Evidence-Based Human Resource Management


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Presentation University of Ghent 2011
Rob Briner

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Evidence-Based Human Resource Management

  2. 2. THE UNDERLYING ARGUMENT <ul><li>Four propositions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Research produced in business schools could be useful to organizations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Drawing on the best available evidence (including business school research) is likely to improve management decisions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Managers and organizations do not appear to be strongly aware of nor use research findings </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We need to increase awareness of and access to research findings </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. WHAT IS EBMgt? <ul><li>Evidence-based management is about making decisions through the conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of four sources of information: practitioner expertise and judgment, evidence from the local context, a critical evaluation of the best available research evidence, and the perspectives of those people who might be affected by the decision. (Briner, Denyer, Rousseau, 2009) </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>The problem is that management is not as evidence-based as it should be nor as it could be </li></ul>
  5. 5. WHAT IS EBMgt? <ul><li>It is not a completely new idea – managers and organizations use evidence all the time </li></ul><ul><li>EBMgt is different because it ’ s about: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Increasing the types of evidence we use </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Using it more thoughtfully and carefully (conscientious, judicious, explicit) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Its only purpose is to help us make better decisions through more and more systematic use of evidence </li></ul>
  6. 6. WHO SAYS IT ’ S A PROBLEM? <ul><li>People in many other fields (medicine, social work, criminology, politicians) say it ’ s a problem in their fields </li></ul><ul><li>Not everyone in management but some of people think it ’ s a problem </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Some academics and researchers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Some managers and organizations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Some professional associations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Some commentators and journalists </li></ul></ul>
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  8. 8. WHY DO WE NEED IT? <ul><li>The quick fix problem </li></ul><ul><li>The management fad (fashion) problem </li></ul>
  9. 9. QUICK FIXES[1] <ul><li>What is the quick fix? A ‘ solution ’ which </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Focuses on style and presentation not content </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Is not evaluated </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Is always slower than we hoped </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Usually doesn ’ t work </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Is followed by another quick fix </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Everybody forgets and becomes subject to organizational amnesia </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. QUICK FIXES[2] <ul><li>So why do we do quick fixes? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Can be career-enhancing for managers (e.g., issue selling, kick-ass CEOs) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Speed is often valued over accuracy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Heavily sold and marketed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Are we all looking for quick and easy solutions? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>So who needs or wants academic research? </li></ul>
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  19. 19. MANAGEMENT FADS[1] <ul><li>The nearly-forgotten fads </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Scientific Management/Taylorism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Business Process Reengineering </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Management by results </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Excellence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Total Quality Management </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Learning Organizations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Knowledge Management </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. MANAGEMENT FADS[2] <ul><li>The fads that haven ’t been forgotten (yet) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Talent management </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Management development </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Executive coaching </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Emotional intelligence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Employee engagement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Myers Briggs Type Indicator </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Belbin Team Roles </li></ul></ul><ul><li>General concern about the destructive impact of fads from both practitioners and researchers </li></ul>
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  31. 31. FADS * SEEM TO BE ATTRACTIVE, COMPELLING AND IRRESISTIBLE <ul><li>Promise to deliver a lot and fast </li></ul><ul><li>Appear simple </li></ul><ul><li>New and shiny </li></ul><ul><li>Will make everything alright and help contain anxieties around intractable problems </li></ul><ul><li>Help user feel effective and cutting edge </li></ul><ul><li>Bits of some fads may work in some contexts </li></ul><ul><li>So who needs or wants academic research? </li></ul><ul><li>*Evidence-based management not a fad! </li></ul>
