Human Resources Development in the UK and Australia

Subject: Employee Management
Pages: 10
Words: 3124
Reading time:
11 min
Study level: PhD


Many advanced countries have identified Human Resources Development (HRD) as a potential tool to enhance economic growth. Many managers of different organisations have realised the potential advantages of providing skill and development for the workforce for the enhancement of market forces. Thus, with contributions that skill development has provided to the organisational development and overall country growth, many advanced countries have realised that through improvement of skill, training, and development of workforce, they can achieve economic growth. Despite the contribution of Human Resources Development to the enhancement of economic growth, the workforce in many advanced countries is approaching the older age. In 2004, the figures published by the Queensland Department of Education and Catholic Education revealed that approximately 71% of the Librarians teachers in Queensland are approaching 40. In addition, approximately 50% of these teachers are between the ages of 45 and 55. (Cribb, 2005).

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Patrickson, and Ranzijn argued that the population of the people in the workforce are increasing yearly, and the number of young people entering the workforce are decreasing yearly, and the results have created a shortage of skilled workforce in many advanced countries. It should be noted that different countries have different approach toward HRD, and the methods countries conduct their HRD depends on the economic, social and political factors. (University of Queensland).

For example, in the UK and Australia, the governments are encouraging older workers to delay retirement in order not to create a shortage of manpower in many industrial sectors.

The objective of this report is to examine the contribution of HRD to the ageing workforce in Australia and the UK.

In Australia and the UK, population ageing has become the features of the workforce in the last two decades. Typically, both the UK and Australia have experienced low birth rates, and decrease in death rates, and these have affected the number of young people entering the workforce in both countries. Thus, in the UK and Australia, many people in labour force are people in mature ages who are mostly between the age of 40 and 55. (Patrickson, and Ranzijn).

The UK and Australian governments have realised that the skill development through HRD is essential to improve the performances of individual regardless of the age of workers.

The rest of the paper is structured as follows:

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The paper compares how HRD is conceived and implemented in the UK and Australia.

In addition, the paper examines the approach of national institutions or organisations in both Australia and the UK toward HRD.

The paper also discusses each country’s response towards the ageing workforce.

Finally, the paper evaluates a country that has better effective approach towards an ageing workforce and why.

Comparing Australia and the UK towards Human Resources Development

Several definitions have been provided for the understanding Human Resources Development. Gribbs (2005) defines HRD as the ability of organisation to improve the skill and growth of the workforce. Raiden, Dainty(2006) also asserted that

“Human resource development (HRD) is concerned with the provision of learning and development opportunities that support the achievement of business strategies and improvement of organisational, team and individual performance”. (p 64).

Typically, country’s economic growth depends on the skilled workforce. Both the UK and Australian government have strived to ensure that there are improvements in the skill of workforce who are controlling the economy of the country. It should be noted that the country’s human resources serve as the powerful tool to enhance the economic growth. Thus, both the UK and Australia realise that with development of human resources through training and education, they will enhance countries’ economic growth.

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The system of empowering human resources through training and education is similar in the UK and Australia. In the UK, many organisations have realised the importance of developing the human resources. Essentially, human resources are the asset for the organisational agility, and with the development of available human resources, organisations realise that there will be enhancement of competitive advantages with organisation human resources development. Despite the importance of human resources development for the organisational agility, literatures have argued that the human resources development in the UK has not yet developed. Many organisations have only kept lip service to the development of human resources.. Raiden, Dainty (2006) argued that Human resources development is scarce in many organisations in the UK. The authors cited the examples of the UK industry where there occurrence of empowering the human resources are very scarce occurrence. Many construction organisations in the UK do not put priority on staff training. Typically, many construction companies do not put HRD in the organisational planning.

However, Kululanga et al., (1999) held contrasting views by arguing that many organisations in the construction industry put priority to HRD. Many organisations have realised the dynamic importance of the skilled manpower to the strategic needs of the organisational empowerment. Thus, many organisations have demonstrated the stronger commitment towards human resources development, and these organisations have devise methods of retaining the existing staff through training and leaning.

Price (2008) also supports the argument of Kululanga et al by pointing out that many organisations in the UK have realised the significant importance of impacting training to the employees. Typically, the author provides the examples of McDonald, Network Rail, Flybe, Tesco and other companies in the UK that have demonstrated the significant commitments to the development of human resources for organisational development. It should be noted that some organisations make use of NVQ-accredited apprenticeship scheme to train their staff.

Despite the commitment of many UK private organisations in the improvement of organisational learning. The survey carried out by the by HRM Guide (2006) in 2005 revealed that about 25% of British workers in the UK have blamed their superiors for holding back their training. From the survey, it is revealed that 63% of the British workers revealed that they would have done better in their career if provided adequate HRD, and many of them asserted that they were not providing adequate training when it comes to training and development in their career.

However, from the opinion of government workers, it is revealed that 66% of government workers in the UK revealed that they were happy with the way the government is encouraging them to develop themselves through training and development. However, it was only 56% of the staff of private organisation belief that their organisations are empowering them through training and development. In addition, about 40% of government workers in the UK asserted that they get formal training within the organisations compare to 31% of the staff in the private organisations.

