What is Evidence-Based HR?

Does your organization use evidence-based HR decision-making practices?

Human resourcesIf not, you may be wondering what this means and why you should consider it. Let’s take a look.

What is Evidence-Based HR?

In short, evidence-based HR refers to a process in which the organization evaluates any decision or process against data, real experience, expert opinions, and/or other types of information to ensure the decision is likely to have the desired outcome.

For this to work best, the “evidence” used should be purposefully sought out. It may come from a number of sources including things like research/studies, knowledge from experts in the field, past experience of the HR team, and input from the people who are directly impacted by the decision.

Note: while these sources are good, they should be used with a critical eye. For example:

  • When using research, be sure that the study was applicable to your situation and the results have not been over-generalized.
  • Be sure the contextual details of your situation are relevant and incorporated.
  • When getting direct input, be sure to ask the right stakeholders—and take varying perspectives into account.
  • Don’t over-utilize one source. Just because there’s research on the topic doesn’t mean it’s the only useful information. Multiple sources should be assessed together.
  • Remember that even topic experts may be biased or have their own agenda. Take that into account when weighing their input.

In short, take data from multiple sources, ensure it’s applicable within your context, and use it to make a better informed decision with a higher likelihood of having the desired outcome. This process can be used when writing up HR policies, when changing procedures, when evaluating new software, when creating strategy, etc.

Why Should Organizations Consider Using Evidence-Based HR Practices?

Now that we’ve reviewed what evidence-based HR means, it may seem obvious that we would all want to ensure our decisions are based on as many reliable information points as possible. And in fact, we all already naturally do this to an extent, both in our personal lives and in our work lives.

But we often fall short. We often do not intentionally seek out high-quality information to assist in decision-making. In reality, we are imperfect at making decisions. There are lots of examples in which our instincts lead us to make assumptions that are false. All of us have a tendency to let our preconceptions and biases get in the way of making rational decisions—no matter how hard we try to do the opposite. It’s only human nature.

In addition to these problems, we’re also simply not used to making a concerted effort to seek out additional points of input, especially on topics where we already have some level of experience. We’re more likely to:

  • Make a fast decision in the name of efficiency, without considering additional input
  • Rely solely on instinct
  • Forget to take into account circumstances that have changed from our past experience
  • Follow industry or workplace trends, perhaps without a full evaluation in advance
  • Be unaware of the latest research about a given topic

It takes a concerted effort to get past these tendencies and to make the choice to seek out more varied information sources. This is really the key to implementing an evidence-based HR practice: we need to implement processes that require us to get additional reliable sources of information to aid in better decision-making.

At the end of the day, we all want to make the best decisions we can with the limited information at our disposal. Evidence-based HR proposes to do exactly that, in an intentional way, to use multiple sources of information to make better decisions. There’s no way to ensure you’ll never make a bad decision, but this can help you feel more confident you’ll get it right more often.