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  36. 36. ORIGINS OF EBMgt <ul><li>Management not the only field where there are these concerns. What field is this? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ a research-user gap ” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ practitioners do not read academic journals ” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ the findings of research into what is an effective intervention are not being translated into actual practice ” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ academics not practitioners are driving the research agenda ” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ the relevance, quality and applicability of research is questionable ” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ practice is being driven more by fads and fashions than research ” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ many practices are doing more harm than good ” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ the collective wisdom from research is being lost ” </li></ul></ul>
  37. 37. EVIDENCE-BASED PRACTICE <ul><li>1991 Medicine </li></ul><ul><li>1998 Education </li></ul><ul><li>1998 Probation service </li></ul><ul><li>1999 Housing policy </li></ul><ul><li>1999 Social care </li></ul><ul><li>2000 Nursing </li></ul><ul><li>2000 Criminal justice </li></ul><ul><li>???? Management? </li></ul>
  38. 38. ACADEMIC INTEREST IN EBMgt <ul><li>Similar ideas around for a long time </li></ul><ul><li>2003 – Systematic reviews of evidence </li></ul><ul><li>2006 – Rousseau EBMgt Presidential Address and Pfeffer & Sutton book </li></ul><ul><li>2007-2009 – Rousseau EBMgt Collaborative </li></ul><ul><li>2008-2011 – Several conferences </li></ul><ul><li>2011 – Center for Evidence-Based Management (CEBMa) in Amsterdam </li></ul><ul><li>2011 – EBMgt Handbook </li></ul><ul><li>But many researchers not interested at all in EBMgt </li></ul>
  39. 39. MANAGER AND PRACTITIONER INTEREST IN EBMgt <ul><li>Some HRM and professional bodies express interest (SHRM, SIOP, VOV Learning Network) </li></ul><ul><li>Some Universities running courses for practitioners (e.g., Amsterdam, Ghent) </li></ul><ul><li>Some publications for practitioners </li></ul><ul><li>But managers are: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Used to working in a different way </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Under pressure to adopt fads and fashions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Have high expectations of evidence </li></ul></ul>
  40. 40. MANAGERS USED TO WORKING IN A DIFFERENT WAY <ul><li>Need to act quickly: Speed more important than accuracy </li></ul><ul><li>Organizational politics </li></ul><ul><li>Formal authority and hierarchies </li></ul><ul><li>Over-emphasize experience </li></ul><ul><li>Rewarded for getting things done not doing what works </li></ul>
  41. 41. UNDER PRESSURE TO ADOPT FADS <ul><li>And there we see the power of any big managerial idea [or fad or fashion] . It may be smart, like quality, or stupid, like conglomeration. Either way, if everybody's doing it, the pressure to do it too is immense. If it turns out to be smart, great. If it turns out to be stupid, well, you were in good company and most likely ended up no worse off than your competitors. Your company's board consists mostly of CEOs who were probably doing it at their companies. How mad can they get? </li></ul>
  42. 42. UNDER PRESSURE TO ADOPT FADS <ul><li>The true value of conventional management wisdom [current fads] is not that it's wise or dumb, but that it's conventional. It makes one of the hardest jobs in the world, managing an organization, a little easier. By following it, managers everywhere see a way to drag their sorry behinds through another quarter without getting fired. And isn't that, really, what it's all about? </li></ul><ul><li>(Colvin, 2004, Fortune ) </li></ul>
  43. 43. HIGH EXPECTATIONS OF EVIDENCE <ul><li>Many people feel evidence should give us The Answer </li></ul><ul><li>Expect research evidence to show the magic or secret ingredient (e.g., motivation, leadership, HRM strategy) </li></ul><ul><li>Expect evidence to be clear (not “ it depends ” ) </li></ul><ul><li>Do not trust scientific findings as they keep changing </li></ul>
  44. 44. THE DAILY MAIL ONCOLOGICAL ONTOLOGY PROJECT <ul><li>“ a blog following the Daily Mail ’ s ongoing mission to divide all the inanimate objects in the world into those that cause or cure cancer ” </li></ul><ul><li>Daily Mail UK newspaper maybe similar to Het Nieuwsblad </li></ul><ul><li>Gives the general public too high expectations – that every study will provide ‘ The Answer ’ </li></ul>
  45. 45. THINGS THAT CAUSE CANCER <ul><li>Air travel </li></ul><ul><li>Baby bottles </li></ul><ul><li>Beer </li></ul><ul><li>Bras </li></ul><ul><li>Bubble bath </li></ul><ul><li>Childlessness </li></ul><ul><li>Chocolate </li></ul><ul><li>English breakfast </li></ul><ul><li>Left-handedness </li></ul><ul><li>Pickles </li></ul><ul><li>Skiing </li></ul><ul><li>Shaving </li></ul><ul><li>Sun cream </li></ul><ul><li>Tea </li></ul><ul><li>Vitamins </li></ul><ul><li>Wi-Fi </li></ul><ul><li>Worcestershire sauce </li></ul><ul><li>Working </li></ul>
  46. 46. THINGS THAT PREVENT CANCER <ul><li>Almonds </li></ul><ul><li>Brussel sprouts </li></ul><ul><li>Coconut shells </li></ul><ul><li>Countryside </li></ul><ul><li>Dancing </li></ul><ul><li>Eating slowly </li></ul><ul><li>Housework </li></ul><ul><li>Ketchup </li></ul><ul><li>Leeks </li></ul><ul><li>Magnets </li></ul><ul><li>Masturbation </li></ul><ul><li>Migraine </li></ul><ul><li>Mushrooms </li></ul><ul><li>Pasta </li></ul><ul><li>Pumpkins </li></ul><ul><li>Pets </li></ul><ul><li>Relaxation </li></ul><ul><li>Viagra </li></ul>
  47. 47. THINGS THAT CAUSE AND PREVENT CANCER <ul><li>Allergies </li></ul><ul><li>Bread </li></ul><ul><li>Caffeine </li></ul><ul><li>Children </li></ul><ul><li>Chocolate </li></ul><ul><li>Dieting </li></ul><ul><li>Fruit </li></ul><ul><li>Gardening </li></ul><ul><li>Measles </li></ul><ul><li>Milk </li></ul><ul><li>Mobile phones </li></ul><ul><li>Mouthwash </li></ul><ul><li>Rice </li></ul><ul><li>Statins </li></ul><ul><li>Stress </li></ul><ul><li>Tanning pills </li></ul><ul><li>Tea </li></ul><ul><li>Vitamins </li></ul>
  48. 48. HOW DO WE DO EBMgt?
