Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Teaching, Learning, and Leadership


Much of what is known today concerning organizational human resource development efforts (those being employee training, education, and development activities) has steadily and favorably come from large firms. Conversely, very little is known about the extent of HRD activities in small firms, especially those with fewer than 300 employees. To correct this imbalance of awareness the primary aim of this study is to delineate the learning activities of four successfulsmall service-oriented firms in Kalamazoo (Michigan) county.

The study sample consists of seven "purposeful informants". A mixed-method case study, employing the quantitative and qualitative fact-finding strategies ofa simple survey questionnaire and semi-structured interviews, was deployed. All seven questionnaires distributed were dutifully returned.

Results from the study indicate a high level of awareness of HRD concepts among the participants of this study. Cumulatively, a 97% level of HRD concept cognition was ascertained. Semi-structured interview responses overwhelmingly confirmed an impressive level of appreciation of the strategic position HRD plays in the participating firms. The findings suggest these successful firms view their employees as resourceful assets or capital, needing occasional and intermittent skill, knowledge, and aptitude (SKA) upgrading to remain viably productive. Developed and trained employees in return are expected to help theorganization remain competitive.

Additional important findings are: (1) these four firms are concerned with remaining afloat by using niche-marketing and product/service diversification; (2) that informal learning techniques, specifically on-the-job interventions, dominate small firms' HRD landscape due to its immediacy in application, as well as its situational, social, and resource utilization cost-effectiveness; (3) that each firm's HRD activities are part and parcel of their human resource manager's responsibilities. (4) Moreover, the style of learning interventions selected are dictated by the firm's idiosyncrasies, business goals and objectives, customer expectations, expendable resources, and government directives.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access