How to take an evidence-based approach to recruitment and development

Nov 28, 2018 | Sector & policy

On 7 December Edward Walker of Talent & Potential runs an ISE webinar to help members better understand how to take an evidence-based approach to recruitment and development. Here’s a sneak preview of what’s coming up.

The latest ISE Annual Student Recruitment Survey indicates that over half of employers are trying to reduce the cost of hiring. This means that most recruiters and developers of early talent are going to be facing difficult choices in the months ahead – which activities should they protect or invest further in and which can be scaled-back or abandoned?

The impact of such changes can be far-reaching for both candidates and employers, so you would imagine that significant time and effort would be invested to maximise the likelihood of success. 

An evidence-based approach to decision-making has been shown to improve the quality of decisions across a wide-range of different contexts, including inside commercial organisations. But in spite of this, most managers do not make decisions in this way.

Why is this?

Those already aware of the concept of evidence-based management are probably familiar with the example below, but I wanted to recount it here, as it illustrates how our standards for decision-making are highly dependent upon context.

Consider this hypothetical situation…

After gaining a bit of weight over the festive period you decide your New Year’s resolution will be to improve your personal health, so you book an appointment with a local dietician. They advise you to adopt Diet X. It’s expensive and requires a radical change in lifestyle, but the thought of having a slim and healthy body motivates you to stick to the diet. Unfortunately, two months later, you have gained several more kilos and are experiencing some unpleasant side effects that require medical treatment.

After searching the Internet you learn that most scientific studies find Diet X to be ineffective and that the side effects are not uncommon. Understandably upset, you confront the diet consultant with the findings.

Their response is somewhat dismissive: ‘why should I pay attention to scientific studies? I have 20 years of relevant experience. Besides, Diet X was developed by a famous nutritionist, whose latest book has sold more than a million copies.’

Does that sound like malpractice? It probably does. Yet despite our misgivings about the dietician’s advice, how many of us are equally guilty of making important decisions on our organisation’s behalf, based entirely upon our previous experience or the expertise of external consultants, without any reference to reliable research?

I know I have done this in the past and there are very understandable reasons for this. Psychology shows us that we are all subject to several different biases when making decisions, which can undermine our ability to arrive at the best solution. 

Alongside this we also have to work within many organisational constraints, such as limited time and resources. 

What can we do to make better decisions and become more evidence-based?

Evidence-based decision-making is a process that requires us to critically evaluate the extent to which we can trust the evidence already available to us and which also helps us to identify, find and evaluate additional evidence that is relevant to the decision being made.

Where available four different sources of evidence should be consulted:

  • the scientific literature,
  • the organisation,
  • practitioners and
  • stakeholders.

The evidence is then considered in a systematic fashion. While the process does not guarantee success, it does increase the likelihood of a favourable outcome.

The CIPD has recently placed an evidence-based approach at the heart of its Profession Map for HR professionals.  I’m hopeful that ISE members will also want to make it a key part of their regular practise. 

Over the coming weeks the ISE is going to be talking about this subject in a bit more detail, starting with a webinar on 7 December

In the interim, if you want to better understand the effectiveness of your organisational decision-making, you might enjoy completing this short quiz, which provides some useful feedback on the areas in which you may be able to improve.

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