  49. 49. EXAMPLE: EVIDENCE-BASED ABSENCE MANAGEMENT? <ul><li>Element 1: Practitioner expertise and judgement </li></ul><ul><li>Have I seen this before? </li></ul><ul><li>What happened? </li></ul><ul><li>What are my beliefs about the causes of absence? </li></ul><ul><li>What ’ s worked in the past and why? </li></ul><ul><li>What are my hunches? </li></ul><ul><li>What do I think are the causes and possible solutions? </li></ul><ul><li>Is this situation occurring elsewhere? </li></ul><ul><li>How relevant and applicable is my experience? </li></ul>
  50. 50. EXAMPLE: EVIDENCE-BASED ABSENCE MANAGEMENT? <ul><li>Element 2: Evidence from the local context </li></ul><ul><li>What actually is the absence rate? </li></ul><ul><li>What type of absences and where? </li></ul><ul><li>What are local explanations for absence? </li></ul><ul><li>What absence management is currently in place and is it working? </li></ul><ul><li>What do managers think is going on? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the possible costs and benefits of interventions? Is it worth intervening here? </li></ul><ul><li>What is happening or what is going to happen that might be affecting absence? </li></ul>
  51. 51. EXAMPLE: EVIDENCE-BASED ABSENCE MANAGEMENT? <ul><li>Element 3: Critical evaluation of best available research evidence </li></ul><ul><li>What are the average rates of absence in my sector and location – is the absence rate here ‘high’? </li></ul><ul><li>What does systematically reviewed research evidence suggest to be the major causes of absence? </li></ul><ul><li>How relevant and applicable is that evidence here? </li></ul><ul><li>What does research evidence from systematic reviews suggest as effective interventions? </li></ul><ul><li>How well might the interventions the research describes work here? </li></ul>
  52. 52. EXAMPLE: EVIDENCE-BASED ABSENCE MANAGEMENT? <ul><li>Element 4: Perspectives of those who may be affected by intervention decision </li></ul><ul><li>How do employees feel about the proposed interventions? </li></ul><ul><li>Do they see downsides or unintended negative consequences? </li></ul><ul><li>How do managers feel about these interventions? </li></ul><ul><li>How practical or workable do those responsible for implementing the interventions feel? </li></ul><ul><li>What alternative explanations and proposed solutions do others have? </li></ul>
  53. 53. SOMETIMES WE ARE EVIDENCE-BASED <ul><li>Try to gather data and information </li></ul><ul><li>Invest time and effort in trying to understand and apply it </li></ul><ul><li>Question our and others ’ assumptions and logic </li></ul><ul><li>Are sceptical about what appear to be fads </li></ul><ul><li>Resist the temptation to act quickly </li></ul>
  54. 54. SOMETIMES WE ARE NOT SO EVIDENCE-BASED <ul><li>Act on gut feeling (though intuition can be important for some decisions) </li></ul><ul><li>Copy other people who appear successful (benchmarking) </li></ul><ul><li>Think there is one ideal way (best practice) </li></ul><ul><li>Let the ‘ solution ’ frame and define our ‘ problem ’ and create need (kitchen gadgets) </li></ul><ul><li>Want to fit in and be as cool as everyone else (fashion) </li></ul>
  55. 55. SOME BENEFITS OF EBMgt <ul><li>Enhance the process of decision-making </li></ul><ul><li>Improve the outcome of decision-making </li></ul><ul><li>Improve organizational performance </li></ul><ul><li>Waste fewer resources (fads waste time, energy and money) </li></ul><ul><li>Increase organizational and individual learning </li></ul><ul><li>Make management practice more ‘ professional ’ </li></ul>
  56. 56. WHAT CAN YOU DO NOW? <ul><li>Do a course in EBMgt </li></ul><ul><li>Find ways to access research evidence (e.g., local university, academics) </li></ul><ul><li>Join the Center for Evidence-Based Management </li></ul><ul><li>Talk to your colleagues about EBMgt </li></ul><ul><li>Think about what kind of practitioner or manager you want to be in the future </li></ul>
  57. 57. WHAT CAN YOU DO NOW? <ul><li>Think critically and ask critical questions about: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The problems or challenges you face in your work – are they always what they seem? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Conventional management wisdom (fads) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Academic knowledge from research </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The knowledge and data in you own organizations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The context of your organization </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Your own experience and judgement </li></ul></ul>
  58. 58. WHAT CAN YOU DO NOW? <ul><li>And criticize this presentation, everything I just said, and the idea of evidence-based management…. </li></ul><ul><li>Any questions? </li></ul>