Rely on the Evidence In Decision-Making

To illustrate how individual perceptions can affect business, researchers at U.K.-based talent development company Silent Edge Ltd. asked 61 managers and trainers to rate a DVD of a senior-level manager conducting a meeting. They were asked to rate the manager on 26 competencies on a scale of 1 to 10. The average scores ranged from 16 to 64 percent, a fourfold difference for the same skills, knowledge and behaviors.

This variation of opinion raises issues for performance and productivity. Under such subjective influence, there is a risk that the wrong decisions may be made. Choosing new hires based on likability rather than capability can mean that they lack vital skills, while leaving managers to guess at employees’ development requirements may result in training that fails to address their true needs.

Professional services firm Deloitte estimates that replacing an employee can cost up to double the departing employee’s salary. Also, Silent Edge research shows that 22 percent of new hires are less than 50 percent successful. If processes are dominated by personal opinion, onboarding and development initiatives are unlikely to be effective.

To prevent this, companies can use mechanisms that help them make important decisions using reliable, objective evidence from a competency framework.

Two vital principles of W. Edwards Deming’s 1986 book on good management practice, “Out of the Crisis,” focus on improving the quality and process of management: “improve constantly and forever” and “eliminate management by objectives.” Both sit well with competency measurement; they create a control for excellence and development throughout organizations.

By defining the specific skills, knowledge and actions that make up each competency, organizations are able to create a benchmark to measure employees. Performance is evaluated on whether aspects of set competencies are displayed, leaving no opportunity for personal opinion or bias to enter the mix while also providing a safeguard against misinterpretation.

The advantage of this process is that it generates accurate information that can be used to make talent decisions. Organizations can select new hires according to their suitability for the role, formulate development plans that target individual needs and advance the right people throughout the organization.

In effect, the evidence-based method will give organizations the means to improve their talent management, minimizing errors and maximizing success.

As the current climate opens up the realms of possibility for both organizations and employees, holding onto and developing top talent will be a key focus.

Catherine Luff is a marketing communications executive at U.K.-based talent development firm Silent Edge Ltd. She can be reached at