Defence of the #HR Dark Arts

As Harry Potter fever is about to strike again it only seems fitting that I do an unintentionally clickbaity blog on the Dark Arts. It’s like magic. 

I was lucky enough to do a workshop last week with Rob Briner. The aim was to give some folk the will and the tools to be a bit more structured in the way that they utilise evidence in what they do. I described it as a 3 hour session on using common sense. Some more thoughts from me are here – and if you haven’t seen the Centre for Evidence Based Management’s website you can find that here

One of the the questions at the end of the session was wonderfully practical, it was ‘My organisation loves fads and quick wins, how could I ever get them to use these approaches?’ 

This is where I sometimes think we can be a bit more creative and use some smart marketing. Where we can be a little bit disingenuous in service of a bigger win. 

My suggestion is that you serve up an evidence based approach (not new or faddish) as the next big thing. Serve it up under the guise of all that is trendy and cool and of the moment. Use all of the tricks at your disposal to make sure your organisation is spending its energy on things that are most likely to make a difference. 

I suggest telling them that evidence based management is what Google is doing. I’d suggest telling them that you had just been to a conference and everyone is talking about it. I’d suggest telling them that you heard the CIPD’s next research report on Performance Management has been done with the support of the Centre for Evidence Based Management. I’d suggest you tell them that HR’s most influential thinker talks almost exclusively about this area. I’d suggest you point out it isn’t all about research –  it’s also about organisational data and your experience. Tell them it’s a doughnut, when it’s really most of their daily vitamins. Go and speak to your marketing and internal comms teams and find out what they know about influencing. Be smart and stretch what is possibly in your organisation. 

In short, I’d do the smart things to get some good stuff across the line and into daily usage in your organisation. Understand and deploy the Dark Arts in a good cause. 

The CIPD are doing more work over the next year on ethics. I think I’m ok on this one – I might not be. I just know that time is the most precision of organisational resources and the most precious in your career. So when you are thinking, rather than reacting, that has to be good. A little darkness in search of the light. 

I always think HR should be relentlessly pragmatic as well as aspirational. Critically assessing evidence is key to that. 

Credit for the picture as always to the exceptional Simon Heath 

4 thoughts on “Defence of the #HR Dark Arts

  1. And the critical friend who happens to be the COO says…

    “Hold on HR… last week it was Neuroscience & the week before that you said we had to reinvent performance – the process you invented and now is apparently pointless (you can hear our managers words can’t you?). Now you’re telling me it’s something called EBM… Oh and you’ve been to an HR conference haven’t you…?

    I think I might just wait to see what your next latest fad is whilst I stay focused on our people & the business. Actually, don’t call me, I’ll call you. Oh and please do forget that workshop on business ethics. I’ve got a better handle on that now.”

    Tongue firmly in cheek but…


  2. Interesting to hear the CIPD will do more work on the topic of ethics in 2017 and real-life examples of the US election, Brexit and the EU, where leadership candidates have arguable gone further than stretching a few positives.

    Is this reflecting actions in society as a whole and do these examples signal an erosion of our collective ethical values?


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