Thinking About Your HR Thinking: The Tool of Metacognition

by Michael Haberman on February 11, 2008 · 0 comments


Rob May, writer of the Businesspundit blog wrote about a personal subject for him that has nothing to do with HR. But in his blog he mentions the concept of METACOGNITION. He states “Metacognition occurs when you think about your thinking. It means that instead of just analyzing evidence at face value, you start to ask questions about why you favor certain facts over others. You think about whether or not you have emotions, cognitive biases, peer pressures, or other things that are affecting your thought processes. You ask yourself if you would think something different if the roles were reversed, if you had a better day, if you had not had such a bad experience last time.”

His definition got me to thinking of metacognition as a great tool for the human resources professional. It is a very good thing sometimes to question why you think the way you do. Is your thinking grounded in fact or just what you believe to be fact? Do you have underlying biases about employees, applicants, groups, backgrounds, etc. that should be questioned? Do you do things because the peer pressure (or boss pressure) is there to do it that way?

If you are an effective behavioral interviewer you are already somewhat trained to do this in that you are trained to question your “gut” feeling on someone. Why not extend this to all of the rest of your HR work?

So plan to go through the exercise of metacognition and question your HR practices. Ask yourself:

  • Why do we do things the way we do here?
  • Why do we hire whom we hire?
  • Do I have biases that get acted on in our HR processes?
  • How would I see what we do if I were on the outside looking in?

Try it out and get a fresh perspective. Oh, by the way, having someone come in from the outside can be helpful in asking some of those tough questions if you can’t do it yourself.

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