Implicit Theories About EBM
Why HR Managers Do Not Act or Want to Act According to Principles of EBM?
In his 2000 book with Robert Sutton, The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action, Pfeffer asserts that, “instead of being interested in what is new, we ought to be interested in what is true.” He refers to this as Pfeffer’s law. The statement points to the need for organizations to pursue strategies based on fact rather than on trends and fads.
Evidence based management is a relatively new concept especially in the realm of business. The idea developed during the early 1990s within the medical field. It refers to the process of collecting internal organizational data regarding processes and transactions and combining it with scientific literature. Further, it also involves considering the professional experience of experts in the particular area, the values and concerns of the industry or discipline, and using all this combined information to make decisions and shape strategies. Essentially, in this form of strategy development, any strategic decisions made are based on data and the results of previous actions. The combined information helps to define better strategies. Although it began primarily in the medical field, evidence-based practice has found use in a variety of practices especially in the business world. Moreover, in the academic literature in the last 10 years there is increasing importance of evidence-based management particularly in the field of human resource management (Knaapen, 2013).
Human resource management is traditionally guided by best practices rather than evidence. Best practice involves benchmarking (Gould-Williams ; Mohamed, 2010). Human resource managers assess the successful practice adopted by business and apply them to their own hoping that they can replicate the success realized by their peers (Paauwe ; Boselie, 2005). While this strategy works it is flawed process because the success of others might not be necessarily replicated. The modern business environment is extremely competitive and adopting standardized approaches to issues can be limiting (Rynes, Giluk ; Brown, 2007; Terpstra ; Limpaphayom, 2012). Accordingly, evidence-based practice can be a progressive approach towards management of human resource (Rousseau, 2006). It can provide benefits such as improved precision in the development of strategies (Terpstra ; Limpaphayom, 2012). Further, it can also reduce the margin of error associated with the implementation and success of strategies.
It is noteworthy that managers in human resource do not adopt evidence-based management. Instead, they continue to rely on best practices, which are not backed by research (Bezzina et al., 2017). The validity of successful industry best practices in based on benchmarking with other firms. Mainly, this is driven by fads (Paauwe;Boselie, 2005). It is not based on objective data analysis that considers the unique dynamics of each organization Hirsch ; Briner, 2011, Briner, 2007). Accordingly, the underlying question is why practitioners in human resource management do not embrace evidence-based practice. The question is especially important given the broad variety of research studies highlighting the benefits of evidence-based practice in decision-making (Mullen ; Streiner, 2004; Rynes et al., 2007; Terpstra ; Limpaphayom, 2012; Wrigh et al., 2015).
Therefore, this study seeks to adopt a qualitative research approach in order to understand some of the assumptions regarding why managers do not use evidence-based principles. This study will go beyond the descriptive method, explore this phenomenon, developing a list of beliefs of human resource managers and cluster them in order to better understand the factors that why HR managers do not apply the principles of evidence-based management. Further, it will generate new ideas and create new patterns which will contribute to the literature. Moreover, it will rely on interviews to collect information that will enable deep analysis of the issues regarding the topic. The purpose of in- depth interviews is to allow respondents to provide detail explanation about their understanding for evidence-based management in their own words (Kind ; Horrocks, 2010). Interviews also feature the element of candor, which involves the respondent providing objective information and inner feeling regarding the focus of conversation (Rubin ; Rubin, 2012). These elements enhance the quality of information collected and it ability to provide a basis for developing assumptions regarding why HR practitioners do not embrace the principles of evidence-based management in their practice.
To sum up, that there is very limited information what are the exact beliefs of HR managers regarding evidence-based management, which is fundamental reason why this study seeks to investigate the phenomenon (Saunders, Lewis ; Thornhil, 2009). As demonstrated in the earlier discussion, interviews with qualitative research will be instrumental in enabling an in-depth consideration and understanding of the topic. It will add a body of knowledge by providing information that will explain why HR managers don’t embrace principles evidence-based management in order to fill this research gap.
Understanding Evidence-Based Management
The concept of e evidence-based practice in the realm of management is a relatively new phenomenon compared to its use in the medical sector. Briner, Denyer, & Rousseau (2009) assert that although the idea of evidence-based practice is relatively new, the fundamental principles underlying it, those of using research to support management decisions are not new. The authors undertook a qualitative analysis of past research in an effort to provide an understanding of the evidence-based management. They extensively evaluated an article by Reay, Berta, and Kohn (2009), which sought to understand the extent of evidence regarding the effectiveness of evidence-based management.
Notably, evidence-based management is for practitioners and not for scholars. Only practitioners in the industry rather than scholars can practice evidence-based management (Briner et al., 2009). The reason is that it is based on system that implements ideas, analyses the performance levels following the implemented strategies, and then improves the process based on new information regarding the performance and the emergent challenges.
