How to Make Better-Informed HR Decisions: Applying Critical Evaluation

By Matt Davis Jun 14, 2017
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Written especially for HR professionals at small businesses and HR departments of one, Applying Critical Evaluation (Society for Human Resource Management, 2017) by Jennifer Currence, SHRM-SCP, draws from thought leaders' insights and real-life examples to provide ready-to-use recommendations that HR professionals can incorporate into nearly every aspect of the job. The book is the second title in the SHRM Competency Series, which will cover nine behavioral competencies that are critical to effective HR performance.

Currence, president of OnCore Management Solutions in Tampa Bay, Fla., and a professor of human resource management at the University of Tampa, is a presenter at the SHRM 2017 Annual Conference & Exposition June 18-21 in New Orleans on Top Five Priorities for an HR Department of One, How to Create a Dynamic Onboarding Experience and Developing Business Acumen as an HR Department of One

HR Magazine's Book Blog recently spoke with her about how HR can make an impact by applying critical evaluation. 

What makes critical evaluation an indispensable tool for the day-to-day work of HR professionals?

Critical evaluation is about going deep instead of wide. In the first book in the SHRM Competency Series, Developing Business Acumen, we talked about how HR can effectively develop business goals, mission and values. HR must be able to create and recommend programs that align with those goals. Critical evaluation is the linchpin between understanding the business and offering consultative solutions for effective people programs.

Why is it important to start the critical evaluation process by assessing the big picture?

Sometimes when confronted with a situation, we try to solve it quickly based on past experience. Or we immediately address what we think is the causation. When we start midway into the process, we miss the opportunity to ask the right questions. That's what enables us to examine all the options.

How has learning about critical evaluation changed your approach to problem-solving and decision-making?

I realized I had an unconscious bias against the very term "critical evaluation." Critical evaluation means a lot of hard work, right? But what I learned was that I gained so much more confidence going through the process, and that's when some magic started to happen. I have learned that following the process is immensely rewarding.

How can HR best evaluate the quality of its decisions?

Decide on three optimal choices or plans of action and measure each of them against what works for your organization [and] what doesn't work, and critically evaluate whether or not there are any unconscious biases or assumptions that are playing a part in your decision.

Not every situation requires a formal critical evaluation process. What advice do you have for making everyday decisions?

Successful solutions invariably derive from an openness to possibilities. If we remain curious, we'll overcome our biases and gather key information and data to make sound decisions. But beware of over-analyzing. One trick I use to move myself from thinking to doing (or deciding) is to schedule a deadline for myself—and promise someone an answer at that time to help hold myself accountable.

What's one thing HR professionals can do today to apply critical evaluation in their decision-making?

Develop this habit: When confronted with an issue or problem, ask yourself "why" five times. Simple, but you'll be surprised how your responses will guide a realistic and manageable approach. Next step? Read Applying Critical Evaluation, naturally!

Matt Davis manages book publishing at SHRM.


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