issue of critical human resource development


There has been a growing awareness of the influence of power relation in shaping academic agendas which has offer significant force for the issue of critical Human resource development (HRD). This has forced an increase demand on the literature so as the educators could engage more critically. This was argued to be more important for reinforcement the critical perspective to the management suggested by Lee (2003). It is said to be right time to think critical as little attention has been given to the issues such as complexity, emotion and power. This is due to the traditional HRD practices that ignored the emotion and power or also contributes to suppression.

The world has been recently discovering the new tremendous changes regarding the human resource development. According to McLean (2005) suggested that human resource development is a process that is made by an organisation so as to improve and increase the human resource for the better performance of the organisation. Human Resource Development has existed for so many years but there are dramatic changes to the concept which is the critical concept. Human resource plays a very important role in organisation this makes it very important for organisations to begin critical analysis of the HRD (Sambrook, 2004).

The increase in competition in the world as well as doing business outside their boundaries, organisations are required to improve its productivity and compete well by putting HRD into a new perspective that is involving the critical approach (Twitchell, et. al, 2000). The different cultures and stiff competition managers need to be approach the critical perspective to HRD.

The emergence of HRD is termed to be a process purposely for differentiating the management practice, activities and training from the old style. This concept is purposely to differentiate from the usual training and development. This definition elaborates on the importance of the organisational performance which shows that the HRD leads to efficiency suggested by McGoldrick et. al., (2002).

Many authors have tried to define the term HRD including Desimone,, (2002), "a set of systematic and planned activities designed by an organization to provide its members with the opportunities to learn necessary skills to meet current and future job demands". These activities include training and development performance appraisal and changing management for the better performance.

Bierema and Cseh (2003) has mentioned in their studies that the old HRD has been giving very little attention to the social justice in the work place, irregular power appointments especially to the women gender. There are issues such as gender, racism and violence to mention a few has not been discussed in the organisation and all these have a greater impact into the organisational performance.

This raises the importance of the organisation to start thinking critical and this makes it the crucial and right time to think critically. The critical approach provides the opportunity to reveal the use of power and control; this provides the voice of those oppressed. According to Brookfield (2001) he stated that the main purpose of being critical is to democratize the production so as to help the community and changing the working environment so as to practice humanity. This is seen to have an impact to the organisational performance.

Critical suggests being skilled in, or providing, criticism (such as judging merit or pointing out faults). This suggests that managers have to be very critical by providing their employees with merits once a good job is done so as to motivate and improve the workers job performance (Ruona, 2002).

This report will base on the analysis of whether critical thinking could lead into the individual and organisational effectiveness and thus performance improvement. The report divided into three parts the first being the introduction followed by the discussion of the critical approach and its relations with HRD, it will discuss on the contribution of the critical approach to the individual and organisational effectiveness, the following part will elaborate on the negative impacts of critical approach and lastly will be the conclusion.


The critical approach to the HRD has not been frequently used by researchers in their studies. The researchers stated that the issues of social justice in work places have always been neglected. The issues neglected and not discussed such as sexism, racism and violence has been receiving little attention as all these factors they have an impact to the organisational performance (Bierema and Cseh, 2003).

The authors argue about the factors such as power and politics are incorrect to be discussed in the work place. These are said to be controversial issues such as its is often a gender issue that men are on power and female are less powerful, these issues are not discussed because they tend to be on negative and oppressive. This shows how important is and the time to start thinking critical on HRD. Discussing about power and organisational politics could lead into changes that would give a different assumption of the everyday practices (Hanscome and Cervero, 2003).

According to Stewart et. al (2007) suggested that being critical means having a decisive importance in the success or failure of something. This statement means that something could influence a decision to be made when there is a crisis and not judging things. HRD is said to be in a crisis as it shows the broad and various activities that are associated with improving the work context. The HRD is also stated to be in a transition from the traditional HRD to the new critical approach and this makes it very important to start thinking critically.

