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Rob Briner: Spend longer on evidence-based decision-making

HR directors should spend longer making decisions to ensure they are evidence-based, professor of organisational psychology at the University of Bath’s School of Management Rob Briner has said.

Briner, who is also a founding member of the Center for Evidence-Based Management, made his comments at the latest HR magazine HR in the Boardroom event for alumni of the programme.

He asked the HR directors present whether they wanted “a good decision, or a quick decision"?

He said: “The faster you make a decision the worse it is going to be. It’s that simple.”  

He argued that evidence-based practice can contribute to well-informed decisions, because it is about making “conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of different sources of information” to make correct choices.

“Most of you are paid to make decisions,” said Briner, highlighting a lack of training for HR professionals in this area. “What is amazing is that we don’t train people on how to make decisions," he added. "If you think about any other professional area, I don’t think this is the case.”

Briner broke down evidence-based decision-making into six key steps:

  • Asking: translating a practical issue or problem into an answerable question?
  • Acquiring: systematically searching for and retrieving the evidence?
  • Appraising: critically judging the trustworthiness and relevance of the evidence
  • Aggregating: weighing and pulling together the evidence?
  • Applying: incorporating the evidence in the decision-making process
  • Assessing: evaluating the outcome of the decision taken

He also warned that before taking action or coming up with a solution it is essential to have identified and understood the problem.

“If people sound uncertain it is usually because they know more,” said Briner. “People who are pretty certain are often pretty ignorant. ’It depends’ is usually the right answer.”

He also urged HR directors to think carefully about the problem they are trying to fix, rather than being overly "solutions focused". 

To find out more about HR in the Boardroom, HR magazine's exclusive development programme for HR directors who want to increase their influence at board level, contact sian.harrington@markallengroup.com or visit the website