Amid ‘Fads and Frauds’ in HR, Burke LAI Stands Out as a True Measure

I first met Talent Quarterly Magazine founder and publisher Marc Effron a few years ago at a seminar, where he was discussing his book, One Page Talent Management.

There, I got a taste of Marc’s approach – edgy but respectful. One Page Talent Management, for example, challenged readers and the organizations for whom they work to throw out the bulky three-ring binders containing talent management programs and reduce the volumes of information to one page.

I didn’t agree with everything he said, but he certainly gave me a lot to think about.

Marc and another friend of mine, Jim Shanley, former HR VP at Bank of America went on to develop a one-week program, showing participants how to create a Talent Management Program for their organizations.

Marc has gone a step further in his unique, no-nonsense approach with Talent Quarterly, taking a more aggressive swipe at what some might see as more conventional Human Resources beliefs and assumptions.  Please note: If you do not subscribe to Talent Quarterly Magazine, then you will not be able to read the article by Dr. Warner Burke titled “Where are the Agile Learners?” that I will be discussing.

This is where Marc and I strongly agree. Many things people in Human Resources say and do make me shudder. The supposed experts and advocates for an organization’s employees are, in many cases, woefully unable to respond to more sophisticated questions about some of the HR tools they use.  I am talking specifically here about tests used for selection, development, training, coaching and succession.

I am certainly not suggesting that everyone in HR has a degree in statistics or industrial/organizational psychology. But if you don’t have the expertise, you need to hire someone who can help you make those distinctions. At a minimum, you need to know which questions to ask.  Does the test have a technical report? If the answer is no, stop the conversation. It would not meet the minimum acceptable standards for a legitimate test.

Back to Talent Quarterly – the most recent issue is called, “The Bullsh*t Issue”… not a lot left to the imagination! The subheading is “The 12 Biggest Fads and Frauds in Talent Management Today.” Marc and the other contributors attempt to dispel some common myths and accepted beliefs floating around in talent management.  He then goes on to identify legitimate talent management tools and explain what makes them so.

In his article for this issue, Burke describes the five years of research he conducted to develop the Burke Learning Agility Inventory™ (Burke LAI™). The article, “Where are the Agile Learners?”, stops short of mentioning the tool itself – the Burke LAI – but it does cover Burke’s work, beginning with understanding the literature around learning agility. This allows a researcher to understand what work has preceded their own and add to that work.

Previous work by D. Scott DeRue at the University of Michigan identified two dimensions associated with learning agility – Flexibility and Speed. In his review of that literature and by the use of statistical processes, Burke ended up with 9 dimensions, defined by 38 items.

In addition to the DeRue identified – Flexibility and Speed, Burke’s developed seven more dimensions:

  • Experimenting
  • Performance Risk Taking
  • Information Gathering
  • Interpersonal Risk Taking
  • Collaborating
  • Feedback Seeking
  • Reflecting

Armed with a set of questions, Burke set out to establish the test’s validity. Three types of validity research were conducted: Convergent, Discriminant and Predictive.

Convergent validity is used to establish that you are measuring what you set out to measure, in this case learning agility.

Discriminant validity tests whether something that is not supposed to relate to something else does not in actuality. The nine dimensions are, in fact, nine separate entities.

Predictive validity measures whether the people who perform better on the test are, indeed, better performers on the job. The two sets of data are collected separately, then correlated.

As you can imagine, all this research takes a lot of time, five years in Burke’s case. But at the end of the long process, you have a test that measures what it claims to measure and can be used for its intended purpose. In this case people who perform better on the Burke LAI will be more learning agile and perform better on the job.

Considering the amount and extent of research and validation that went into the Burke LAI, it’s not surprising that Talent Quarterly would recognize the tool as a true measure of Learning Agility and not a “fad or fraud” like some others.

David Hoff is the chief operation officer and executive vice president for leadership development at EASI•Consult®. EASI•Consult® works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. EASI•Consult specialties include individual assessment, online employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about EASI•Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email ContactUs@easiconsult.com or call 800.922.EASI.


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