HRD being in a transition could mean a new theory of the 'critical turn', this shows that there is a new understanding of the HRD. The critical turn suggests a new critical paradigm such as the critical management. This elaborates that the term critical express the characteristics of maturity in a specific field. For example in the management field which is shown to mature and develop from the early idealistic and normative to a more realistic and descriptive orientation and now it is in critical stage (Burell, 2001).

It is best to understand what is critiquing; Burell (2001) identified four critiques which are rhetoric, authority, tradition and objectivity. These could be applied to the HRD by looking at the rhetoric and realities of human resource practices. This could also raise an issue of challenging the tradition human resource practises which base on the habit rather than the real evidence. Criticizing the abuse of power and that of the authority; the objective of the critical approach could be making HRD as more democratic so as to improve the workers knowledge.

Burell, (2001) continue to elaborate that critical thinking involves the replacement of the old management practice to more democratic practices. Critical thinking on HRD could also be argued to be on a negative side such as opposing the managerial acts, and workers who have their democracy they could start exposing the weakness of the management. By being critical it means the time of exposing the complexities and irrationality of organisational practices. Therefore being critical could lead into overcoming these HRD crisis.

There are six strands that have been mentioned by Burell, (2001) which could be very helpful by considering its relevance and utility when applied to HRD. The six strands are political, iconoclastic, epistemological, investigative, revelatory and emancipatory. These six strands frames of what is known as being critical and the factors are interrelated. The author continues to elaborate that the last two respectively are the important aspects of the critical theories that shows the struggle of the emancipation and search for the truth. This shows that being critical is searching for the truth about HRD practices. As well as reconciling the needs of an individual and those of the employing organisation.


It is argued that now is the time to think critically regarding the HRD, this is because of several reasons that would lead into the individual and organisational effectiveness and thus the good performance of the company. The contribution of critical thinking to the best performance includes the following.

Searching about the HRD truth could be one of the contributions of critical approach. Critical thinking could result into how HRD is talked, understanding of the activities and actions of HRD.

Thinking critically is regarded as the best practice for the HRD because of the democracy it offers. The democracy in terms of the freedom and a voice to speak to those employees those were suppressed and treated badly. This will make them to speak and the management to hear their opinions that could lead to the better ways of doing things, thus effectiveness. This could also improve the knowledge of the workers. A time to think critical through the talk on how it is practised is the workers treated according to the company rule or not. This could be through the training by asking the employees on their feedback on how the training is conducted and also the activities how they can add to the business effectiveness (Sambrook, 2004).

The critical approach towards the HRD could lead into the awareness of the power shift from those being oppressed. The awareness could result into invitation of different views and opinions. This will improve the effectiveness due to the power sharing, shared planning and decision making, non-hierarchical learning and also improving working relationship. The awareness provided by the critical HRD could provide the effective communication and improvement of trust (Vince, 2005).

It is time for critical thinking because of the liberation that is freeing the human resource in the organisation. Thinking critical could make the elimination of employment degradation and exploitation. This could be the breakdown of the 'dominant imagery and icons' of HRD. The critical approach of HRD could uncover the wrong images and symbols that are used in the organisation. These images could be used to expose how these resources are used and this exposition could lead into the performative objective and also the improvement of the personal development thus organisational effectiveness suggested by O'Donnell et al., (2006).

As suggested by Brookfield, (2001) the author mention in his study that critical approach could lead into the individual and organisational effectiveness. The reason he stated is will improve the creativity and productivity. The critical thinking and freeing of individuals towards learning and personal development could result into the new ways of doing business that could make workers free to learn and be trained into more creativity so as to improve the production of the organisation.

Brookfield (2001) continues to elaborate on the contribution of the critical approach to the organisation and individual effectives by giving a positive consequence of the critical HRD. The author stated that critical HRD would enhance transfer of learning. The elimination and emancipation of the oppressed employees could make a positive contribution from the transfer of knowledge among the workers for the career improvement and also for the improvement performance of the organisation at large.

