A six-step guide for evidence-based human resources

14 January 2021 Consultancy.eu 2 min. read

Evidence-based human resources (HR) uses data, analysis, and research to understand the connection between people management practices and business outcomes, such as profitability, productivity, customer satisfaction, and quality. Experts from KPMG provide a step-by-step guide on how companies can put this approach into practice. 

Identify a business challenge

The first step is to identify a business challenge, for example, measuring productivity of remote employees.

Develop your hypothesis

The next step is to identify the hypothesis. For example, traditional measures of productivity are based on “old world” models of presence and participation; there could be a new model of productivity based on mindset, formal virtual collaboration processes, and engagement through the freedom to choose work patterns. HR and senior leaders can then work together to formulate the right hypothesis to test.

A six-step guide for evidence-based human resources

Understand your data

Identify what data you have and what you need. For example, we have HR and workforce data; we need financial performance and collaboration data from participation on a crowdsourcing platform. 

Analyse the data

What is the data telling you? Think about the most engaging way to visualise the analysis so leaders can understand and remember the implications. Key here is that the data must be revealed through stories just as much as with ‘fancy graphics’. The metaphor is the front page of a newspaper and the aim is to ensure executives ‘feel’ the insights at an emotional level just as much as they may comprehend them intellectually. This is genuine ‘data artistry’. 


Validate the data and findings with internal and external sources. If the data is validated, move on. If not, go back to step two. Senior leaders in HR and line managers can work together to develop and test any new hypotheses. 

Leverage the insight into business decisions

Run a pilot to test conclusions before going company wide. A pilot in this scenario might include a requirement for all employees to regularly participate on a crowdsourcing platform for idea generation and issue exploration.

Continuously leverage an evidence-based HR approach

To bridge the ‘knowing-doing gap’, adapt the HR Operating Model to incorporate evidence-based practices. This includes reimagining decision structures, e.g., who gets to see what information; information flows between HR and business unit leaders; roles and responsibilities; and skills of senior people leaders in understanding data, storytelling, and moving from insight to action using persuasion and data artistry.