Principles and Theories of Evaluation: Reflections from Human Resources Professionals by Beverly Peters, Corlene Dixon, Diane Hamilton, and Kenya Richardson-El

Hello! I’m Beverly Peters, faculty member in Measurement and Evaluation at American University. I am here today with three students from our Human Resource Analytics and Management (HRAM) program: Corlene Dixon, Diane Hamilton, and Kenya Richardson-El. These three students recently took my Principles and Theories in Evaluation course as an elective in their HRAM Master’s program. They came into the course without an evaluation background; yet their reflections provide with four broad lessons learned for our colleagues in HRAM.

Lesson 1: Evaluation Theories

While so much about HRAM is analytical, iterative, and requires stakeholder engagement, evaluation provides new frameworks for thinking about processes, priorities, and attribution. We now question our metrics and data collection. Our work oftentimes shows statistical predictions, but we also must consider the relevance of those predictions as seen through different theoretical perspectives.   

Lesson 2: Theories of Change

If an organization cannot appropriately measure whether an approach is related to a change, then to continue the approach could be a misguided, perhaps even harmful, endeavor. We must consider circumstance and emergence in our organizations, rather than simply benchmark and generalize. This will support necessary change for business and industry.

Lesson 3: Logic Models

Learning how to create logic models showed us how to think in a framework of inputs and outputs. As HRAM professionals, we are often asked to link the benefits of a new initiative to inputs, including time and budget. The logic model directly links activities to outputs and outcomes, and helps plan, monitor, and evaluate HR efforts. Many HR surveys include questions that are poorly aligned with desired results; logic models help to define indicators that will measure change and contribute to organizational decision making.

Lesson 4: Culturally Responsive Equitable Evaluation (CREE)

The application of CREE principles is key to our work in HRAM. The intersection of CREE and compensation and benefits reminds us to disaggregate intersections to better analyze pay gap data. We also must remember cultural differences when selecting benefits that would be appropriate for various employee groups. With four generations in the workforce today, centering and amplifying marginalized voices is key to achieve greater justice and equity in the workplace. As the generations of groups age, their attitudes and practices within the workplace differ from the other generations. With CREE, ongoing communication within the workplace can be utilized in keeping an organization open and free, as well as being useful in bridging the gaps within the four generational cohorts present in the workplace today.

Overall, as HRAM professionals, we want to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion is always present in all HR functions and the employee performance measurement process. Using our newfound knowledge in evaluation, we now realize the need to support a deep dive into the disaggregated impact of workplace efforts in the justice, equity, and inclusion arena. We must ask questions such as:

  • How are diversity statements actually experienced by potential hires (that may never apply)?
  • How are training programs differentially taxing to workers with lived experience outside of existing power structures?
  • When turnover is demographically disproportionate, are organizations able to identify key drivers for those metrics?
  • When data insights are programmed into digital inclusion learning methods, are the models reliable and appropriately triangulated?

Critically analyzing our HRAM practices, and applying principles and theories of evaluation to them, will contribute the next chapter of organizational growth that supports HR functions, all employees, and efforts towards equity and justice.


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