Thursday, February 12, 2015

"Power posing" impacts interview performance

Many people have watched Amy Cuddy's riveting TED talk on how body language impacts thought processes.  Specifically, over 23.5 million people as of today have watched that particular video, millions more through YouTube and other outlets.

In the presentation she specifically talks about how "power posing"--standing in a way that denotes confidence (hands on hips)--impacts testosterone and cortisol levels and ultimately behavior.

In an upcoming issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology, Cuddy and her colleagues describe the results of an experiment where university students were told to adopt either a high-power (shown on left) or low-power (shown on right) posture:


They were instructed to stand in this pose for 5-6 minutes while preparing for a job interview speech.  They then delivered said speech, which was videotaped, to two evaluators/interviewers.  These evaluators subsequently rated the participants on (a) performance, and (b) hirability.  They also judged the participants on their verbal and nonverbal behavior.

Results (N=61)?  Those who prepared for their speech while in a high-power pose were rated significantly higher (p<.01) on both factors than those who prepared in a low-power pose.  And the results could not be explained by nonverbal behavior in the interview itself.  Per the authors, "Compared to low-power posers, high-power posers appeared to better maintain their composure, project more confidence, and present more captivating and enthusiastic speeches, which led to higher overall performance evaluations."

This suggest, in the words of the authors, "By nonverbally manipulating their own sense of power, the high-power posers were effectively imbued with the psychological and physiological advantages typically associated with high power, despite their low-power position relative to the evaluators."

So what does this mean?  I believe it has several important implications.  First, it indicates a potential source of "error", akin to test anxiety, that may impact assessment performance.  Second, it suggests a potential avenue that those plagued by test anxiety may pursue to increase their chances of success.  This includes those who experience stereotype threat.  Third, it may help explain why even a "perfect" measurement of job-related KSAs does not yield a perfect correlation with performance (I'm thinking of similar confounding effects like mood or physical appearance).

You can read what appears to be the submitted version here.  I recommend reading it as well as the excellent TED talk if this subject interests you.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Federal civil service reform is HR reform

Texas.  Georgia.  Washington.  Florida.  California.

What do these states have in common?  They are some of the states that have undertaken civil service reform in an attempt to modernize and streamline all those laws and rules associated with human resources.

The U.S. federal government is no stranger to reform efforts either.  In the latest issue of Government Executive magazine, there is an interesting article about the challenges associated with the current state of affairs in the U.S. federal civil service--the largest employer in the world.  Things like excessively long time-to-hire, outdated hiring rules, and onerous discipline systems.  There are efforts afoot (again) to fix this.

They could very easily have been talking about state or local civil service systems.  Or--in many places--HR in general.

Here are some selected quotes.  See if any of them sound familiar...

"...'if you don’t view your HR specialist as a consultant prior to posting the vacancy announcements, then you are going to get people who are not qualified for your job.'"

"USAJobs, the government’s online warehouse of job vacancies, is still difficult to navigate and lacks sophisticated search capabilities to help applicants find positions that meet their interests and qualifications."

“'What we’ve seen across managers,...they are almost sourcing a unicorn...They could be looking at too technical or specialized of a skill set, or they are looking for too many competencies or experiences creating this kind of applicant that we can’t actually find.'”

"When HR and program supervisors work closely throughout the hiring process, communicating at every stage, it increases the likelihood that the system works the way it should: fairly, as expeditiously as possible, and yielding the most qualified candidates for the job."

It's worth a read, and I bet many of you will find much that resonates.  None of the principles behind reform are particularly revolutionary, but for various reasons many organizations have difficulty getting it right.  There are no shortcuts to outstanding HR systems, and only those organizations that recognize the strategic and competitive value inherent in a talented, engaged workforce will put the required resources into ensuring that it's done right.

Next time: research update

Sunday, January 04, 2015

2014 Research of the Year (+ research update)


Happy New Year!  As I've done in previous years, I present below the research articles I ran across in this area that I think were the most impactful and/or important of 2014.  But first, let's catch up on two issues:

First, the Winter issue of Personnel Psychology:

- Situational judgment tests have been shown to be useful for measuring interpersonal skills, but beware: levels of "angry hostility" moderate that relationship.  (Is there a happy hostility?)

