How the financial crisis hit staff development

Published: 16 May 2016 at 12:11

Dr Diane Keeble-Ramsay

Award-winning study by Anglia Ruskin academics looks at the changing face of HR

Research by academics at Anglia Ruskin University has found that investment in staff development was sacrificed following the global financial crisis.

The study, led by Dr Diane Keeble-Ramsay and Dr Andrew Armitage, has won a 2016 Emerald Literati Network Award for the best paper published in the European Journal of Training and Development.

HRD challenges faced in the post-global financial crisis period – insights from the UK, which is now available as an open access paper for the next 12 months, examines how organisations responded to the crisis.  

The academics conducted 10 focus groups amongst employees within UK companies and organisations.  Participants in the focus groups reported less personal control over changes within the workplace and a cultural shift towards a harsher work climate. 

Respondents said that Human Resource Development (HRD) within their organisation had been diminished or was absent post the crisis.  HRD is defined as enhanced staff training, as opposed to basic or statutory training courses such as health and safety in the workplace.

If HRD did exist, it tended to be in the form of low-cost e-learning and employees thought that organisations were prioritising short-term financial outcomes over staff well-being.

The focus groups said that the changes were dictated solely by economic reasons, and that changes could not be avoided.  The role of the employees was to accept the change and not be consulted.

Dr Keeble-Ramsay, Senior Lecturer in Organisation Behaviour at Anglia Ruskin, said: 

“A background of the increasing ‘financialisation’ of organisations and a continuing uncertain economic climate has left Human Resource Development in a weaker position. 

“It has even been claimed that UK HRD professionals have spent time trying to save their own jobs to the point that they may have failed to do their actual jobs.

“Employees’ perceptions of the working environment is of moving towards an autocratic leadership and a culture of compliance.  Our study confirms perceptions of changes being detrimental to the wider holistic development of employees.

“When the current age of austerity ends, perhaps more virtuous policies may be introduced.  However, if the status quo is retained and organisations continue to choose economic capital over labour needs, then the long-term development of the workforce will suffer.”