HR Pros – Stop it! Facts Really Don’t Matter

If I know one thing in life, it’s that HR Pros LOVE facts!

We are the Queens and Kings of CYA, and nothing covers your backside better than a whole bunch of facts written down on a form, with copies of emails, and signatures on forms that said you understood what you signed!  It’s HRs little piece of Heaven.

So, you can understand why this recent study from Dartmouth has me concerned:

For years my go-to source for downer studies of how our hard-wiring makes democracy hopeless has been Brendan Nyhan, an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth.

Nyan and his collaborators have been running experiments trying to answer this terrifying question about American voters: Do facts matter?

The answer, basically, is no. When people are misinformed, giving them facts to correct those errors only makes them cling to their beliefs more tenaciously.

Here’s some of what Nyhan found:

-People who thought WMDs were found in Iraq believed that misinformation even more strongly when they were shown a news story correcting it.

-People who thought George W. Bush banned all stem cell research kept thinking he did that even after they were shown an article saying that only some federally funded stem cell work was stopped.

-People who said the economy was the most important issue to them, and who disapproved of Obama’s economic record, were shown a graph of nonfarm employment over the prior year – a rising line, adding about a million jobs. They were asked whether the number of people with jobs had gone up, down or stayed about the same. Many, looking straight at the graph, said down.

-But if, before they were shown the graph, they were asked to write a few sentences about an experience that made them feel good about themselves, a significant number of them changed their minds about the economy. If you spend a few minutes affirming your self-worth, you’re more likely to say that the number of jobs increased.

Why is this research important to HR Pros?  It shows us that your facts aren’t really the most important factor in trying to influence a decision one way, or another.  As HR Pros we tend to get ready for the ‘big meeting’ by getting all of our facts in line and making graphs for the PowerPoint presentation.  When in reality, you should be working on your delivery.  You could present total B.S. but in a way that is persuasive and has a better chance of getting your way than presenting your facts in your normal way!

Let me put this another way — if your executives think your recruiting function is broken and you can’t find talent, you presenting facts that say otherwise, won’t change their mind. In fact, they actually might think you’re even worse than before! No matter how clear your facts tell a different story.  What do you need to do?  You need to do a better job marketing how your function has changed.  Make them believe you’re now different. Speak different, act different.  Even if you continue with the same processes, you need to develop an internal department marketing plan that you’re not the same department!

Our perception is our reality.

2 thoughts on “HR Pros – Stop it! Facts Really Don’t Matter

  1. Right on! This article reminded me of a classic statement made by one of my best bosses, “Don’t confuse me with the facts.” He understood that perception of the issue we were discussing would take precedent over whatever the facts may have been.

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