Despite the contribution of private organisations and government organisations towards human resources development, there are arguments that Australia is falling behind towards human resources development compared to many advanced countries, especially the UK. Ford (1982) argued that there has been significant decline towards HRD in Australia. Typically many organisations have not put much emphasis in the development of human resources within their organisations.

Wood (2003) also supported the Ford by pointing out that Australia is underperforming with related to HRD towards the workers compare to the contribution of the UK toward HRD. The author argued that Australia ranked 13 positions of the OECD countries that enhanced HRD towards their workers and the UK ranked fifth position on the countries that lay emphasise on the development of workers through training and development.

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However, Sappey and Sappey (1999) believed that the training for the development of workers enhances their signification development. The training of workers in the Australian organisations is mostly with the organisational objectives. Thus, the commitment of many organisations in Australia depends on the management beliefs. Typically, training for the development of workers in a particular industry may not be the same in another industry. The authors argued that in the 1970s and 1980s, many organisations placed emphasise on the training of their staff for the enhancement of organisational objectives. It should be noted that at these periods organisations believed that there were skill shortage, and different organisations tried to retain their staff by providing them with training and development. The situation was identical with government organisations in Australia, the government put emphasised on the HRD of their workers between 1970 and 1980s. However, towards 1990s and at the beginning of 1990s, there have been gradual decline of HRD in both private organisations and government organisations in Australia. For example, in finance industry in Australia, many banks had drastically reduced the training policy of their workers since the 1990s.Thus, review revealed that HRD practice is more developed in the UK than Australia. Meanwhile, different national institutions or organisations have been known to contribute to the development of human resources. The paper examines the approach of national institutions or organisations toward HRD in the UK and Australia.

Approach of national institutions or organisations toward HRD in the UK and Australia.

Several national institutions or organisations have been dedicated towards HRD in the UK and Australia. In the UK, the Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD) is a professional body that is dedicated in the development and management of the people across the UK all over Europe. In the UK, CIPD is a largest HRD organisation and is dedicated to develop several workers in different organisations across UK. (CIPD, 2009).

In Australia, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace is a national institution dedicated to provide national training systems for workers in Australia. To train workers in order to fit the modern technology, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace set up the Vocational education and training (VET) to train works to adapt to modern technology. Essentially, in the modern day technology, the new technology embraced by many organisations is increasingly complex. Thus, for workers to adapt to the new technology there is need to equip them with training and development. It should be noted that continuous learning is very critical to enhance an employee’s skills and development. Thus, the VET is under the Australian national package dedicated to develop prospective employees and existing employee in acquiring new skills. Apart from VET, there is other national institution called Australian National Training Authority (ANTA). The ANTA provides similar training similar to VET in Australia. (Department of Education Employment and Work Relation, 2009, University of Queensland, 2009).

Similar to Australia, There is Technical Vocation Education and Training in the UK dedicated to provided additional technical knowledge for the workers in the UK. Typically, many employers in the UK have realised the complex task many employees are facing with advancement in technology. Thus, to compete with the new technological innovation in order to acquire new practical skills. (British Council, 2009).

Despite the efforts of the UK government and the Australian government in ensuring the enhancement of practical skills among employees in both countries, there are concerns that the number of ageing workers in both private organisations and government offices are increasing yearly due to the decrease in birth rates and decrease in death rates. Thus, this has caused the number of young professionals entering the workforce to decline. Thus, the next section discusses how the UK and Australian responses toward the ageing workforce.

The UK and Australian responses toward the ageing workforce

The issues of the UK and Australian responses towards ageing workforce have mixed reactions among the scholars. Patrickson and Ranzijn argued that there is an increase in the number of ageing workers in both Australia and the UK. Thus, to ensure that the government offices are not short of workers in both countries. Governments are urging the workers to delay their retirement. In the Australia case, many workers are old. Thus, the Australian government is urging these workers to continue working as long as possible. Meanwhile, in Australia the:

“Present government policy towards assisting older individuals to continue working consists of a carrot-and-stick approach, supplemented by public education. The stick consists of blatant attempts at coercion, public statements by leading politicians along the lines of ‘if you’re thinking of retiring, forget it’ and ‘you’ve got to work as long as you physically can”. (Patrickson, Ranzijn, p731).

Thus, to ensure that the ageing worker meet the demand for complex technology, the government has encouraged their participation in HRD in order to improve their competency.

In the Australian private business organisations, many employers believe that older workforce are productive, and they will want to keep them. Despite the notion of many managers about the ageing workers, many of them will still prefer younger workers to ageing workers because of the believe that “younger employees are seen as a better investment” (Patrickson, Ranzijn p 732). Thus, in Australia, government wants older workers to continue working however the private organisations prefer younger workers.

However, the report provided by Global Resources and Human Capital Solution (2004) revealed that there are skill shortage in Australia, and the statistics propose that between 2020 and 2030, the new entrants into Australian labour force will be only 130,000 compared to 170,000 new entrants needed to occupy vacancies in both government and private organisations. Thus, the result of the shortage will generate the high demand for ageing workers in both private and government organisations.

