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Does Evidence Require Quantification?

Reflecting on employee engagement "interventions" I have often debated the need for 'quantifying' the evidence. Often, this means carrying out a full blown survey to establish key engagement deficiencies.

Evidence is critical, yes. But this does not necessarily mean that you can’t raise employee engagement in the absence of quantification (which many confuse as the only possible way to produce evidence). Let’s take a patient analogy. A blood test (akin to our quantitative engagement survey) is advisable and recommended (as are multiple other medical tests) in that it would help diagnose our health condition. But even in the absence of medical tests, we can advise patients on a number of tried and tested healthy habits that can bring enormous health benefit. Stay away from processed foods and sugar, daily exercise, good sleep….all conducive to better health. If high cholesterol is established all the more reason to follow certain health rules or take medication…And there are some (admittedly insufficient) but useful tests one can do on the fly if they can’t do the full medical tests such as check the patient’s vitals - is he/she pale? is his/her tongue too white? Is his/her pulse weak etc (we don’t call them “pulse” surveys for nothing:). These can be likened to the initial exploration phase we conduct in an organisation, prior to designing an “intervention.” Or it can apply to 'pulse surveys' which are aimed at just checking a vital metric (see 'net promoter').

There is a broader debate in management around the need for management related "analytics". A subset of this concerns "people centered management practices" (dubbed "HR analytics") which are often conceptualised as powerful number crunching that can creates new insights to combat all sorts of organisational ills - high attrition, low productivity, absenteeism.

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