When it’s Good to be Critical

Using Evidence Based Practice at Aimia





“Evidence Based Practice takes time.  It’s complicated and, sometimes, you end up with the same solution that you would have got to without trying.” 


That was the ‘inspiring’ message given to us on our last away day as a department.  About once a year the Talent and Culture team head out of the office for a few days to learn about new approaches to people and performance (as well as bond over a few glasses of wine and some terrible dance moves).  This year, we took over a huge country house in Suffolk and set about learning the basics of Evidence Based Practice, or EBP.

EBP started in the field of medicine and was essentially a safeguard against individuals carrying out procedures that they thought would work because they had done in the past, without basing this knowledge on any collective body of scientific evidence.  We all agreed that EBP in medicine was a good thing: before we go in for an operation, we want to know that the surgeon has done their homework and isn’t just relying on their own experience of this procedure working.   However, applying these principles in HR quite frankly sounded like it would be a lot of work.

Yet the more we thought about it, the more we realised that HR departments can have an understandable tendency to react quickly to problems and reach for the metaphorical sticking plaster, rather than investigate the underlying issues.  We learnt about the importance of collecting information from 4 sources (practitioners, stakeholders, data from the organisation and scientific literature) and how to critically evaluate this information.  By taking some time to reframe problems posed to us from areas of the business and considering these ‘4 sources’ we began to see that not simply going for the-most-obvious-solution-that-seemed-to-work-at-your-last-company might result in better outcomes.

You’ll be happy to know that the ‘inspiring’ talk at our away day took a turn for the positive.   EBP does take time but it’s undoubtedly worth it.  While we are (thankfully) not in the business of performing life-saving operations the stakes are still high and the budgets assigned to projects dealing with ‘people issues’ are higher still.  We have already started using EBP principles across the business, in projects ranging from recruitment to diversity and inclusion.  As an analytical company, stakeholders we have engaged with through the projects have appreciated the process and understand the benefits.  It might take a bit more time to answer questions this way, but it ultimately results in outcomes that are more likely to be successful and has the added benefit of giving us more credibility as a department.  You can’t embark on a full-scale research project for every issue raised, but the process has taught us to think more critically about the solutions we suggest.  Even in reactive, time-pressured situations, we can still consider alternative solutions for problems we think we have seen before.



‘When it’s Good to be Critical’
written by Madeleine Scott,
Talent Development Manager at Aimia


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