- When hiring leaders, should you look for those that have a busy home life, or be wary of them?  In this fascinating study, the authors found that leader family-to-work conflict negatively impacts followers in that it can increase their burnout. However, family-to-work enrichment increased follower engagement through leader engagement.  So the answer is, as usual, not simple: home/family life can be a good thing for followers if it makes the leader more engaged; but if the home/family life is increasing burnout, the leader may pass that along to others.  So it would seem it all depends on how the individual is handling their life outside of work!

Let's look at the November issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology:

- Are men or women perceived as better leaders?  According to this meta-analysis, it depends on how you ask the question.  If you limit the question to other-ratings, women are rated significantly higher.  But if you look at self-ratings, men rate themselves significantly higher.  Which leads to the next question: is it a biological perception or a gender perception, and if the latter, what traits are the most important?

- An intriguing study of how applicant confidence interacts with and can be altered by the recruitment experience, in this case among recruits for the U.S. military.

- Next, a study of employment and job search efficacy.  Not surprisingly, within-person frequency of job search behavior correlated with job offers; interestingly, the relationship between perceived job search progress and efficacy beliefs were moderated by beliefs of internal attribution.

- Last but not least, more evidence of the importance of defining the criteria when predicting job performance.  In this meta-analysis, the researchers found more support for personality traits out-predicting cognitive ability in predicting counterproductive work behavior, that the two predictors are approximately equal in predicting organizational citizenship behaviors, and that cognitive ability outperforms personality when predicting task and overall performance.  So do you want high task performance, OCBs, or do you want to avoid CWB?  :)  (of course the situation is even more complicated depending on whether you're looking at individual, team, leader performance, over what period of time, etc.)


Okay, on to the awards!  Without further ado, here are my nominations for Research of the Year for 2014:

1) Important advancements in our understanding of weight-based discrimination at work: Vanhove & Gordon.

2) A study of applicants posting faux pas on their social networking sites: Roulin.

3) Two important looks at assessments delivered remotely via mobile devices: Arthur, Doverspike, Munoz, Taylor, & Carr, and Morelli, Mahan, & Illingworth.

4) Two fascinating looks at personality at work: Judge, Simon, Hurst, & Kelley; and Wille & De Fruyt

5) An excellent study of how effective staffing and training practices impact firm-level flexibility and adaptability: Kim & Ployhart.

6) An important study of the movement of impactful I/O researchers to business schools: Aguinis, Bradley, & Brodersen.

7) The relationship between conscientiousness and job performance is more accurately described as curvilinear: Carter, Dalal, Boyce, O'Connell, Kung & Delgado

Finally, honorable mention to two great developments in 2014:  the change of some publishers to making access to articles more affordable, and the announcement of an additional journal, the Journal of Personnel Assessment and Decisions.


I'm continually amazed at the quality of thought and research in our area and the passion and practicality you exhibit.  Here's to an amazing 2014 and more in 2015!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Why leadership in the public sector is harder to find--but more important

Occasionally I post about things that are related to recruitment and assessment, but not focused exclusively on them.  This is one of those times.

I have the following quote from Valve Software's New Employee Handbook (a fascinating document) posted on my office door:

"Hiring well is the most important thing in the universe.
Nothing else comes close. It’s more important than breathing.
So when you’re working on hiring—participating in
an interview loop or innovating in the general area of
recruiting—everything else you could be doing is stupid
and should be ignored!"

The older I get, the more I wonder whether I should cross out "hiring" and write in "leadership".  I just can't bring myself to do it because they're both so darn important.

But this post will be about leadership.  Specifically, leadership in the public (i.e., government) sector.  More specifically, lack of leadership and what to do about it.  I don't pretend that leaders in the private sector are uniformly outstanding, but public sector is what I'm most familiar with.

First things first: in some important ways, leadership in the public sector (PS) is different from the private sector.  Not night-and-day I grant you, but there are some relatively unique boundary conditions that apply, namely:

- Not only are PS leaders bound by normal organizational policies and procedures, they labor under an additional layer of laws and rules, whether federal, state, or local.  Unlike policies and procedures, they cannot be easily changed--in fact in many cases this requires moving heaven and earth.  As one (very important) example, typically there are laws/rules about how you can hire someone.  Many of these laws and rules were created 50+ years ago in reaction to spoils systems and haven't been seriously evaluated since.

- Many PS employees have civil service protections.  This isn't a bad thing, but it means moving employee that are bad fits (either over or out) is difficult.  This greatly inhibits your talent mobility strategy.

