One of the earliest posts in this series laid down a fundamental tenet of evidence-based management (EBM) – the bell curve – and the need to show an improvement in performance. To justify our salaries HR and L&D professionals have to produce evidence that our work produces a positive shift in the performance curve of the human resource. It should also be obvious, to any HR or L&D readers, that they themselves are already inhabitants of the bell curve for the entire profession. Unfortunately the current version of that curve is a phenomenon, an aberration – it is in negative territory (see the curve on the left in the above chart).
The simplest employee performance curve – say from 1 to 10 with goalposts placed at 3 and 8 – will not normally have a minus scale because anyone performing that badly would have been fired. Yes, we all know executives who seem to be exceptions to that rule but, leaving aside the issue of management failures, performance curves usually start on the right side of zero. In HR and L&D we should expect any practitioner to be getting no lower than the minimum acceptable score of 4 and this is exactly how we should be viewing SHRM’s current efforts. ASTD do not seem to be following SHRM’s lead and the CIPD is still looking for insights. However, if we ever do set internationally recognised standards we will eventually start to see a normal curve form; as long as the standards are enforced.
In the absence of any international standards the only other standard that can be set is the simple question – where is your evidence? Anyone in HR and L&D that does not have evidence of the performance benefits they bring to the organisation is, by definition, producing a negative ROI – their costs outweigh their benefits. Measurement is the key to professionalism so the sooner we have some credible standards, against which HR and L&D professionals can be measured, the better. SHRM’s first attempts at standards are misguided and wide of the mark because they are not measuring value and ASTD, who should know better, does not know how to evaluate, despite teaching every single one of its members that evaluation is a necessary and absolutely integral part of the learning cycle.
It is a strange phenomenon indeed that a global profession should still be searching for a solid foundation; so it will take an equally phenomenal shift in thinking if we are to put this situation right before our paymasters find us out.