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Are humans resources?

Kerr Inkson (Waikato Management School, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 9 May 2008




This paper aims to offer a critique, from a career studies perspective, of the common term “human resource management.”


Provides a literature review and critique.


The term “human resource management” is a metaphor that presents employees as passive commodities or assets rather than as active agents, and thereby potentially de‐humanizes them. In an alternative view based on career studies, individual employees are active agents utilizing the resources of employing organizations to pursue personal goals. Alternative terms to “human resource management” are suggested.

Research limitations/implications

There is scope for study of the effects of “human resources” terminology on employees' and others' view of and attitude to the human resource management function.

Practical implications

Examination of “human resources” discourse may promote examination of the implications of current discourse for practice, facilitate moderation of practice, and stimulate the search for new discourse and new practice, by both organizations and individuals.


This paper questions a prevailing and widely accepted form of discourse in management and advocates change.



Inkson, K. (2008), "Are humans resources?", Career Development International, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 270-279.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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