Evidence-based management is not characterized by a single inflexible methodic process. Instead, it comprises a variety of related practices (Reay, Berta, & Kohn, 2009; Mullen & Streiner, 2014). Practitioners must follow a variety of steps that allow the assessment of current practices and the development of strategies aimed at improving the human resource process. Accordingly, embracing evidence-based practice in human resource management would require practitioners to follow practices that lead to making recurring decisions supported be evidence from high-quality research (Rousseau & Barends, 2011).
Evidence-based practice also incorporates a variety of participants. Such include educators, practitioners, scholars, and consultants. They form the infrastructure require to target the fundamental knowledge and related resources required for successful implementation of evidence-based management (Wright et al., 2015; Briner et al., 2009). Practitioners in human resource must work together with scholars when pursuing evidence based HRM (van der Togt & Rasmussen, 2017). The underlying implication is that evidence based management must incorporate a variety of participants who bring their unique perspectives together to form a combined knowledge base that is solid and capable of enhancing the performance of an organization.
Evidence-based management requires the synthesis of information from numerous different sources. It is not prudent to rely on evidence from only single source or study (Huter & Schmidt, 2004). Practitioners need to pay attention to the collective body of knowledge and the information it provides (Briner, Denyer, & Rousseau, 2009). Accordingly, systematic reviews have become instrumental in synthesizing the broad variety of sources and providing reports on the list of findings of high quality evidence. The goal is usually to answer certain critical practice problem. Therefore, the evidence gathered and the research strategy adopted is guided by a question (Denyer & Tranfield, 2009). Such a question must be formulated properly to ensure it leads to proper searches of both published and unpublished sources of information. The outcome is that the systematic review of information focused on answering certain practice question is valid, rigorous, and reliable. Systematic reviews enable practitioners to gather results that are more valuable than the sum of the parts (Pawson, 2006; Noblit & Hare, 1988). Accordingly, they can develop solutions that are reliable and supported by evidence.
Overall, evidence-based practice involves four key elements. These include asking the right questions based on the problem emerging in practice, seeking the right evidence that can provide answers to the question, reviewing and synthesizing the evidence as described earlier to provide information that is more than just a sum of parts, and acting or developing strategies under the guidance of the evidence collected. All these elements lead to the development of a body of knowledge that can support decisions based on research.
Asking the right question required the development of a good question. Denyer & Tranfield (2009) developed the CIMO (context, intervention, mechanism, and outcomes) formula of developing questions. This system is based on the PICO method that is typically used in medical field. The question must seek to study the processes, relationships or the institutional settings of human resource management process (Boudreau, 2012).
The evidence used must be broad and extensive. It must be based on industry practice journals, published/unpublished research, and personal experiences, expertise. Accordingly, it is necessary to scour numerous databases to collect relevant evidence for further analysis.
The evidence must then be reviewed and synthesized to develop the underlying ideas. Relying on one paper or group of similar sources my lead to bias. It is therefore crucial to synthesize data from variety of sources while remaining within the confines of the research question (Noblit & Hare, 1988). Doing so leads to development of reliable and valid information that can guide decision-making.
Action must be based on the information gathered from the systematic review of literature. Practitioners adopting evidence-based management in human resource must act based on guidelines of the evidence gathered (Leung & Bartunek, 2012). Accordingly, evidence-based management required to consult evaluation of the action and results to determine ways of improving processes.
Evidence Based Management in Human Resource
Evidence-based management has not featured strongly in human resource management. Corporations or managers do not play keen attention to the issue. This has been part of the reason why there is not enough information to determine why managers do not use evidence-based management in making human resource decisions.
Over the past three decades, a variety of changes have taken place in the form of issues dominating the practice of human resource management. Evidence-based management has not featured as a prominent issue in human resource discourse (Deadrick & Gibson, 2009). It is especially the case from the perspective of industry publications, which have not given it much eminence. This is an indication that practitioners have not yet embraced evidence-based practice as an integral aspect if human resource management. Accordingly, there is a lack of available information, both academic as well as in industry publications regarding evidence-based management in human resource.
The lack of information regarding why managers do not use evidence-based management approach is also driven by a widening research-practice gap in the realm of human resource management (Pfeffer&Sutton, 2000). There is a large discrepancy between the findings of research and the professionals’ beliefs regarding different aspects of human resource management (Rynes, et al., 2002). It indicates that the available research does not necessarily tally with the different aspects of practice in human resource management (Pullin et al., 2004). Research is part of the evidence that would be used to guide decisions in human resource management (Jacobs, 2015). Accordingly, when the research-practice gap is too large, it shows that the research might not be too useful for practitioners in the realm of human resource management (Theriou ; Chatzoglou, 2009; Pfeffer;Sutton, 2000). This is an impediment for evidence-based management.
