What can the Oscar-nominated 2011 movie Moneyball (yes, that movie – the one with Brad Pitt) teach you about better decision-making?
It turns out, a lot.
If you don't know the basic story, Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane turns the recruiting and hiring efforts of his organization (and eventually all of professional sports) on its head. Rather than making decisions based on star-appeal, decision making was being made based on analytical, numbers-driven approach to building a world class team.
- the building blocks and high-level processes to adopt this methodology to specific needs of your agency,
- how competencies are involved in each step of the HR process,
- how to determine competencies based on job titles,
- the use of behavioral based interviews,
- embedding competencies into performance evaluations and merit awards,
- and how adoption of these tools will improve moral for managers, supervisors, and staff.
(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
Justice Clearinghouse Editors (JCH): Your webinar is titled “Competency Based Human Resourcing.” Help us understand what that is within the context of your average justice organization.
Mark Hendershot: Many organizations, especially those that have been around for a long time or are part of an established hierarchy (bureaucracy) are entrenched in historic practices. These probably don’t integrate important building blocks of organizations such as values, how we hire, how we evaluate performance and how we report outcomes.
Using competency based practices establishes a hub of consistency that runs across all the main spokes of the organization. Competencies are those traits that exemplify the employee who is best suited to succeed as defined by your agencies mission and vision and values. Those competencies are the basis for creating HR job titles and classifications, and the substances of how performance appraisals are equally and fairly conducted and support the activities that produce measurable outcomes to report to governing boards.
JCH: “Evidence Based Practices” has become such a buzzword today… Why are evidence-based practices becoming so important to governmental organizations – particularly now?
Mark: Evidence Based Practice is just a fancy way of saying that we use quantifiable data to make good business decisions. I prefer to say data-driven decision making rather than EBP.
In Moneyball, it meant looking at a ball player’s statistics to make informed decisions for putting together the best possible team.
In community corrections and correctional institutions, it means that we use academically validated (criminogenic) assessments that have stood up to evaluations to fairly and uniformly assess the clients we are charged with helping to productively adapt to society standards.
Those assessments produce measurable scores and priorities that inform how to assemble plans to produce real outcomes that show clients reduce their risk to re-offend and commit fewer technical violations such as substance abuse, to avoid reincarceration.
It is proven, that if good assessments are conducted in a timely manner, and that case planning is based on the assessments, and that if the objectives of that well-assembled case plan are the substance of the work between the PO/social worker, and that a professional level of trust can be established that an agency can significantly lower and incarceration and recidivism rates and maintain those gains.
“People … operate with beliefs and biases.
To the extent you can eliminate both and replace them with data,
you gain a clear advantage.”
Michael Lewis, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game
JCH: Why is this such a critical issue to justice – or even the broader public service/governmental – arena in today’s hiring environment?
Mark: With competencies, it’s about hiring PO’s who are best suited to encourage, coach and mentor people to work toward goals to help them succeed and become productive. Today’s hiring environment is changing for many reasons. Even police departments are acknowledging that we cannot arrest and detain ourselves out of the crime problem. The average detainment is about three years. All of the evidence shows that incarceration increases a person’s risk of committing new offenses, that it severely impedes their ability to become employed and it results in fractured families which create an even larger drain on community resources as does the cost of incarceration itself. By failing to treat social problems early, we make people worse, add to government dependency and create more risk in the community.
JCH: What drew you to this particular area of work?
Mark: For me it was a 'happenchance' blend of my school studies, working in the field and seeing traditional methods that didn’t work, and the good fortune of working for luminaries who embraced the literature and research and pointed me in the direction of the facts.
"If you challenge conventional wisdom,
you will find ways to do things much better
than they are currently done."
Michael Lewis, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game
JCH: A large number of our readers and subscribers are in law enforcement, but we have representation from all parts of the justice arena. Can you share some specifics of what different types of justice professionals or first responders will gain by attending your webinar? What skills or new knowledge will they gain that they can immediately use the next day on the job?
Mark: Building a competency library is specific to the organization, their beliefs, values, and mission. That is the core upon which every competency must align. It applies to all equally whether police, fire, EMT, medical, treatment, you name it. When it is understood what an agency is chartered to achieve, and when the expected outcomes are known it becomes easier to define the employee that can thrive in that organization. Competencies produce an even playing field, establish clear objectives and expectations and facilitate fairness to build an effective organization.