Seven out of 10 employers use psychometric tests in recruitment, a recent XpertHR survey
finds. But how much should recruiters rely on the scientific reliability of these instruments? The issue of how scientific you can be about management and HR has been reignited recently online.
"Rick", at the leading UK blog on work and management, Flip Chart Fairy Tales, wrote about the issue
, prompted by an article in the New York Times, "How reliable are the social sciences?"
, by Notre Dame University's Gary Gutting. The latter argues that the social sciences are unable to predict the future as accurately as natural sciences (or medicine) where the data is more objective and easy to control. This has implications for management because, Rick argues, business studies are often "simply social sciences, especially psychology, economics with a bit of sociology and anthropology, applied to an organisational setting".
Among the conclusions drawn in the discussion are these:
- People are too complex - It's hard to be scientific about management because, as Gutter says, "our behaviour depends on an enormous number of tightly interconnected variables that are extraordinarily difficult to distinguish and study separately".
- The evidence is always subjective - Using the example of scoring candidates in an assessment centre, Rick says, "What people often forget is that they have taken subjective judgments, in this case scores for exercises, and turned them into numbers."
- We only study success - If you ignore failure you have no "control group", so for example no proof that the candidates who fail to get a job would be less effective than those who succeeded, or that a rejected management approach might not have been as successful had it been into practice as the "successful" one being studied.
So does this mean HR and managers in general should abandon the evidence base and rely on gut instinct and untried and untested assumptions about what works and what doesn't?
No, says Rick.
"Where people are involved there will never be accuracy. That isn't to say we should ignore behavioural science and management research completely. The insights and tools that come out of it give us wider ranges of data upon which we can make our decisions."
Welcome to this regular round-up of articles about HR strategy, covering topics including evidence based HR, HR data and metrics, employee engagement, performance management, leadership and CSR.
General HR strategy articles
HR influence is growing
, according to an XpertHR survey that shows across the whole economy, three-fifths of HR professionals surveyed by XpertHR say HR's influence throughout the organisation has grown over the past two years. By Michael Carty on XpertHR's Employment Intelligence blog.
"Crowdsourcing your strategy
may sound crazy. But a few pioneering companies are starting to do just that, boosting organizational alignment in the process. Should you join them?" The social side of strategy, by Arne Gast and Michele Zanini on cKinsey Quarterly.