This paper seeks to identify what scholars and policy-makers in several arenas mean by "human resource development" (HRD), and what are their shared and different assumptions and objectives, with particular reference to small/medium enterprises (SMEs). The characteristics of successful SMEs are briefly considered, taking particular account of human factors. The notion of development-centred HRD is then explored and evaluated followed by an overview of what are the primary attributes and objectives of HRD for large enterprises (LEs), and then by a survey of the HRD goals of two major international organisations - the ILO and APEC. What these organisations conceptualise as HRD is then bench-marked against the first three conceptualisations of (a) HRD for SMEs, (b) development-centred HRD, and (c) LE-based HRD. Finally, the differences in primary assumptions and goals which are evident in the differing concepts of HRD are analysed in order to consider what are the research and policy implications of these multiple interpretations of this widely used, but evidently ambiguous term.