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A Twitter discussion caught my eye earlier; it was about HR not having standards for measurements. HR not having standards is a problem that is truly harmful to the industry at large because of the following reasons:
1. Not having rigorous standards means whatever results and data you get from your internal surveys, performance management, and whatever else you use to “measure” your employees and business are not valid or reliable.
2. Pursuant to #1, that means you are making business decisions without good information and data. You now know why the CFO stares at you like an alien. Now you know why everyone hates performance management season: it’s based on BS data.
3. Not working with standards continues to perpetuate the false notion that HR is only touchy-feely and focused on unquantifiable, intangible qualities.
It’s not like HR needs to come up with its own grand standards of measurements. You can borrow them from the American Psychological Association, which publishes the APA Style Manual, which discusses not only how to format your research in writing but also discusses best practices for conducting psychological research – which is EXACTLY the kind of research HR conducts.
And it’s not enough to buy a packaged product that IS scientifically valid (e.g., the Kouzes-Posner 360 Leadership system); you must have an understanding of the research behind the measure and how it is valid and reliable.
I should take a moment to discuss validity and reliability, and I’ll define them as questions. Validity is the answer to “Is my measure actually measuring what I want it to?” and reliability is the answer to “Is my measure providing consistent results?”. Let me be clear: you cannot type up ten questions related to employee engagement, have 50 employees respond, and sell those results as truly measuring employee engagement.
“But why?” you cry, and the answer: because your measure hasn’t been tested over time. You cannot prove your questions actually measure employee engagement.
Giving best practice research advice is beyond the scope of what I’m writing, but use some of that professional development time during the year to take courses related to research. Instead of using your hiring budget to get another paper-pusher, invest a bit more and bring on someone with an analytical and research background. If all else fails, there are numerous Internet resources (many provided by professionals AT NO CHARGE) that will give you the basics of conducting research.
And bug the hell out of SHRM to get on the bandwagon and get standardized. SHRM is the self-styled voice of the HR industry, and if that voice isn’t talking about good HR research, it’s time to find a better voice.
Jonathan Hyland is an HR and SaaS technology specialist with a passion for excellent customer service. His journey into HR began with his master’s degree in I/O Psychology and his first internship, where Jonathan managed a mid-size organization’s performance evaluations. He has primarily worked in the talent acquisition space, advising HR professionals on system implementations and providing best practices and assistance. When he’s not assigning client trouble tickets, you can find Jonathan in the office kitchen making eggs and sausage.
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