What Works?

“Personal anecdote trumps data.” F. Joseph Merlino

Unfortunately, that has been the case in terms of measuring the effectiveness of education materials. But today there is What Works, a clearing-house of educational tools ("programs, products, practices and policies") that have been tested using the research methodologies (e.g., double blind clinical trials) usually used in the medical industry.

Interestingly, the non-profit world is also facing a similar dilemma.  Are their efforts effective?  While they are dealing with a lot of push-back, mainly of the "the transformation of lives can't be measure" kind, it would be interesting to see if they will adopt more rigorous testing.  For an interesting story on the challenges faced by non-profits/philanthropy in this regard, see this American Life episode.

Finally, and more important to me, I would like to see soft skill development subjected to the same type of rigor.  How can we help people develop skills like self-awareness and how do we measure whether or not our efforts were effective?  I believe companies are a great starting ground for this type of exploration and "workforce science" seems to be a good start, though less focused right now on soft skills, as opposed to technical training.



The Quantified Employee

What's next in the data world? The Quantified Employee. The article talks about quantification around influence ala Klout. But that's not how I see it. I think we will start to see more skill based quantification like ongoing education and professional development credit or certification. Peer ranking is inherently problematic in an organization. I believe it's useful as an input, but really has to be a part of other metrics.

I predict we'll see more software that tracks an employee's progress within an organization based on skill building, goal setting and achievement, and eventually other HR metrics, like vacation days taken and of course, peer reviews.

The first step will be data gathering and the enterprise will face the tough data privacy issues that we're only beginning to talk about in the public arena - like should results from a background check be a part of your "data" HR file. The goal, of course, will be to optimize hiring and retention, but the data required to answer important organizational questions may reach beyond the work place.

What do you think?