Human Agency and HRD: Returning Meaning, Spirituality, and Purpose to HRD Theory and Practice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Problem. Human resource development (HRD) research and theories often do not adequately capture the holistic and self-directed nature of human beings at work. Likewise, HRD practice can fall short when applying an instrumental stance toward individuals as resources instead of building on the innate strengths and intrinsic areas of interest. The Solution. The concept of human agency is explored in this article in contrast to narrow and instrumental understandings of the person to propose an ethically and pragmatically more adequate notion for HRD research and practice. Exploring essential elements of human and moral agency affords a view of how individuals might understand themselves in the context of work and opens up the opportunity to build HRD theory and practice based on a holistic understanding of persons. The Stakeholders. This article has relevance for future practitioners and researchers in university-based HRD programs, for HRD scholars seeking to advance the art and science of the field, and for HRD managers and professionals responsible for the learning and education system and processes in organizations and other work settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)370-381
Number of pages12
JournalAdvances in Developing Human Resources
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2013


  • agency
  • human development
  • philosophy of HRD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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