Rewriting the curriculum: Revisiting the postcolonial model of International Human Resource Management

Undergraduate elective helps students develop global perspectives with international human resources experts

Accepting multiple world views and providing a more accurate portrayal of history are key to ensuring courses and modules are modernised in the future.

As part of its commitment to ‘changing more than a name’ and in line with City, University of London’s strategy on ensuring equality, diversity and inclusion and addressing the degree awarding gap, the Business School (formerly Cass) is committed to ‘decolonising’ some of the subjects and modules taught.

Workshops, organised by the Decolonising the Curriculum taskforce, have been attended by hundreds of participants from business schools across the world.

Dr Joanna Zaleska, from the Organisational Behaviour/Human Resource Management (HRM) subject group, has been reaching out to international colleagues and discussing the values of people management and post-colonial issues in their region, as part of the undergraduate elective titled ‘International HRM’.

The spring term saw 35 final year students studying the undergraduate Business Management degree take an elective in IHRM, including sessions on different cultural clusters of HRM, such as Anglo-Saxon, European, Asian, and the post-colonial model of HRM.

Topics discussed included:

  • The power of language and rhetoric as a weapon in people management. For example, the use of common metaphors — such as ‘troops’ and ‘resources’ — which are used commonly in HRM teaching
  • Managerialism in management knowledge which often neglects other groups in organisations
  • Preoccupation with hyper individualism, where one is concerned almost entirely with ‘self-leading’
  • Anglo-American cultural bias in strategic HRM — a product of the culture of business excellence emerging from the 1980s.

The six guest speakers — HRM practitioners from countries and regions including the UK, France, the Netherlands, Singapore and Argentina — discussed how post-colonial countries are supporting local talent and changing western perceptions.

Dr Zaleska, Senior Teaching Fellow at the Business School, said: “To decolonise the curriculum, students must be given the opportunity to compare a historically favoured demographic point of view and teachings to others which were underrepresented.

“Decolonisation is not simply the ‘integration’ of the intellectual achievements of other cultures, but it is the first step and by doing this we can provide a more accurate portrayal of history and HRM teaching especially in international context.”

Oliwia Wcislo, undergraduate student on the course, said: “Listening to speakers from different parts of the globe has shown me a vast range of perspectives that I would have not otherwise came across. Reading a classic textbook is important, but without a real touch added to the theories, we cannot fully understand what they have at heart.”

Sandi Huynh, Global Mobility Program Manager at Google’s base in Singapore, believes the value of people management is crucial in setting organisations apart in what she terms ‘a global talent war’.

“More post-colonial countries are looking to elevate and protect local talent. Despite progress at a macro level, there has not been enough progress at a micro level across Asia to value people in the workplace. A better work life balance, focus on mental health and wellbeing needs to be a priority to ensure people can feel truly valued so that the best talent is not lost to global competitors.”

Jorgelina Capaccio, Tutor in Social Anthropology and Researcher for Buenos Aires University on intercultural linguistics, said: “Decolonising the curriculum is fundamental if we are to work together for more inclusive societies.

"Our role as educators should be to question history as we know it and analyse the historical process from a different perspective to produce knowledge in context, give voices to those who were banned or whose cultural identities were shown from the perspective of the ‘Conquistador’.”

The six guest speakers were: Niall Ryan, Employee Experience, Employee Engagement and Internal Communications Expert (UK); Lydik Grynfeltt, Director at PAC Conseil Ltd and HR Bridge Consulting Ltd (France); Kim Ioannides, HR Transformation Manager HRIS/ Analytics (Netherlands); Sandi Huynh, Program Manager, Global Mobility, Google (Singapore); Jorgelina Capaccio, Associate and Head CIFS Argentina at Instituttet for Fremtidsforskning/ Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies (Argentina); Aristoteles Nielsen, Certified HR Organizational Behaviour & Development Consultant (Argentina).

For more information on the BSc Business Management visit the Business School website.

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