The Growing Need for Evidence-Based HR

Google’s SVP of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, wrote on the HBR Blog Network about Google’s Scientific Approach to Work-Life Balance (and much more). It is an insightful read about how the company is using evidence-based approaches in their people programs. For instance, initial results suggest that 31% of their workforce are “Segmentors” (those who are able to draw a clear line between work and personal life) and 69% are “Integrators” (those who find it hard to blur the lines). Google also found that over half of the Integrators wanted to get better at Segmenting, which led them to design experiments in some of the offices like drop devices at the front-desk before heading home, nudges to take vacation etc. Similarly, earlier, Google’s Project Oxygen strived to understand the defining characteristics of great managers from mining thousands of data points. And other fascinating data-driven insights regarding theoptimalnumber of interview sessions per candidate, better managing maternity leave, the right agenda for an on-boarding program etc. Google says that it will continue surveyingit’s workforce for 100 years and develop insights and interventions along the way – to sustain high performance and maximize happiness.

In my work with companies, I try to use evidence-based HR techniques as a guiding principle. For instance, a client described a situation where leaders were not encouraging talent mobility across business units because of a fear that high-potential employees from one business wouldn’t succeed in another – because of lack of technical competencies. I worked with the client to design an analysis plan – examining patterns of career moves of high-potentials over several years and connected that with their KPI achievements. After a few days of number-crunching, the verdict was out – high-potential employees who moved across businesses achieved an average 7% more than those who moved within their business units. This easily helped changed mindsets at the executive leadership level and led to wider roll-out of their talent mobility program.
There’s plenty for us to learn from analytics and experimentation-driven approaches from companies like Google. How many of us are using data and experiments as the basis for our strategies and tactics? Not so many. And as a result, how many of us have a tough time building a clear business case for business executives? Quite a few. Evidence-based HR is the way forward. The best HR strategists are those who are also data geeks.

5 thoughts on “The Growing Need for Evidence-Based HR

  1. Bah humbug!, the best strategists are art nuts! Well, I don’t totally mean that but I really do think we’re over egging the science piece very badly. We need science and art together, and particularly from a strategic perspective we need to engage, inspire, provoke and create new insight and desire. And for all of this we need art rather than science. Anyone else in my camp may be interested in a new global HR conference, Art of HR ( or this Linkedin group – .


  2. Need to echo Jon…innovation won’t come from data alone. Artists often tell great stories (that engage/inspire/provoke…especially provoke) and if those stories are driven by a solid fact base…now we’re talking!


  3. I am not undermining the “art” of HR and agree that art & science need to go together. But, at least in this part of the world (Asia), data-orientation among HR folks is not as strong as it should be.


  4. Pingback: The Growing Need for Evidence-Based HR - Christian Hoffeldt

  5. There needs to be a motivating foctar to this aim’ that you seem to think everyone should have.Unfortunatly most proffessions these days bring only one (supposedly) motivating foctar money. But for someone like me, who doesnt consider how much money i have in the bank to be of any importance whatsoever, as long as i can pay my bills and feed myself; where is my motivation to do better? What do i gain? Nothing. Just more numbers in my account.Being the best’ in a job such as computer programming, is not an exciting thought. Ive been there, and its a tedious and mind numbing task. A lot of effort put in, for very little satisfaction at the end. I think a lot of people these days are beginning to realise that a good’ job, isnt enough. The difference between a good job and a bad job, used to be defined by the size of the pay packet.Here’s the situation from my angle. Or should i say, our angle.We get up in the morning, go to work, and count the hours away until we can come home. When we get home from our mind numbing job, we watch mind numbing TV, go on facebook to see what the rest of our bored friends have done today, do tedious household chores, make food, go to sleep. Repeat.Money doesnt fix this. It makes it more comfortable. With more money, i can have a bigger TV, faster internet, a comfier bed, better food. But those things dont fulfill me. More money means i have an expensive, boring life, rather than a boring life. So back to the original point whats my aim? To change my life. To change the world. Change everything about the shallow society we live in today.But i dont think ill get there by being the best programmer on your team.No offence, but those people who you say are lifeless , probably understand a lot more about life, and whats important in it than you do.


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