioners and HRD academics to a number of lessons that have emerged fiom the Anglia experience of bridging the HRD research-practice gap- </p><p>The organizational context </p><p>It has been well documented in the British management literature that bringing about change within the British Civil Service has been a slow and protracted process (see Fulton 1968; Fry 1979; Bate 1996). Numerous transformational change progranmes initiated by successive governments have been obstructed by the deep-seated traditional culture of the Civil Service characterized by, for example, people 'putting a premium on a safe pair of hands; avoiding risk taking, enterprise and good housekeeping and zdopting hierarchical and elitist attitudes'; and by cultural characteristics such as 'impersonality'; 'conservatism'; 'fatalism'; 'parochialism'; 'rigidity'; 'red-tape'; 'bureaucratic pettiness'; and 'status pre-occupations', the latter being referred to in the Civil Service as 'gradism' (see Ibbs 1988; Brooks and Bate 1994; Kinston 1994). </p><p>At the time of his appointment as Regional Head of An&amp;a in 1991, Dick Shepherd found himself in a region which, whilst productive, was working with a predominant 'command and control' style of management. However, to reflect the changing organizational environment where year-on-year demands to deliver more for less were being made by the department, the management style needed to be changed, not least because it no longer sat well with the changing managerial philosophy being articulated by the board of HMCE. Furthermore, to cope effectively with the various change programmes that he anticipated would be imposed 'top-down', and those to be initiated by </p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [U</p><p>nivers</p><p>itaets</p><p> und L</p><p>ande</p><p>sbibl</p><p>iothe</p><p>k] at</p><p> 15:28</p><p> 02 M</p><p>ay 20</p><p>13 </p></li><li><p>Hamlin eta/.: Bridging the HRD research-practice gap 277 </p><p>himself, he concluded a new cultural infrastructure was required: one comprising cultural characteristics such as 'flexibility', 'risk-taking', 'enterprise' and 'innovation'. Also he believed passionately in the concept of empowering people and teams. However, this required team managers who could provide the right type of leadership when acting both as team heads and team members, and who could create the right type of work climates for their people. Having set out his expectations clearly to the organization, and having encouraged his managers to adopt a more open style of management, he found that change was slow to happen due to the effects of 'cultural lag'. This is a term Bate (1996) uses to describe the condition when culture is no longer relevant to the needs of the organization. </p><p>Dick Shepherd realized he needed to understand better the resilient yet no longer relevant culture of his organization so as to know how best to change it. He saw cultural diagnosis as a necessary ingredient in the process of initiating and bringing about the change he considered essential for the long- term organizational health of his executive unit. Hence he appointed Margaret Reidy as his research officer to carry out internal management research. Soon after her appointment she commenced a major ethnographic longitudinal case study on cultural change designed to help inform, shape and measure the changes Dick Shepherd had set his mind...</p></li></ul>

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