For as long as I can remember - 30 years in HR - there have always been regular surveys and studies purporting to tell us how effective HR is and what impact it is having.
In his five years as assistant director-general at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), Duncan Brown used significant amounts of members' subscriptions to commission numerous academic studies, only to conclude that HR was an unfathomable 'black box'.
Even as recently as November 2007, having left to join consultancy PwC, he was still exhorting new CIPD chief executive Jackie Orme to put 'demonstrating business impact' at the top of her list of priorities - a clear admission that during his tenure, the CIPD never achieved this goal. Brown also added that "The CIPD needs to address the shortage of quality senior HR executive development programmes" - a classic case of do what I say, not what I actually did.
Body of evidence
One very obvious point that seems to have eluded all those who commission such studies is that they are inherently self-defeating. If these studies had ever convinced anyone in the past, they would no longer be necessary now. Furthermore, the definition of a 'quality senior HR' executive should mean those who come with convincing evidence of their impact.
This leads us to exactly where we need to be in HR management - we have to become evidence-based. Not as an academic exercise after the event, but as a complete change in the way HR directors think and see the world. Evidence-based HR management is about a healthily sceptical attitude to what works and what doesn't. The leading proponents of this exciting development are Jeffrey Pfeffer and Bob Sutton at Stanford University, and their book Ha