One of the reasons for the widening research-practice gap that adversely affects evidence-based HRM is the lack of excellent systematic reviews gathered from varied sources and covering particular subject area. This leads to the lack of information regarding why managers do not embrace evidence-based management in human resource (Jacobs, 2015; Roussseau;Barends, 2011). An important challenge is that academics have inconsistent opinions regarding availability of verifiable facts that are capable of extrapolation across organizational contexts (Rynes, Giluk ; Brown, 2007). This form the lack of excellent systematic reviews gathered from varied sources and covering particular subject (Hirsh and Briner, 2011). Accordingly, there is a little scientific research that practicing professionals can understand and use (Barends, 2015). This finding indicates there are not enough research papers providing objective information that practicing professionals can apply to their work. (Rousseau;Barends, 2011). There exist large discrepancies between the results of research on various aspects of people management and the prevailing practice (Bezina et al., 2017).
The widening research-practice gap also tends to reduce the application of research findings in the management of human resources. It is because the research does not speak to practitioners work process in real life due to the wide ideological gap between professional practice and the findings on the research ((Preffer;Sutton, 2000; Rynes, Giluk;Brown, 2007). Therefore, managers may not use academic research as basis for decision-making. The overall impact is that there is not enough information that can help in determining why practitioners do not embrace evidence-based management.
Notably, professionals at the higher levels of human resource management access research information from different sources. However, there are no clear modalities for applying the theory in research to their practice (Gao ; Rhinehart, 2004). These findings also mirror those of Rynes, et al. (2002). Both show that the research-practice gap is too large. Human resource managers do not apply findings od research in practice (Rynes, et al., 2002). The underlying observation is that practitioners in the realm of human resources management do not apply research to their practice.
The discussion highlights some of the challenges that have led to the lack of information regarding the use of evidence-based management in human resources. Some of these include the widening research-practice gap, which means that the research being undertaken by academics does not necessarily reflect the elements of practice in corporate human resource management. As a result, the current study seeks to close this gap by investigating some of the reasons why professionals do not use evidence-based management in HRM.
Misconceptions about Evidence-Based Management in Human Resource Management
Aside from the wide research-practice gap highlighted earlier, professionals have a variety of misconceptions regarding the concept of evidence-based practice (Theriou ; Chatzoglou, 2009). This study seeks to connect this to the lack of information regarding why practitioners do not embrace evidence-based management. The misconceptions undermine the possibility of incorporating this approach to decision-making process.
The first misconception regarding evidence-based management is that evidence refers to the quantitative scientific data. This is a major misconception because evidence in the realm of management refers to all the information that is valid, relevant, and reliable within the subject under analysis (Pfeffer and Sutton, 2006). It does not necessarily refer to empirical evidence accrued from scientific research. However, this misconception is part of the assumptions why there is little research regarding why managers in HRM do not embrace evidence-based management practice. There is not sufficient interest in the subject especially among practitioners to warrant wide research.
Another misconception is connected with the assumption that the evidence-based management means that professional cannot use their expertise in making decisions. This is a major misconception as indicated by the earlier discussion highlighting the fundamentals of evidence-based management (Ghoshal, 2005). Part of the input material used by practitioners as evidence is their professional experience and expertise, which is fused together with data from internal operations and external research to guide decision-making. However, the misconception that evidence-based management replaces professional expertise may lead to limited interest in the topic. Subsequently, it might be a part of the reasons why there is little information regarding why human resource managers may not be interested in embracing evidence based principles.
The third misconception is that evidence-based management essentially means following the recommendations of research regarding processes that work. This is essentially untrue because findings from research comprise only one of at least four sources of information used in evidence-based management (Camerrer;Johnson, 2018). At its core, evidence-based management is about practice as opposed to research. Accordingly, no single piece of research evidence speaks for itself. However, investigating this misconception further can provide currently unavailable information regarding why managers in human resources do not use evidence-based principles.
The idea that managers in human resource need to make decision fast and may not have time for evidence-based practice is also an important misconception which will be further investigated during the in depth interviews. Notably, evidence-based management requires reflection upon the evidence and determination of how well it can be trusted (Ghoshal, 2005). Even where managers need to make quick decisions, they must be based on trustworthy evidence, and this is the foundation of evidence-based management (Rynes;Bartunek, 2017).
Some practitioners assert that organizations are unique in different respects, which limits the usefulness of scientific evidence (Martin, Feldman, Hatch;Sitkin, 1983). This is a misconception because organizations face similar problem as regards people management. Accordingly, most of them adopt relatively similar strategies to solve such problems. Hence, evidence from scientific research can benefit organizations.