Similar to the situation in Australia, there is also skill shortage in the UK. According to Annis (2005) almost 80% of the firms that the author survey revealed that they have tried to recruit professional staff but are unable to find the right candidates. Typically, the statistics have revealed that technical staff, managerial staff, and offshore engineers are in short supply. Thus, the result of these shortage have created the needs of both private and government organisations to continue require the service of the ageing workers since the younger staffs are in short supply to replace the ageing workers.

Having discussed the two methods by which both countries approach ageing workforce the paper evaluates which country from Australia and the UK has better approach towards ageing workforce.

Evaluation of which country has more effective approach to HRD for an ageing workforce and why

Evidences have revealed that the UK has better approach towards ageing workforce that Australia.

The reason is that there is acute skill shortage in the UK compared to Australia. Thus, the UK government is making all effort to ensure that the ageing workers continue working. For example, there are many professionals who are in short supply in the UK than in Australia. Analysis from JBuchan, O’May, McCann (2008) revealed that there is acute shortage of skilled nurses in the UK. Thus, the only available nurses in the UK employment are the nurses nearing the retirement age. Thus, the government is making all necessary efforts to retain these workforces in order not to create a vacuum in the medical field. In addition, the author revealed that the social care workforce is also in short supply. Thus, the UK government is making all efforts to retain the ageing workforce. For instance Buchan, O’May, McCann (2008) asserted that the UK government has made:

“interventions which have proved successful in retaining older workers in other sectors were tested with focus groups and other major stakeholders within the NHS to see whether they thought that these would both recruit and retain older workers.”( p23).

Annis (2005) also pointed out that the UK government has set up Sector Skills Development Agency (SSSA) to offer more training to the ageing staff in order to improve their skills for the benefit of their employers. Moreover, almost 38,500 small and medium are continuing to use the service of SSDA to train the ageing staff in order to keep them and to ensure that they could benefit the organisations. It should be noted that the UK government has taken notice of the need of ageing workers for the need of the UK economy. Thus, the UK government provides support such as fund to SSSA in order to ensure that the ageing staff is provided training in order to improve business performances. Typically, no such institution has been found in Australia.


This report compares the approach of the UK and Australia towards HRD, and the report reveals that both countries have a positive approach towards HRD. However, with the level of skill shortages in both countries and with decline in the number of young people entering the workforce in both countries, it is revealed that both countries require the service of ageing workforce in both private and government organisations. Thus, for the needs of ageing workforces, the report reveals that both countries have created the national institutions and organisations to cater for the aspects of HRD, and training of the ageing workforce. Despite the effort of both countries in enhancing HRD. The report reveals that the UK has a better approach towards the ageing workforce than Australia.

Lists of Reference

Annis, D.J.(2005). SKILLS SHORTAGE AND AN AGING WORKFORCE Labour Market Analysis for Small Business Literature Review, David J. Annis and Associates, UK.

British Council (2009), What do we mean by Vocation Education &Training, The United Kingdom’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities, UK.

CIPD, (2009). About CIPD, Chartered Institute of Professional Development, UK.

Cribb, G. (2005). ‘Human Resource Development: impacting on all four perspectives of the Balanced Scorecard’, World Library and Information Congress: 71th IFLA General Conference and Council, Australia.

Department of Education Employment and Work Relation, (2009). Vocational education and training (VET) and the national training system. Australia.

Ford, C.W. (1982). ‘Human Resources Development in Australia and the Balance of Skill’ Journal of Industrial Relations, 4, (3) 443-453.

Global Resources and Human Capital Solution (2004). The ageing population: Implication for The Australian Workforce, Hudson, Australia.

HRM Guide (2006). Learning Survey, HRM Guide Human Resources Development, UK..

JBuchan, B. O’May, F. McCann, D. (2008). Older But Wise Policy responses to an ageing nursing workforce: A report for the Royal College of Nursing Scotland Older, Royal College of Nursing of Scotland, UK.

Kululanga, G.K, McCaffer, R. Price, A.D.F. et al, (1999). “Learning mechanisms employed by construction contractors”, Journal of Construction Management and Engineering, pp. 215-23.

Patrickson, M. & Ranzijn, R. ‘WORKFORCE AGEING: THE CHALLENGES FOR 21ST CENTURY MANAGEMENT’, International Journal of Organisational Behaviour, 10 (4), 729-739.

Price, A. (2008). Staff Training – Every Little Helps, HRM Guide Human Resources Development, USA.

Raiden, A. & Dainty, A (2006). Human resource development in construction organisations, An example of a “chaordic” learning organisation?, The Learning Organization, 13 (1). 63-79.

Sappey, R.P. & Sappey, J. (1999). ‘Different skills and knowledge for different times: training in an Australian retail bank’, Employee Relations, 21( 6) 577-589.

University of Queensland. Topic 10: Human Resources Development in Global Context.

University of Queensland. Topic 11: Human Resources Development in Global Context.

Wood, J. (2003). ‘Australia: an under performing knowledge nation’, Journal of Intellectual Capital, 4 (2) 144-164.