The truth will set you free; but first it will piss you off

“Would you accept to have surgery from a surgeon who never updates her skills?  Would you accept to take drugs that don’t help but have a lot of side effects? Would you accept it if an engineer lies about their degree as an engineer and builds an unstable bridge? Would you dare to fly with somebody who has never been trained as a pilot?”

The answer is clear NO!

Thus if we don’t accept substandard tests, instruments and measures in all these other avenues of life why do we accept these in Human Resource? That is the question Patrick Vemeren addresses in his TEDTALK.

I recently attended a seminar on organizational efficiency, it would be amiss to say my entire stay there was unproductive but one thing did strike me, that made me think back to Patrick Vermen and inspired this post.  We were asked to fill in a personality questionnaire based on the four temperaments test (Sanguine,  Melancholy, Choleric and Phlegmatic).

However this personality test is laden with various flaws, foremost among them it has the Barnum Effect, which is the tendency to accept as true types of information, such as character assessments or horoscopes, even when the information is so vague as to be worthless.

Which then lead me to seriously consider Patrick Vermerens hypothesis that quackery and pseudoscience can be very dangerous not only in fields like medicine but also in Human Resources. Vermerens in his talk thwarts the credibility of theories such as the  The Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)and Maslows Hierarchy of Needs, stating that they are based on no more than the whims of their creators.  Other scholars have found similar problems with the MBTI with editors of psychology today stating the following about its credibility;“When it comes to accuracy, if you put a horoscope on one end and a heart monitor on the other, the MBTI falls about halfway in between.” 

However, not all hope is lost as Vermeren states that they do exist scientifically credible H.R models that have statistically significant validity and reliability such as the 5 factor model of personality (OCEAN), the Work Sample Tests, and Situational Judgement Tests. He concludes that human resources as a field does not have to based on science but it can learn from its principles and methods of analysis.

This does ring true.Why should H.R practitioners accept less than the best especially if the famous dictum ‘people are our most important resource’ is thought to be true. Human Resource professionals have a significant impact on the lives of people and if the wrong models are used this can prove to be dangerous for not only individuals but entire organization at large!

They determine if someone will get a job that could possibly change their life and that of their loved ones; They determine performance management systems and assessments, this has an impact on people’s esteem and how they see themselves in relation to the organisation and determines the discrete effort individuals will put into place; They determine the ‘people policies’ in place which has an effect on organizational efficiency and effectiveness. Thus, there is a great need to place more stringent measures on not only practices but practitioners as well.

In the face of all of this, the question still stands ‘Can all human resource theories, concepts and practices be derived through scientific exploration?’

Watch Patrick Vemeren’s TedTalk