Evidence based management is an integral part of many professions and it seems that HR could also be within its sight, the big question is…..will HR professionals succumb?
As we all know, businesses are constantly evolving to ensure they are competitive in today’s market and as a result, HR Directors and Managers often have to make swift decisions when it comes to change programmes; so it’s no surprise that guesswork and gut feeling are often used when it comes to judging a situation and making the necessary changes.
Study – Eric Barends
However, a study carried out by Eric Barends (who in 2011 set up the center for evidence based management) revealed that actually decisions should be made based on evidence: Barends was working on a change programme in a large organisation when he first got the feeling something wasn’t quite right.
“Three directors were appointed to manage the change and they all had completely different views on how it should be managed, I thought, how can it be possible to have three different approaches to solving the problem of transition”.
When questioned, it was found that the three professionals in question were generally coming to their conclusions through personal experience instead of using solid and factual evidence.
Barends quite rightly points out that if we were in need of medical treatment, we would never face the situation of having to choose which treatment we were going to go for because each doctor would reach the same conclusion based on medical training, research and evidence.
So, why not within HR…
Of course we aren’t making a sweeping generalisation here as many professionals and organisations of course do make informed decisions in this way. However, the question is, why isn’t this applied consistently within the HR sector? Even if a decision is needed quickly, surely the best outcome for the organisation would be using evidence to arrive at an informed decision as this will actually ultimately save time and money and lead to increased credibility for both the professional and profession.
Surely all decisions in this day and age, especially with HRMS (Human resource management systems) at our fingertips and the wealth of knowledge we have access to should actually be based on information? A good decision should be based on external academic and scientific evidence from the HR sector, high quality data from your own organisation, professional experience and expertise and he values of the stakeholders.
Of course with modern technology in place including HRMS, this makes this whole process considerably easier.
It’s clear that evidence based decision HR is a journey, not a destination and as Wendy Hirsh noted back in 2011, “The jury is out on whether EBHR will take off. We need a period of co-creation in the idea. Although academics coined the phrase, practitioners will need to make it their own before they commit much effort to thinking or behaving.”
There are simple ways to learn how to make better-quality decisions as an HR practitioner. Barends explores the idea of ‘thinking critically’ and actively exploring alternatives, seeking understanding and testing assumptions. According to Hirsh, the following questions can help you become more evidence based:
Questions to ask before making a decision
- If we can only do a few things in HR, is this the right one to do? What evidence (eg. Reports from our HRMS) or rationale do you have that this will provide better value than all the other things you would like to do?
- Consider alternative approaches. Before embarking on an approach, question your assumptions and consider at least two alternative approaches to the issue.
- Remember if you’ve tried it before. Have we tried something like this before? How did it work out? Have we any reason to think it will be different this time?
- Make the logic explicit. Write down the logic behind the choices you are making. Why and how will they work?
- Use some numbers. What numbers do you have or can you estimate that are relevant to the decision.
Questions to ask when bench-marking on HR policies and practices
- What is important about the context? Which employees has the practice been used for? How many and over what period of time?
- What exactly has been done? Not just design but implementation. Are there other processes in place that are as important as this one?
- Why was this approach chosen? What diagnostic information or external research evidence informed it?
- What have been the effects of this practice – positive, negative or unclear? What evidence is there for these impacts?
- How does this intervention seem to have its effect? What would I need in my organisation for this effect to happen?
- What would be done differently if the practice were introduced again?