The varieties of misconceptions highlighted project the negative notions that professionals in human resource management may have regarding evidence-based management. These underscore the need for organizations as well as human resource management bodies to highlight these misconceptions and promote the use of evidence in decision-making (Pfeffer;Sutton, 2006). Nevertheless, these misconceptions indicate that there are underlying factors that water down the importance of evidence-based practice in human resource management. There is not enough information in the form of academic or even professional publications that provides insights regarding why managers in human resource management do not embrace evidence-based practice. Accordingly, this study seeks to bridge this gap by pursuing information that might help in understanding why professionals in HRM do not reply on evidence-based management.
Propositions of HR managers beliefs regarding Evidence-Based Management
The poor/ negative notions regarding evidence-based management in human resource management could undermine its relevance among professionals:
The majority of human resource publications are not based on evidence (Lawler, 2007). Publications are important in influencing managers to adopt various best practices for which there are no evidence of their ineffectiveness (Straus, Haynes, Glasziou, Dickersin;Guyatt, 2007). The reliance of best practices is based on the idea of benchmarking whereby managers in HRM attempt to replicate success results of other managers by implementing similar strategies. However, there is no scientific evidence that the best practice are indeed capital of improving performance of HRM with respect to the various stakeholders such as employees.
The poor notions regarding HRM are perhaps major contributors to the limited or slow adoption of evidence-based management. However, this is only assumption based on the discussion so far because there is insufficient research evidence that this might have influence of the HR managers’ beliefs. Accordingly, in this case study, this assumption will be further investigated as part of the process to better understand why HR managers do not adopt evidence-based practice.
Human resource managers lack the correct training required to inculcate the skills and drive to adopt evidence-based management is decision-making:
The nature of training that practitioners receive in human resource management does not incorporate or encourage evidence-based management (Rousseau & McCarthy, 2007; Lawler, 2007). Education and training are not necessarily standardized. The human resource profession struggles to determine a body of knowledge that every human resource professional should learn and understand (Barend and Briner, 2014). As a result, evidence-based management is not inculcated through training as part of practice among professional (Rousseau & McCarthy, 2007). Accordingly, many mangers do not use it or understand its true value to the profession and their decision-making (Pullin et al., 2004).
Some studies also suggest that the most senior executive in the human resource department are not professionals. Research shows that, at some point, up to 25% of the professions holding senior position in majority of American corporations had little or no background in human resource management (Lawler, 2007; Lawler, Boudreau, & Mohrman, 2006). This underscores the idea that such senior professionals lack the kind of knowledge that would allow them to appreciate empirical findings and shape management practices based on the evidence provided by research ( Barends et al,. 2017). These issues lead to a situation where managers in human resource lack an understanding of evidence-based management practices.
Human resource managers are focused on maintaining the status quo and they do not want to embrace evidence-based management, which might challenge and disrupt this status quo: Culture management is an important aspect of human resource management. Developing culture is an intricate process that takes time before the principles developed become the norm within an organization (Swart & Kinnie, 2012).. More importantly, changing a culture within an organization can be a daunting process that may affect the results of an organization and even fail to yield the desired results (Barends et al., 2017). Some cultures have gaping flaws that bog down the organization and prevent it from realizing its full potential. Human resource managers are careful in managing culture to ensure they do not disrupt the status quo, which may lead to further challenges such as developing and implementing new cultures. However, evidence-based management requires continue interrogation of such issues as the culture of the firm and their aspects (Barend er al., 2017). Its results may require fundamental changes to an organization, which may shake up the status quo. In the process, it may expose the gaping flaws associated with certain management processes (Swart & Kannie, 2012). The desire to maintain a status quo may be part of the reason why HRM professionals do not embrace evidence-based management.
The discussion based on the academic research facts has shown that there is a lot of misunderstanding regarding evidence-based management especially in the realm of human resource management. Negative belief such as the view that applying evidence-based principles is a time consuming process that requires managers to read mountains of research papers will be further investigated. Moreover, the disparity between evidence and practice makes research less important in evaluating and articulating matter of practice. However, these are only ideas generated from the available evidence. More importantly, they do not help to articulate an answer regarding why managers in HRM do not embrace evidence-based practice. There is a lack of information regarding this aspect of human resource management. Therefore, this study seeks to identify HR manager’s beliefs about EBM by engaging professional in human resource management into in-depth interviews and further elaborate finding in order to clarify why HR managers do not embrace evidence-based principles in their practice. To sum up, the case study will help to bridge the information gap by shedding light on the main factors and prevent HR managers forming wrong beliefs about EBM.