This paper provides a philosophical repositioning of human resource management (HRM) to further sustainable human resources development (HRD). We use a conceptual process, based on the work of French philosopher and Sinologist François Jullien. Despite its growing and diversified academic production, HRM research has become increasingly isolated from practice, from alternative views of human life, and from nature. This is at least partly due to its failure to self-question its Western centric roots. This paper describes some key conceptual innovations that deal with efficacy and ‘vital nourishment’ which are of particular interest for sustainable HRD. The question of how to feed life (or nourish it) in the workplace is illustrated by a gardening metaphor for managing human potential. In contrast to cross-cultural studies, this metaphor emerges from a dialogue between Western and Eastern philosophies, and offers alternative approaches to HRD based on some core insights from the Chinese tradition.