- In the PS, leadership is often treated as an afterthought, rather than the linchpin upon which organizational success relies.  The assumption seems to be that the organizational systems and processes are so strong that it almost doesn't matter who's in charge.  This means things like leadership development and training are half-hearted.

These conditions combine with several other factors to result in true leadership being relatively rare in the PS:

- Failure is invisible.  There is very little measurement of leadership success and very little transparency and accountability, absent a media storm.

- There are fewer people in management positions that have the important leadership competencies.  Things like listening ability, strategic planning ability, and emotional intelligence.  Instead they are usually chosen based on technical ability and without the benefit of rigorous assessment results.

- There is a lack of understanding of leadership.  This stems from the lack of attention paid to it as a serious discipline; without operational definitions of leadership, there is no measurement and no accountability.

- An unwillingness to treat leadership seriously.  For whatever reasons--politics, lack of motivation, entrenched cultures--leadership is relegated to second-class status when it comes to analyzing department/agency success.  Focus tends to rest on line-level employees, technology, and unions--and only on top-level leaders when there is a phenomenally bad outcome.

So why is leadership more important in the PS than the private sector?

- Governments regulate many aspects of our lives.  They're not making consumer products.  Leaders in PS organizations have purview over things like public safety, the environment, education, housing, and taxes.  Things you literally touch every day.

- There is less accountability, less transparency.  PS leaders often do not report to a board.  They don't have to produce annual reports that detail their successes and failures.  What they do is often mysterious, poorly defined, and rarely sees the light of day.

- PS leaders work for you.  Elected or not, their salary typically comes from taxpayers.  They ultimately report to the citizens.  This means you should care about what they're doing, and whether they are worthy stewards of your investment.

So what can be done?  Much like the answer to "how do we hire well?", the answers are known.  They're just not practiced very well:

1.  Publicly acknowledge the scope of the problem.  Like frogs in a pot, somehow we find ourselves in a situation where slowly over time the current situation is accepted as normal.  It's time to stop pretending that all PS Managers are leaders.  They're not.  And we must look in the mirror ourselves and acknowledge that we are likely part of the problem.

2.  Acknowledge the urgency to improve.  Stop pretending that leadership is a secondary concern.  Sub-par leadership has a negative impact on our lives every day.  Improving the quality of that leadership is one of the most critical things we can do as a society.

3.  Publicly commit to change, and actually follow through.  Specifically describe what you will change, and when, and provide regular status updates.

4.  Define leadership in measurable terms and behaviors.  Here's just a sample list of what real leaders  do (and not a particularly good one);

= continuously improve operations
= champion and reward innovation
= hold their people accountable for meeting SMART goals
= continually seek feedback and signs of their own success and failure
= create and sustain a culture that attracts high performers and dissuades poor fits
= make hiring and promoting the most qualified people THE most important part of their job

5.  Hire and promote those with leadership competencies, not the best technicians.  While knowledge of the work being performed is important, it is far from the most important competency.

6.  Make the topic of leadership a core activity for every management team.  Eliminate "information sharing" meetings and replace them with discussions on how to be better leaders.

7.  Set clear goals of leaders up front, and hold them accountable.  What does this mean?

= consequences for hiring poor fits
= consequences for poor morale on their team
= consequences for not setting and meeting SMART goals
= recognition for doing all of the above well

8.  Measure leadership success and make the results transparent.  Develop plans to address gaps and follow through.

9.  Instill a culture of boldness and innovation.  Banish fear, often borne of laboring under layers of red tape.  Encourage risk-taking, and learn from mistakes rather than punishing them.

10.  Relentlessly seek out and banish inefficiencies, especially related to the use of time.  Critically evaluate how email and meetings are used; establish rules regarding their use.

11.  Stop pretending that all of this applies only to first-line supervisors.  If anything, they're more important the higher you go in the organizational chart.

12.  When it comes to recruiting, stop focusing on low relative salaries, and capitalize on the enormous benefit of the PS an employer--namely the mission of public service.

13.  View leadership as a competency, not a position.  Leadership behaviors can be found everywhere in an organization--they should be recognized and promoted.


My intent here is not to be a downer, but to emphasize how much more focus needs to be placed on leadership in the public sector.  The current state of affairs is unacceptable.  And for those of us familiar with research and best practices in organizational behavior, it's painful.

