University of Southern California

Putting Some Science in HR
Marshall’s John Boudreau publishes book on evidence-based change
January 12, 2012 • by News at Marshall

Evidence, not intuition, guides effective human resources leadership. This approach, one that companies like Coca-Cola use to competitive advantage, is the subject of a new book, Transformative HR: How Great Companies Use Evidence-Based Change for Sustainable Advantage, written by John Boudreau, research director of the USC Marshall Center for Effective Organizations (CEO), and Ravin Jesuthasan, managing director and global practice leader for Towers Watson’s talent management practice.

"It is not uncommon for general managers to perceive HR issues as 'soft' or not rigorous," said Boudreau, professor of management and organization at the Marshall School of Business. "They may conclude that rigorous analysis and research aren’t needed or available to support their decisions about people, and they may rely on fads, fashions, opinions or just their own 'gut feel.' "

"Yet there is a vast research history on these issues — some of which has been established at the Center for Effective Organizations — that shows that people issues at work can be rigorously understood and studied, and that the results often provide guidance that is very helpful to organizational leaders," explained Boudreau.

In Transformative HR, Boudreau, a globally recognized researcher in the area of HR, a strategic adviser and the author of more than 60 publications, and Jesuthasan, who was named one of the top 25 most influential consultants in the world by Consulting magazine, defined the five principles of evidence-based change as: logic-driven analytics, segmentation, risk leverage, integration and synergy, and optimization. The book provides insights from nearly a dozen international companies and offers in-depth case studies of six, including Coca-Cola, Royal Bank of Canada, Ameriprise Financial and Royal Bank of Scotland.

The experiences of these organizations suggest how HR leaders can use a more scientific, analytical approach to manage talent in a way that creates an engaging workplace and drives effective strategies. Evidence-based change is not a new concept; the authors say they were inspired by evidence-based medicine, where health-care providers determine the most effective treatments based on research.

"When organizations rely on rigorous analysis of their own data to support decisions about human capital, they can achieve better results," Boudreau said.

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.