Mentor Resources recently had an opportunity to talk Ravin Jesuthasan, a thought-leader in evidence-based human resources. Mr. Jesuthasan is co-author of the book, Transformative HR. Within Towers Watson’s Talent Management Practice, Mr. Jesuthasan is a Managing Director and a Global Practice Leader in the Chicago office.
Mentor Resources: Evidence-based medicine is now practiced within most hospitals, because certain behaviors have demonstrated an impact on secondary infections and other diseases. Could you explain Evidence-Based in the context of Human Resources?
Mr. Jesuthasan: In both medicine and Human Resources you have skilled practitioners who make decisions upon their prior experience, anecdotes and existing paradigms. As a result, there is a tendency to skip over the unique nuances of the patient or situation. In HR, this tends to occur more often than in other business disciplines, because of our life experience.
For example, if you ask ten CEOs for a definition of Free Cash Flow and the impactful levers on their cash flow, you get the same definition and similar answers. Ask the same ten CEOs for a definition of Employee Engagement or the levers for Retention, and you will probably get more than ten answers, based upon their experiences and observations.
Finance and Marketing have gone down a road to the development of clear definitions and measurable results, and Human Resources is now moving along a similar pathway. Evidence-based HR planning and decision making is part of this passage to greater rigor and impact.
Mentor Resources: We have seen an increase in quantitative measurements for Human Resource management. Could you give me an example of evidence-based HR?
Mr. Jesuthasan: An evidence-based approach helped Coca-Cola articulate an economically and globally relevant diversity goal, which was impactful to their Women and Leadership Initiative.
Evidence-based thinking helped Coca-Cola sidestep political correctness and hiring quotas. With operations in over 200 countries, diversity can be a complex topic. The team started by noting the purchasing power of women in countries where they do business, was greater than the GDP of the US, China and India, combined.
Evidence-based thinking and the economic imperative focused the organization on the talent lifecycle. Diversity efforts were not limited to hiring, but included deployment, rewards, engagement and talent development. Metrics were developed around each to track multiple variables and with a goal of creating a sustainable pipeline throughout the talent lifecycle.
Transformative HR has more examples, from Ameriprise Financial, IBM, RBS, and others, but the essential message is that evidence-based human resources is an important way to convey the story behind the numbers. The message to managers should motivate them towards action and impact the metrics. The goal is for business leaders to understand the human resource issues the same way they understand their supply chain or their marketing value proposition.
Mentor Resources: That’s powerful. Will this impact risk metrics, as well as human capital decisions?
Mr. Jesuthasan: Mentoring becomes a central tool in controlling human capital risk.
All businesses take risks, but there are risks they should avoid. Many that can and should be avoided relate to having a pipeline of managers capable of stepping up to pivotal roles as needed.
Approximately 20% of externally-hired CEOs succeed, one example of human capital risk. Needing to go outside the firm for a CEO, or head of R&D, or President of a division is a risk to execution of the business that can be avoided. Without mentoring or training to ensure a pipeline of talent, companies are at risk of being unable to continue successful programs.
Mentoring is a way of ensuring there is a pipeline of people who know how to get things done in that firms’ culture.
Mentoring becomes a way to speed up readiness. It is a faster way to transfer the cultural skills related to getting things done in a specific environment. Companies can’t afford the risk that they don’t have managers ready to step up to those pivotal Roles. In the current environment, where corporations are cost cutting and reducing spending on training, mentoring becomes even more important.
Mentor Resources: We call thisSharing What Works. Sharing through mentoring the tacit knowledge that can only come from experience. Can you share your final thoughts?
Mr. Jesuthasan: Evidence-based Human Resources is transformative and has demonstrated its usefulness as a tool for motivating managers across functions and business lines.
Keep in mind, that in the same way that most of a corporation’s financial decisions are made by line managers, rather than the finance department, most of the firm’s human resource decision are not made by the Human Resources department. Evidence-based HR is about making the human capital goals part of the day-to-day functioning of operations, by conveying the story behind the HR metrics.
I would like to thank my mentor, Julie Gebauer, at Towers Watson.