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.