Research is also used to evaluate HR practices and performance. Research is a systematic and scientific process of collecting information, analyzing the information and drawing conclusions for decision-making. At times the research may be advanced, relying on sophisticated designs and statistics. But whether information is rigorous or not, research seeks to improve the performance. There are two kinds of research- academic and applied. Academic research seeks answers to contribute to the existing body of knowledge. Application oriented research efforts are called applied research. For evaluating the HR performance applied research is conducted. There are following five kinds of applied research.
a) Comparative Approach: The research team compares its organisation (or division) with another organisation (or division) to uncover areas of poor performance. This approach commonly is used to compare the results of specific activities or programs. It helps detect areas of needed improvement.
b) Outside Authority Approach: The research team relies on the expertise of a consultant or published research findings as a standard against which activities or programs are evaluated. The consultant or research findings may help diagnose the causes of problems.
c) Statistical Approach: From existing records, the research team generates statistical standards against which activities and programs are evaluated. With these mathematical standards, the team may uncover errors while they are still minor.
d) Compliance Approach: By sampling elements of the human resource information system, the research team looks for deviations from laws and company policies or procedures. Through its fact –finding efforts, the team can determine whether there is compliance with company policies and legal regulations.
e) MbO Approach: When an MbO approach is applied to the human resources area, the research team can compare actual results with stated objectives. Areas of poor performance can be detected and reported.
A number of research methods are available that can be chosen to suit the research objectives. However, most research is conducted by using one or more of the following methods.
a) Interviews: Interview though time consuming provide very valuable information. It refers to a face-to-face discussion with managers and other employees to get information on a particular issue. Interview has several advantages.
- It provides an opportunity to verify information
- Information relating to motivation and commitment can best be sought by interview.
- It provides an opportunity to explain.
- It is a two-way interaction and hence provides one opportunity to get in-depth information.
Interviews of employees and managers offer research teams a powerful tool for collecting information about HR activities and identifying areas that need improvement. Criticisms and comments from interviews can help pinpoint perceptions and causes that can form the basis for departmental action. Likewise, suggestions by managers may reveal ways to provide them with better service. When the criticisms are valid, changes should be made. But when the HR department is correct, it may have to educate others in the organization by explaining the procedures that are being researched.
One useful variation of interview is Exit Interview. Such interviews are conducted when the employees has decided to leave the organizations. At this time the employees can very openly discuss problems issues and concerns because now he /she is not afraid of reprimanded by the authorities. Some extremely useful information can be gathered through exit interviews, which can be very handy in reviewing HR policies, identifying training needs and examine behavioural problems that are not easily identifiable.
b) Questionnaires: Since interviews are time consuming and costly and often are limited to only a few people, many HR departments use questionnaires to broaden the scope of their research. Also, questionnaires may lead to more candid answers than do face-to-face interviews. Besides being less costly questionnaires provide an opportunity to collect large amount of date in short period of time as they could be administered to a group. Questionnaires generally consist of a list of statement / items to which respondent responds by either saying yes or no or showing varying degrees of agreement/disagreement. However one major disadvantage of questionnaire is that it assumes that respondents can read and write in language used in the questionnaire. Hence they can be given to only literate people.
c) Secondary Source of Data: Both interviews and questionnaires require human beings to provide information. If the focus of research is to collect historical data perhaps the best source could be what is called as secondary source. Where data is available in published documents, government reports, journals and magazines, house magazines, minutes of the meetings and achieves etc. Such data can be extremely useful to examine trends in terms of growth or otherwise. Needless to say secondary source of data can be very handy method to collect specific information.