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The human resources (HR) function is beginning to arm itself with the tools and insights of a scientist, to drive better performance from their workforces and improve business outcomes.
HR is changing as new insights into brain science and human behavior are being made at unprecedented levels by scientists, and as analytics are enabling organizations to test hypotheses and form conclusions by analyzing a newly available treasure trove of big data.
Accenture provides the insights to help your company use science to reshape the way talent is managed and, ultimately, achieve high performance.
Learn about the Future of HR Research Initiative
For years, companies have tried their best to make talent decisions based on judgment, common sense, and good faith regarding what is in the best interest of employees, leaders, and the company as a whole.
But how do we know these decisions have been effective or are, indeed, the best decisions, based on solid factual evidence? The emerging field of analytics is now revealing that many such long-standing talent management practices commonly used by organizations may indeed be flawed.
A newly available treasure trove of data is now creating the unprecedented opportunity for organizations to create data-based insights to optimize workforce performance and determine which particular practices may have the most significant impact on the business.
Never before has science had such potential to transform the way we manage our people to achieve business results. Advances in multiple fields—including mathematical modeling and analytics, neuroscience, the science of physical health and well-being, anthropology, sociology, psychology and even engineering—have the potential to help organizations boost the performance of their people and businesses like never before.
As analytics and scientific fields, like brain science, advance, we are looking at a veritable sea change as HR prepares to adopt a new model for managing people.
Currently, there is a fundamental mismatch between what businesses do and what science reveals we should do to make the most of our people. The statistics concerning the performance and engagement of our people, as well as the effectiveness of traditional practices, are less than stellar.
Despite a core group of experts, books, and an industry developed to help companies improve the performance of their people, there still hasn’t been much improvement on this front. Consider just a few alarming statistics:
According to some studies, nearly two–thirds of U.S. employees are not fully engaged in their work and are less productive as a result. In one Accenture study of 674 global executives, only 16 percent of respondents described the overall skill level of their workforce as industry leading.
About 70 percent of change efforts fail, and this number hasn’t changed over time.
A meta-analysis of 24 longitudinal studies showed that improvement in multisource feedback ratings (360-degree feedback) over time is generally small.
The Society for Human Resources Management concluded that over 90 percent of performance appraisal systems are a failure. Only eight percent agreed that performance management contributes to individual performance in a study by Human Resource Institute.
In today’s knowledge-based, fast-changing economy where agility, change, and employee performance can spell the difference between competitive success and failure, it's time we start basing our practices on scientific insights so our people can perform at their best.
The HR function’s work in streamlining, standardizing and harmonizing processes to reduce costs and improve efficiency may be up for review.
The next step for HR may well be a radical shift to focusing on driving business results by improving the performance of every person in the workforce, using fact-based insights from science and analytics. This will fundamentally transform the function in terms of the practices and processes it advocates and the people and roles it comprises.
Here are some of the ways that science will transform the HR function:
HR and talent management will be legitimized as a data-based discipline. The function will finally become a discipline grounded in science and facts, and it will gain its long-sought after status as a truly strategic function imperative to business success.
HR, talent and organization change will be completely redefined. Traditional training processes like yearly performance reviews, lecture based training events, and centrally-driven change programs will need to be revamped, so they are in alignment with what science now knows to be most effective.
To harness the power of scientific and analytic-based insights, new roles may be created in HR. These include the science ambassador, the R&D talent scientist, the data jockey, the marketing evangelist and the science applier.
New skills and education will be required by the HR professional. Currently, most HR professionals have few skills or knowledge of scientific-based disciplines that can impact human performance, and very few have the skills to include analytics in their decision-making processes.
A fact-based culture will permeate HR. Every HR professional should adopt the mind-set of a scientist and every process and decision in HR should be designed to drive higher levels of performance.
David Gartside is the managing director responsible for HR offerings and capabilities within the Accenture Talent and Organization practice. He specializes in large-scale global transformation programs that impact all areas of HR capability. Gartside has deep experience in addressing the geographic complexities involved in driving a successful global HR strategy. He is based in New York.
Colin Sloman is a managing director responsible for Talent offerings and capabilities within the Accenture Talent and Organization practice in Europe, Africa, Middle East and Latin America. He works with clients to design people strategies to deliver business outcomes and has led global transformation programs across large enterprises and within functions including HR, Finance, Sales and Procurement. He is based in London.
Janice Simmons, Ph.D., is a senior principal for Talent offerings within the Talent and Organization practice. She has deep expertise in areas of talent management, leadership, learning and collaboration, and culture change. Dr. Simmons has a Ph.D. in Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University and more than twenty years of experience working in the Pharmaceuticals, Health Insurance and Industrial Products industries. She is based in Chicago.
Susan M. Cantrell is a research fellow at the Accenture Institute for High Performance. She is the co-author of Workforce of One: Revolutionizing Talent Management Through Customization (Harvard Business Press, 2010) and of more than 30 articles or book chapters. She is based in Boston.
November 4, 2013
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