Does OD practice within the HR profession in the UK reflect the academic rhetoric?

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Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to critically examine whether organizational development (OD), as described in academic writing on the topic, is reflected in practice in the Human Resources (HR) profession in the UK. This research aims to compare the results of an exploratory investigation to establish the main elements of OD practice in this professional group with academic definitions.

Design/methodology/approach - The approach applied in this paper comprises a review of the academic literature on OD combined with an exploratory study by way of content analysis of job advertisements for OD professionals within the UK HR profession. Comparison between what the literature suggests companies should seek in the way of OD practice within the HR profession and the operationalisation of what they are actually requiring (deduced through the content of job advertisements) forms the basis of the methodology.

Findings - While there are features of the academic definitions which do appear prominently in practice (in particular "change management"), there are also significant differences. In particular OD roles in practice in the HR profession appear to be much less likely to be of a consultancy orientation. Also striking is the apparent lack of emphasis on culture and behavioural issues. Within the UK HR profession, the lack of clarity in contemporary definition of OD may underpin the disparate use of terminology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-169
JournalLeadership & Organization Development Journal
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Organizational development
  • Human resource development
  • Change management
  • United Kingdom


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