Understanding and acceptance of one's role could be obtained through the critical human resource development. This practice of critical approach could make the workers including the top management to understand well each person's role in the organisation and this could improve their job performance therefore their personal effectiveness and to the organisation as well suggested by Lee (2001).

Critical approach is said to help individuals and organisation to develop new paradigm for solving problems as suggested by Fenwick (2004). The critical approach is used for examining the internal politics and revealing this could improve the Human resource practises such as from the oppression and it can question the tradition. The critical approach is said to be a contribution to the organisational effectiveness because it also reveals illusion. The false impression of the workers could result into bad performance but the usage of critical approach could be a solution for revealing this and therefore improvement of the individual effectiveness. The critical approach contributes to the organisational effectiveness as it challenges the way of doing business.

It has been argued by Trehan and Rigg (2003) that criticism is the educational route where by an individual could achieve a deep awareness of both the social- cultural reality which shapes their lives and the individual's capacity to change that reality. This elaborate that individual can be able to achieve a better picture of who they are and the real meaning of their social practices. This can make the individual change and become different people to make different arrangements. This could make them very responsible from the habit of critical thinking and therefore their personal effectiveness as well as to the organisational performance.

Looking into a political perspective critical approach could result into influence of career development and influences on how the resources are being used and this could create important resources for the organisation (Sambrook and Stewart, 2002).

The political purpose makes critical HRD to be very crucial, according to Fenwick (2004), he stated that the reformation of the organisation work place and development practices. The critical HRD could contribute to the organisation and individual effectiveness as it will change towards justice, equity and participation. This could result into social transformation and therefore will lead into supporting the collective action of the workers.

From the epistemology perceptive it shows that workplace is challenged environment. The challenged environment is in relation to the knowledge hidden by the false impression of standardized identities, interests of the alignment between the worker and manager and false naturalisation of important issues such as competition. This shows that critical approach towards HRD could be very crucial to provide a better solution of sustainability and elimination of oppression.

Critical HRD exposes and challenges the power distribution in the organisation. Critical approach raises issues such as whose interests are served by development, how is the knowledge created, what does it constitute and also who influences it. The reflexivity is an important part of the critical approach which is used to challenge the paradox so as to expose those oppressed (Fenwick, 2004)

Involving into the critical approach it can lead into effectiveness of the organisation and individual. Critical approach exposes the shortcomings of the traditional HRD by being able to investigate on the views of those excluded from the knowledge and also solving the problem of what was taken for granted stated by Sambrook and Stewart (2002).


There are good side and contribution of the critical approach to the HRD but on the other side there is always a negative aspect of what is argued to be positive. Critical thinking could lead into negative consequences. Practising critical HRD could lead into threats and barriers towards the individual and organisation effectiveness. The negative consequences include the following.

The freedom of voice, eliminating degradation and giving power to the employees could provide high power and reduction into the job performance. This means that if everyone is having power would create misunderstanding among them thus lack of trust and good relationship among the workers. This would create problems therefore poor job performance. The loss of power from those in power could create a huge misunderstanding as its always the top management oppresses the lower management and if the lower management will now be given power this could create a threat into the organisation thus lack of effectiveness (Rigg 2005).

Trehan and Rigg (2003), argues that critical challenge can be a hazard to the organisation and the individual. The authors mentioned that the management would refuse to engage into critical approach in practising the HRD and for the individual in learning this could question their professional and challenge their status. The authors continue to elaborate that managers find the approach unrealistic and impractical. The critical approach to the HRD could make managers can only take some critical ideas into their existing perspective without underlying assumptions and thoughts.

Involving into critical thinking could lead into adverse impacts such as psychological and social consequences. It can lead into an individual not settled me ntally and emotionally that could result into stress illness and this is a disruption to his employment or at home and thus risks and lack of effectiveness.

The critical turn could result into culture misfit from the old tradition HRD practises to the new one. Some could feel powerless from the new changes of critical approach as well the freedom could create a misunderstanding and thus unemployment. This reduces the individual effectiveness and the organisation as well.



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