An unplugged conversation with Rob Briner

An unplugged conversation with Rob Briner

On March 6th, in Barcelona, the members of the FFWi community had the opportunity of joining an inspiring conversation on evidence-based management with Rob Briner, Professor of Organizational Psychology at Queen Mary, University of London, and Scientific Director of the Center for Evidence-Based Management.

Professor Briner, who has received several awards for his work including the British Psychological Society Division of Occupational Psychology “Academic Contribution to Practice Award” in 2014, and topped HR Magazine’s “Most Influential Thinker” list in 2016, shared with the participants in this session powerful insights about what evidence-based management (EBM) means, and some hints on how to instill this way of approaching decision making into any organization.

Any profession that wants to be taken seriously should be concerned and informed about the nature of the evidence base for what it does. And HR cannot be an exception

As he explained in his introductory talk, any profession that wants to be taken seriously should be concerned and informed about the nature of the evidence base for what it does. And HR cannot be an exception, moreover when nearly everyone in any company seems to have an opinion on how people need to be managed.

Rob Briner described EBM as the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of different sources of information (including the practitioner’s professional expertise, organizational data, scientific literature, and stakeholders’ values and concerns) to take better decisions, remarking that EBM is not about making perfect decisions (certainties), but about making better decisions (probabilities and likelihood).

In this line, he insisted in the importance of paying more attention to how we take decisions, and spending more time in the problems, though thinking about the problem tends to be harder and more boring than thinking about solutions (solutioneering)

Briner warned participants about the barriers they can find in the process of building an evidence based HR practice in their organizations, including misconceptions, biases, wrong beliefs, and fads; and also about the risk that some people in positions of power may not like very much an EBM approach since it may undermine their authority.

During the lively conversation that followed many other topics were discussed, including some myths, such generational differences in the workplace, the connection between attitudes and behaviors, and the relation between employee engagement and organizational performance. We also talked about the relation between HR Analytics and EBM, to what extent an EBM approach is compatible with different cultural contexts, the role of intuition in decision-making, the science of complexity, and formulas to connect the world of business and academia.

In this post we include a 3.5 minute interview with Rob Briner we recorded prior to the session. In this interview, he explains what evidence-based practice really means and why many HR decisions in companies are not enough evidence based, and provides some recommendations for HR practitioners who may want to become more evidence based.


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