Critical Thinking is a domain-agnostic, industry-independent and generic skill which is a must-have in today’s competitive business world
A deeper understanding of Critical Thinking allows employees to understand information better and use it for making decisions that can impact their work and organization’s productivity positively. Given the uncertainty and volatility of the corporate world today wherein employees at all levels are expected to perform, it is incumbent for HR to challenge and motivate their employees to become independent, objective and far-sighted thinkers. Especially, for the new recruits, individual contributors, first-time managers and first-time people managers, a more in-depth focus on enhancing critical thinking skills can help them perform optimally on the job more sooner than otherwise.
So how can HR promote Critical Thinking in employees?
Help employees understand what critical thinking is
For most individuals to start thinking critically, it is important to understand what critical thinking is and what it is not. A simple model like Pearson’s RED model of critical thinking can act as a constant guide to help them approach any situation objectively. Its three steps include recognizing assumptions, evaluating arguments and finally drawing conclusions that can yield better business results. Especially in a society like ours where compliance with authority may be considered a virtue, employees need to be encouraged to challenge, discuss and debate professionally and look at arguments objectively for the overall good of the organization. Employees can also be evaluated on a reliable and scientific assessment on critical thinking like the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal so as to help them understand their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to applying critical thinking.
Create a culture of Critical Thinking in the organization
· HR needs to play an active role in creating a culture in which analyzing various issues, weighing options, looking at assumptions and inferences while drawing conclusions or making decisions during meetings is a common practice.
· Encouraging active discussions, debates, online-discussion boards and brainstorming on the feasibility of new/existing ideas is important.
· Help employees appreciate the fact that critical thinking is the deciding factor that separates a mere creative idea from an actual innovation. Hence while working independently or in team they need to eliminate ideas that may not be feasible eventually and pick the ones that can actually be put into action.
Provide enough learning opportunities
As different individuals, employees have different preferences for the way they like to learn. While some prefer classroom style learning, others like to take things at their own pace. Workshops on Critical Thinking can be arranged for employees in addition to offering them an online program for developing critical thinking continuously. Such programs should be carefully chosen as it is imperative that they talk in the language of employees and present problem situations that they are likely to face at work.
Ensure critical thinkers enter the talent pool
Come to think of it, the learning and development function in HR is a direct client of the recruitment team. A quality talent pool helps optimize training dollars as it is spent in high-stake opportunities to develop the right talent. Once there is a thrust on recruiting individuals who possess the disposition to thinking critically, not only does this improve employee productivity, it also makes it easier to create a critical thinking culture in the organization and reduces the burden on L&D to develop such skills in current employees.
Connect with academia
In the West, academia has already started to give due importance to critical thinking. However, this is true for only few pockets in India. In general, there exists a gap between a student’s academic results and their performance at the workplace during the initial years. A major reason for this is their lack of experience and training in applying critical thinking. It is therefore a responsibility of the industry to accentuate the importance of developing critical thinking skills right from this stage in academia. A need for educators to expose students to various methods that range from simulated experimental learning techniques, debates, case studies, classroom discussion on concepts, current topics and controversial issues, using different questioning methods to promote analysis, synthesis and evaluation levels within the Bloom’s Taxonomy should be communicated by the industry. Some leading institutions are actively encouraging their students to apply critical thinking and arranging for critical thinking workshops for them.
Recognize and reward critical thinkers
Recognizing and rewarding feats where critical thinking has been exhibited and has contributed to significant results can go a long way in encouraging employees to make a conscious effort in thinking critically at all times.
Some concluding thoughts - Critical Thinking is a domain-agnostic, industry-independent and generic skill which is a must-have in today’s competitive business world. The role of HR in promoting such a skill in their employees is cardinal for creating a more productive workforce and a successful, VUCA-proof organization.
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