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Evidence-Based HR 102: Best Practices

Evidence-based HR (EBHR) can offer a powerful mechanism for organizations to make better workforce-related decisions; and better decisions mean better results. Yet transitioning to an evidence-based way of tackling HR objectives can be tricky. Here’s how to make that move successfully, step by step.

1: Articulate your goal.

Imagine that your organization is considering a new remote work policy that would allow employees to work from home one day a week. Before you dive into relevant research, first establish why you’re considering the policy in the first place. Is it to improve productivity? To decrease absenteeism? To improve recruitment because your competitors offer similar policies? Before you can evaluate existing research, you need to understand what kind of evidence you’re seeking.

2: Ask for evidence.

Part of creating a culture of evidence-based decision-making means getting everyone in the habit of producing evidence. Any time a member of the HR team proposes a change or initiative, get in the habit of asking for documentation that substantiates their reasoning.

3: Create your own evidence.

Not all evidence needs to be academic in nature. In fact, no scholarly research can ever replicate the exact conditions to be found at your workplace. Conduct pilot tests and review existing data archives to see if they support HR decisions. This practice, however, requires your organization to have implemented some kind of workforce analytics system.

4: Make sure the evidence fits your situation.

Sometimes you can find research that has produced valid and statistically significant findings that, nevertheless, do not provide good evidence for your argument or decision. For example, if you’re working in a highly educated, white collar environment but the study focused on blue collar workers with less education, the finding may not apply to your situation.

5: Diversify your sources for evidence.

Do not rely on a single or small number of resources. In building an evidence-based case for a decision or action, you need to incorporate as much evidence from as many different sources as you reasonably can. Remember, any single source may be flawed; if nothing else, they may have an agenda (especially if they’re trying to sell you something). Often, no single piece of evidence will be particularly illuminating; but by incorporating multiple pieces of evidence, you can begin to “triangulate” a strong conclusion.


CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about our ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.