So I apologize for the decidedly un-Thanksgivingy nature of this post.  But I am thankful for free speech and open minds.  Thanks for reading.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Just kidding...more research update!

Seriously?  Just yesterday I did my research update, ending with a note that the December 2014 issue of the International Journal of Selection and Assessment should be out soon.

Guess what?  It came out today.

So that means--you guessed it--another research update!  :)

- First, a test of Spearman's hypothesis, which states that the magnitude of White-Black mean differences on tests of cognitive ability vary with the test's g loading.  Using a large sample of GATB test-takers, these authors found support for Spearman's hypothesis, and that reducing g saturation lowered validity and increased prediction errors.

So does that mean practitioners have to choose between high-validity tests of ability or increasing the diversity of their candidate pool?  Not so fast.  Remember...there are other options.

- Next, international (Croatian) support for the Conditional Reasoning Test of Aggression, which can be used to predict counterproductive work behaviors.  I can see this increasingly being something employers are interested in.

- Applicants that do well on tests have favorable impressions of them, while those that do poorly don't like them.  Right?  Not necessarily.  These researchers found that above and beyond how people actually did on a test, certain individual differences predict applicant reactions, and suggest these be taken into account when designing assessments.

- Although personality testing continues to be one of the most popular topics, concerns remain about applicants "faking" their responses (i.e., trying to game the test by responding inaccurately but hopefully increase the chances of obtaining the job).  This study investigates the use of blatant extreme responding, consistently selecting the highest or lowest response option, to detect faking, and looked at how this behavior correlated with cognitive ability, other measures of faking, and demographic factors (level of job, race, and gender).

- Next, a study of assessment center practices in Indonesia.

- Do individuals high in neuroticism have higher or lower job performance?  Many would guess lower performance, but according to this research, the impact of neuroticism on job performance is moderated by job characteristics.  This supports the more nuanced view that the relationship between personality traits and performance is in many cases non-linear and depends on how performance is conceptualized.

- ...which leads oh so nicely into the next article!  In it, the authors studied air traffic controllers and found results consistent with previous studies--ability primarily predicted task performance while personality better predicted citizenship behavior.  Which raises an interesting question: which version of "performance" are you interested in?  My guess is for many employers the answer is both--which suggests of course using multiple methods when assessing candidates.

- Last but not least, an important study of using cognitive ability and personality to predict job performance in a three studies of Chilean organizations.  Results were consistent with studies conducted elsewhere, namely ability and personality significantly predicted performance.

Okay, I think that's it for now!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Research update

Okay, so it been a couple months, huh?  Well, what say we do a research update then.

But before I dive in, I discovered something interesting and important.  Longtime readers know that one of my biggest pet peeves is how difficult research articles are to get a hold of.  And by difficult I mean expensive.  Historically, unless you were affiliated with a research institution or were a subscriber, you had to pay exorbitant (IMHO) fees to see research articles.  So imagine my pleasure when I discovered that at least one publisher--Wiley, who publishes several of the research journals in this area--now allows you to read-access for an article for as low as $6.  Now that's only for 48 hours and you can't print it, but hey--that's a heck of a lot better than something like $30-40, which historically has been the case!  So kudos.

Moving on.

Let's start with a bang with an article from the Autumn 2014 issue of Personnel Psych.  A few years back several researchers argued that the assumption that performance is distributed normally was incorrect; and it got a bit of press.  Not so fast, say new researchers, who show that when defined properly, performance is in fact more normally distributed.

For those of you wondering, "why do I care?"  Whether we believe performance is normally distributed or not significantly impacts not only the statistical analyses performed on selection mechanisms but theories and practices surrounding HRM.


Moving to the July issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology:

- If you're going to use a cognitively-loaded selection mechanism (which in many cases has some of the highest predictive validity), be prepared to accept high levels of adverse impact.  Right?  Not to fast, say these researchers, who show that by weighting the subtests, you can increase diversity decisions without sacrifice validity.

- Here's another good one.  As you probably know, the personality trait of conscientiousness has shown value in predicting performance in certain occupations.  Many believe that conscientiousness may in fact have a curvilinear relationship with performance (meaning after a certain point, more conscientiousness may not help)--but this theory has not been consistently supported.  According to these researchers, this may have to do with the assumption that higher scores equal more conscientiousness.  In fact, when using an "ideal point" model, results were incredibly consistent in terms of supporting the curvilinear relationship between conscientiousness and performance.

