Why do we need Evidence-Based Management?

We already explained what Evidence-based management is, but why do we need it?

HR Managers and knowledge of HR research

Rynes, Colbert and Brown (2002) identified 35 “well-documented research findings” related to Human Resources Management and decided to test the knowledge of 959 US HR managers. All these managers had to do was to indicate if the proposed statements about the HR research findings were right or not. The results were stunning: on average, participants chose the right answer only 57% of the times!

For some reasons you think European managers would have done better? Sanders, van Riemsdijk and Groen (2008) repeated the same study on 626 Dutch managers, with similar results: only 62% of the answers were correct.

These percentages are just slightly higher than chance! And what is even more worrying is that these results are very similar to the success rate of undergraduate students.

Other information emerged from these researches: those who got better results were the ones who were more educated, who read more HR material and who had a more positive attitude towards academic research findings. Yes, as you probably guessed, this is one of the main reasons why we created ScienceForWork: we want you to be this kind of professional, always up to date!

The problem is that managers, for many reasons, do not read many academic journals, where research results can be found. Instead, they often look for the personal experience of other managers, becoming susceptible to fads, fashions and the effective marketing of “best practices”.

Are we all biased?

In Before you make that big decision…, an insightful article published on the Harvard Business Review, noble prize winner psychologist Kahneman and his colleagues explain how business decisions are in danger because of these ways of collecting and assessing information.

When basing a decision solely on personal judgment and experience, the risk is to fall under all kinds of biases: confirmation bias, for instance, can lead you to unconsciously ignore evidence that goes against your reasoning; saliency bias could have a previous success influencing the overall diagnosis of a problem; the halo effect could cause the attribution of the successes and failures of firms to the personality of their leaders. These are just three of the many possible biases that can lead a manager to make the wrong choice if based just on personal judgement and experience.

What can I do then?

So, in order to make an informed decision, the “best available evidence” and critical appraisal are necessary.
Indeed, it was proven that:

“-Forecasts or risk assessments based on the aggregated (averaged) professional experience of many people are more accurate than forecasts based on one person’s personal experience (provided that the forecasts are made independently before being combined).

-Professional judgments based on hard data or statistical models are more accurate than judgments based on individual experience.

-Knowledge from scientific evidence is more accurate than the opinions of experts or their “best practices”

-A decision based on the combination of critically appraised experiential, organizational and scientific evidence yields better outcomes than a decision based on a single source of evidence.

-Evaluating the outcome of a decision has been found to improve both organizational learning and performance, especially in novel and non-routine situations.”

Barends, Rosseau and Briner (2014)


In order to see how to how to improve your decision-making ability, check out our introduction to Evidence-based Management.

Which kind of bias do you think most managers fall into? Can Evidence-based management help you in your practice? 
Let us know in the comment section below!

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Barends,E., Rousseau, D.M., & Briner, R.B. (2014) Evidence-Based Management: The Basic Principles. Amsterdam: Center for Evidence-Based Management.

You can find the original article here!

Kahneman, D., Lovallo, D., & Sibony, O. (2011). Before you make that big decision. Harvard Business Review, 89(6), 50-60.

You can find the original article here!

Rynes, S.L., Colbert, A.E., and Brown, K.G. (2002), ‘HR Professionals’ Beliefs about Effective Human Resource Practices: Correspondence Between Research and Practice,’ Human Resource Management, 41, 149– 174

You can find the original article here!

Sanders, K., van Riemsdijk, M., & Groen, B. (2008). The gap between research and practice: a replication study on the HR professionals’ beliefs about effective human resource practices. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 19(10), 1976-1988.

You can find the original article here!

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