The Path Diverges
HR departments are standing at a crossroads. One path is well-worn with signposts to the recognizable fads and shiny initiatives which have been around for decades. Filled with exciting twists and turns, it looks promising but often, leads back to the beginning with time and money wasted, and no progress actually made. The other path is less trodden. There are many options and asking questions determines the route. A few brave souls have ventured down it and tell stories of great success. The relatively new path is Evidence Based Human Resources (EBHR). While EBHR has not yet become the default process in HR departments, given its long term benefits and quantifiable results it should be.
Fads and Fashions vs. Evidence-Based Decisions
Historically the practice of human resources has been one of following the pack and doing what everyone else is doing without really thinking about its effectiveness or appropriateness in the long term. Things are tried and discarded based on external suggestions and anecdotal evidence.
Evidence based management is the polar opposite. First used in the field of medicine, over the decades its basic principles have extended across all main disciplines, and it is slowly being adopted by the Human Resource profession. EBHR is a new way of creating policies and processes based on the scientific method of asking questions, and analysing data before making decisions. This practice leads to consistency, stability, and accountability in outcomes.
The Mechanics of EBHR
EBHR is a simple concept. Decisions are made based on analysing four areas of evidence: professional experience, evidence from the organization itself, evidence based on stakeholders values and concerns, and scientific or academic evidence. By focusing on data versus anecdotes, outcomes will automatically become much more consistent. As with all data sets, the challenge is to determine what is relevant, and trustworthy. Occasionally the results will be surprising, and it is vital these anomalies aren’t dismissed — but perhaps investigated further to determine the cause of the discrepancy.
Why Should EBHR Be Used More
EBHR is different from most HR practices in that it does not follow trends or fad theories. Instead, it can work in any HR department large or small and be tailored to suit unique situations and specific challenges. It is the new tool in the HR manager’s toolbox which will give consistent, quantifiable results. Eric Barends said it best, “Evidence-based practice is fighting against fallacy.”
Time to Change How We Think
It is time for HR professionals to think like scientists: Question, gather data and analyse. Learn to challenge assumptions. Stop taking things for granted. Let quantifiable data drive decisions, no longer bosses or consultants. These practices will lead to more consistent outcomes and higher quality decision making — just what HR departments need in today's nervous business climate.