How to evaluate a human resources program (Toughest HR Question)

Business case should address the problem, common evaluation methods, application of current practices
By Yaseen Hemeda
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 07/17/2012

Question: As an HR professional, how can I go about creating a business case for the evaluation of an HR program?

Answer: Before embarking on a business case for the evaluation of an HR program, the human resources department should have a general understanding about what it hopes to achieve with the evaluation.

With the evaluation of a human resources information system (HRIS) package, for example, there may be a perception it is not performing up to expectations and an evaluation will help the HR department understand how best to use it to its full potential.

One of the challenges HR may be facing is the ability to respond to requests for critical information from senior management, which the HRIS should be able to support and generate.

Any evaluation needs to be looked at holistically in terms of how it impacts every other aspect of the organization because one evaluation can have an impact on other aspects of HR management.

There are a plethora of reasons for the evaluation of programs but, oftentimes, HR does not take the time to conduct evaluations because it’s busy fighting fires and doesn’t have enough resources to be proactive. The evaluation of HR programs should not be a departure from the norm — it needs to be a part of delivering a fully rendered HR service.

That being said, the best practice is to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of all HR programs, ideally, on an annual basis. It is important to communicate with senior management to understand whether they perceive a need for the evaluation of specific HR programs, and the best way to do this is through a business case.

HR professionals need to think about what information senior management needs to know in order to persuade these decision-makers about the importance of conducting an evaluation.

The business case should address the problem, common methods of evaluation and the application of current practices.

Making the business case

The first step in writing the business case is to articulate the purpose of the program, its original goals, how it contributes strategically to the organization, as well as any issues or problems with the program.

For example, an assessment of the job evaluation process would look to see if the factors used to determine a rating are correct. Are the questions accurate? Are the survey instruments that are returning information to the organization considered fair and reasonable by all stakeholders? Are positions ranked fairly?

If you were to do an evaluation of the job evaluation system, you could examine whether or not, or to what extent, the program provided results relating to gender and pay that were reliable, valid, measurable, unbiased and observable. It’s important to highlight why this is a high-priority item.

The second step is presenting information on what reputable literature tells us about the evaluation of this program. It is important to consult recent writings and research in the particular HR program.

Senior management will want to understand the issue within a context larger than just your organization. Presenting material on what external authorities have to say is paramount to making a convincing business case.

Also, although return on investment can be difficult to calculate, it should still be addressed — at least at a high level in the business case. This way, senior management can get a grip on the bottom-line impact.

The final step in the business case should outline not only what was found in the literature and what you know about the HR program, but focus on presenting the argument about why this program should be evaluated.

The argument for the evaluation of an HR program should show there is much to be gained by the organization — not just in terms of the financial rewards but also in terms of how it will result in a positive impact on employees, management and other stakeholders.

It is important to remember senior business leaders expect a high level of professionalism from HR, as well as sound business knowledge. The business case should be able to succinctly identify the issues at hand and provide enough content that illustrates clearly the basis of your analysis.

The most important part of the business case is being able to present the argument that this particular program should be evaluated.

Your proposal will likely be one of many crossing the boardroom table. It should typically not exceed two pages — it must be to-the-point and all content being presented should contribute meaningfully to the overall analysis.

Yaseen Hemeda is a product writer for Consult Carswell. He can be reached at yaseen.hemeda@thomsonreuters.com. For more information, visit www.consultcarswell.com.

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