- Range restriction is a common problem in applied selection research, since you only have performance data on a subset of the test-takers, requiring us to draw inferences.   A few years back, Hunter, Schmidt, and Le proposed a new correction for range restriction that requires less information.  But is it in fact superior?  According to this research, the general answer appears to be: yes.


Let's move to the September issue of JAP:

- Within-person variance of performance is an important concept, both conceptually and practically.  Historically short-term and long-term performance variance have been treated separately, but these researchers show the advantage of integrating the two together.

- Next, a fascinating study of the choice of (and persistence in) STEM fields as a career, the importance of both interest and ability, and how gender plays an important role.  In a nutshell, as I understand it, interest and ability seem to play a more important role in predicting STEM career choices for men than for women, whereas ability is more important in the persistence in STEM careers for women.


Let's take a look at a couple from recent issue of Personnel Review:

- From volume 43(5), these researchers found support for ethics-based hiring decisions resulting in improved work attitudes, include organizational commitment.

- From 43(6), an expanded conceptual model of how hiring supervisors perceive "overqualification", which I would love to see more research on.


Last but not least, for you stats folks, what's new from PARE?

- What happens when you have missing data on multiple variables?

- Equivalence testing: samples matter!

- What sample size is needed when using regression models?  Here's one suggestion on how to figure it out.


The December 2014 issue of IJSA should be out relatively soon, so look for a post on that soon!



Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Research update

I can't believe it's been three months since a research update.  I was waiting until I got critical mass, and with the release of the September issues of IJSA, I think I've hit it.

So let's start there:

- Experimenting with using different rating scales on SJTs (with "best and worst" response format doing the best of the traditional scales)

- Aspects of a semi-structured interview added incremental validity over cognitive ability in predicting training performance

- Studying the use of preselection methods (e.g., work experience) prior to assessment centers in German companies

- The proposed general factor of personality may be useful in selection contexts (this one was a military setting)

- Evidence that effective leaders show creativity and political skill

- Investigating the relationship (using survey data) between personality facets and CWBs (with emotional stability playing a key role)

- Corrections for indirect range restriction boosted the upper end of structured interview validity substantially

- A method of increasing the precision of simulations that analyze group mean differences and adverse impact

- A very useful study that looked at the prediction of voluntary turnover as well as performance using biodata and other applicant information, including recruitment source, among a sample of call center applicants.  Reuslts?  Individuals who had previously applied, chose to submit additional information, were employed, or were referrals had significantly less voluntary turnover.



Moving on...let's check out the May issue of JAP; there are only two articles but both worth looking at:

- First, a fascinating study of the firm-level impact of effective staffing and training, suggesting that the former allow organizations greater flexibility and adaptability (e.g., to changing financial conditions).

- Second, another study of SJT response formats.  The researchers found, using a very large sample, the "rate" format (e.g., "rate each of the following options in terms of effectiveness") to be superior in terms of validity, reliability, and group differences.


Next, the July issue of JOB, which is devoted to leadership:

- You might want to check out this overview/critique of the various leadership theories.

- This study suggests that newer models proposing morality as an important component of leadership success have methodological flaws.

- Last, a study of why Whites oppose affirmative action programs


Let's move to the September issue of Industrial and Organizational Psychology:

- The first focal article discusses the increasing movement of I/O psychology to business schools.  The authors found evidence that this is due in large part to some of the most active and influential I/O researchers moving to business schools.

- The second is about stereotype threat--specifically its importance as a psychological construct and the paucity of applied research about it.


Coming into the home stretch, the Summer issue of Personnel Psych:

- The distribution of individual performance may not be normal if, as these researchers suggest, "star performers" have emerged

- Executives with high levels of conscientiousness and who display transformational leadership behavior may directly contribute to organizational performance


Rounding out my review, check out a few recent articles from PARE:

- I'm not even gonna attempt to summarize this, so here's the title: Multiple-Group confirmatory factor analysis in R – A tutorial in measurement invariance with continuous and ordinal indicators

- Improving exploratory factor analysis for ordinal data

- Improving multidimensional adaptive testing


Last but not least, it's not related to recruitment or assessment, but check out this study that found productivity increases during bad weather :)

That's all folks!