HRD in SMEs: A research agenda whose time
As can be seen from its website, and reiterated in numerous editorials (e.g., Anderson, 2017; Nimon, 2017; Reio &
Werner, 2017), Human Resource Development Quarterly (HRDQ) provides a central focus on human resource devel-
opment (HRD) issues as well as the means for disseminating empirical research across the breadth of the discipline.
Furthermore, the listing of keywords on its website indicates the importance HRDQ places on knowing more about
learning in workplace settings as it includes words and phrases such as workplace issues, workplace learning, organiza-
tional studies, and workplace performance. This is in line with general increased interest in organizational learning in
recent years (Higgins & Aspinall, 2011). Therefore, it is concerning that HRDQ seldom reports on an area of work-
place learning in a sector that, in many countries throughout the world, encompasses approximately 99% of all busi-
nesses, provides over 50% of employment, and can generate around 50% of national turnover (Chartered Institute
for Personnel & Development [CIPD], 2015; Coetzer & Perry, 2008; European Commission, 2016; Federation of
Small Businesses, 2015; Hamburg, Engert, Anke, & Marin, 2008; Matlay, 2014; Mellett & O'Brien, 2014;
U.K. Parliament, 2014; U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). If you have not yet guessed, this area of learning, which is vital
to economies across the globe, occurs in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Consequently, in this editorial,
we seek to explore the extent of this omission, not only in HRDQ but also in other journals, and then investigate
possible reasons for this. We hope that by emphasizing both the importance of and the lack of reported research
into HRD in SMEs, we will encourage further dialogue and submissions related to this important topic.
1 | EXTENT OF THE COVERAGE
The starting point for our research was to ascertain the extent of the coverage of HRD in SMEs in HRDQ. An online
search of all 112 issues since its inception 29 years ago showed only 10 articles that specifically related to research
into HRD in SMEs (Ardichvili, Harmon, Cardozo, Reynolds, & Williams, 1998; Fazzari & Mosca, 2009; Lans, Biemans,
Mulder, & Verstegen, 2010; Lans, Verhees, &Verstegen, 2016; Michna, Kmieciak, & Burzy
Nolan & Garavan, 2016a; Rowden, 1995, 2002; Saunders, Gray, & Bristow, 2017; Uçanok & Karabatı, 2013;
Wright & Nasierowski, 1994). Although some authors include research into HRD in SMEs, as well as larger organiza-
tions, (e.g., Alhejji, Garavan, Carbery, O'Brien, & McGuire, 2016), others seem to ignore smaller organizations
completely. The latter includes Egan, Yang, and Bartlett (2004), who, drawing upon Watkins and Marsick (1993),
note that “larger organizations were more likely to dedicate resources and HRD professionals to the systematic con-
sideration of organizational learning culture and practices” (p. 287) and so sited their research in large companies.
However, it is important to realize that a dearth of articles concerning HRD in SMEs is not peculiar to HRDQ.
Nolan and Garavan's (2016b) systematic literature review of research into HRD in SMEs examined 31 journals
(including HRDQ) from 1995 to 2014 and found only 117 relevant items. Furthermore, informal discussions with
some journal editors indicates that few manuscripts concerning HRD in SMEs are submitted for consideration.
Therefore, we sought to discover the reasons for such negligible empirical evidence of learning and development in
Human Resource Dev Quarterly. 2018;29:7–13. wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/hrdq © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.