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How do you become an evidence-based professional?

Steve Bridger

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Community Manager

13 Mar, 2024 10:56

We thought we'd continue to explore some of the themes from the Student Conference earlier this month.

Having grappled with the rapidly evolving impact of tech and AI, now we're exploring what it means to become 'an evidence-based professional'.

On the day, , who Interim Head of Research at the CIPD, posed the question: 'What does it mean to be evidence-based?' and went on to share his thoughts on how you can develop a set of skills that is not only central to the CIPD Profession Map, but more importantly... will help you become a more effective and more influential HR professional.

Conference participants asked Jonny...

How do you avoid analysis-paralysis for overthinkers like me?

Can you recommend any good recent evidence-based research that covers generational attitudes/differences in the workplace?

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  • I'll respond to the 2nd one first as it's easier Slight smile

    Can you recommend any good recent evidence-based research that covers generational attitudes/differences in the workplace?

    Yes! I'd point to a couple of things in particular.

    I can also offer a slightly off-the-wall and completely evidence-free anecdote for those of a certain age. When The Beautiful South broke up after 19 years & 10 albums, they gave the reason as ‘musical similarities’. I always thought this was quite funny, standing on its head the usual reason of ‘musical differences’ (generally seen as a euphemism for regular punch-ups between band members). But I also see a lesson here. We could do well to subvert the idea of generational differences too. As humans we’re so naturally drawn to spot differences that we can perceive them when they aren’t really there. That seems to be the case here and what seem to be more important are generational similarities – fundamental aspects of human psychology that influence us all. These can vary over time, as we move through life stages and our priorities change, but that doesn’t mean that the categories X, Y, Boomers and so on are a useful guide for understanding work attitudes.

  • Steve Bridger

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    Community Manager

    13 Mar, 2024 11:54

    In reply to Jonny Gifford:

    Thanks, Jonny. But... I recall that one of the participants on the recent 'ideal people professional' podcast (Laura Callahan, I think) suggested that one of HR’s ‘super strengths’ is to understand who we need to ‘bring into the room’. She had a really interesting insight (I thought) into the challenge of the generational differences between decision makers who sit at the top of the organisation and the skills and expectations of those at the team member level. I think this was in the context of 'growing up with technologies and being able to adopt and adapt really easily'. HR professionals can be more intentional in bringing all of these capabilities into 'the room'.

    Maybe the issue here is more about 'flatter' organisations.

  • Picking up on the other question [thanks ]

    How do you avoid analysis-paralysis for overthinkers like me?

    Evidence-based practice gives a rough process that could be tailor made to help with this. It recommends six steps, starting with critical reflection on what the management issue really is, through to assessing how well the action you took achieved the outcomes you were aiming for. In between that, it guides you on how to mine four key sources of evidence. Within this, I think a couple of things in particular help with analysis paralysis.

    1.     Investing time upfront to clarify the particular challenge your organisation faces. How do key stakeholders and other HR professionals see the issue? What’s your own experience & insight? What do textbooks and even Wikipedia say are the most important constructs? If potential solutions or opportunities for improvement are proposed upfront, take a step back, first asking: what’s the issue that this is trying to solve? If the issue is described in vague terms, probe until it’s clear. If there are a couple of different issues, clarify the differences, and if there’s a view that they are related, clarify the thinking on this. It sounds obvious when you say it, but don’t try to find the evidence base for solutions until you’re crystal clear what the issue is, the potential root causes and the potential outcomes. You’ll then find it far easier to avoid analysis paralysis later on, because you have clear interventions, techniques or aspects of working life and clear outcomes in mind. Stick to that focus, and if anything else interesting crops us, put it on the shelf for your next personal development day.

    2.     Cutting your cloth to fit. Set parameters for the evidence you’re going to look for before you start collecting it, taking into account the time and resource you have. For published research, you might limit yourself to systematic reviews on the core topic – you can search for this within databases like EBSCO Business Source Corporate available to CIPD members and using CEBMa’s ‘methodological search filters’. If you get too many studies, make your next step to prioritise and sift them: which are most relevant to you, best quality and most up to date? For management information and people analytics, limit yourself to the data points that are directly relevant to your question or issue. For qualitative data and stakeholder conversations, plan how many people you want to speak to and stick reasonably closely to it.

    Above all, trust the process. The 4 sources and 6 steps of evidence-based management aren’t perfect but they will help. They will prompt you to consider more evidence, more consistently, but they will also help you keep moving forward so you don’t get stuck, and get you to that decision. More on 'how to' here in our guide on evidence-based HR - also see our thought leadership & training on the topic.

    Feel free to try it out here – I and I’m sure others will be glad to chip in. What topic / issue do you have in mind? If it’s not yet crystal clear, what questions can you ask to clarify it? And what evidence could you realistically look for?

  • Also, to become evidence based practitioner, Develop a Critical Mindset: Cultivate a habit of critical thinking. Question assumptions, seek alternative perspectives, and evaluate information/evidence rigorously to ensure its validity and reliability.