Thursday, September 27, 2007

Autumn 2007 Personnel Psychology

The Autumn 2007 issue of Personnel Psychology is out with plenty for us to sink our teeth into, particularly for you personality testing fans out there. Let's take a look:

First up, Luthans et al. present the results of a study that focuses on positive psychology, which is gaining more and more interest these days. The authors describe support for a survey instrument that purports to measure four aspects of "positive psychological capital"--hope, resilience, optimism, and efficacy--and then looked at whether results predicted job performance and satisfaction. Results? A "significant positive relationship", with the composite of the four aspects outperforming each individually. (Side note: two of the authors published a book last year that focuses on this topic)

Next, Judge & Erez look at how two of the Big 5 personality dimensions--emotional stability and extraversion--predicted job performance at a health and fitness center. Not only did both predict performance on their own, but they did even better in combination. The authors suggest that the combination of emotional stability and extraversion reflects a "happy" or "buoyant" personality that may be more important to predicting performance than each trait in isolation. Great study that goes beyond the "which of the Big 5 are the best" mentality.

Next up, Buckley et al. with a study of race and interview panels. Ten White and ten Black raters viewed videotaped responses of 36 White and 36 Black police officers applying for a promotion. Results? Well, there's good news and bad news. The bad news is that there was a same race bias (i.e., White raters rated White applicants better, Black raters rated Black applicants better) and a significant difference between the panels depending on the ethnic makeup. Good news? The effect size was small and "net reconciliation" (the difference between initial and final scores) was significant (but small) only among Black raters.

Pay attention to the next study, recruiters: Zhao et al. present the results of a meta-analysis on the impact of psychological contract breach on 8 work-related outcomes, including attitude and individual effectiveness. An example of contract breach: telling an applicant you have great work-life balance policies and then never approving leave. So what did they find? Breach was related to all eight outcomes except for actual turnover. Affect mediated this relationship, which suggests to me that if you have to break a contract, you may be able to somewhat manage the impact by being smart about how you present it and being sensitive about the reaction.

Next up, a bevy of big names in the field (let's just call them "Morgeson, et al.") drop a bombshell on personality testing: they argue that because of the low validities associated with self-report personality measures, they should be discontinued for personnel selection! They don't write personality tests off completely, but suggest that alternatives to self-report measures need to be developed (someone may want to tell Judge & Erez; see article above). What might this look like? Conditional reasoning tests are mentioned as a possibility. And, (this is just me talkin') "ability" type measures could be developed (e.g., if you're conscientious you should be able to demonstrate certain behaviors) or we could integrate personality measurement into the reference checking process (hey, I didn't say it would be easy). Oh and hey, here's the article if you're interested; thanks to Dr. Morgeson for making so much of his work available.

Ironically (or is it coincidentally? curse you, Alanis Morissette), the very next article is about the development of a new self-report personality measure, the Five Factor Model Questionnaire. Gill & Hodgkinson criticize existing measures (e.g., they contain too many generic items, they use culture-specific language) and find support for their measure using five separate diverse samples, including close convergent and divergent validity with the NEO PI-R.

So that's the end of the research articles, but not the end of this journal issue. It also contains reviews of several books, including:

- Using individual assessments in the workplace: A practical guide for HR professionals, trainers, and managers by Goodstein and Prien (which looks to be a very useful introductory guide, along the lines of Aamodt et al.'s statistics book)

- Foundations of psychological testing: A practical approach (2nd ed.) by McIntire and Miller, which is designed for an undergraduate-level course.

- and for those of you looking for something a little more advanced, a review is also included of Dr. Viswanathan's Measurement error and research design.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Are individuals liable for employment discrimination?

A common question I hear from supervisors and HR professionals is: "Am I personally liable for employment discrimination when I make a hiring decision?"

This recent article deals with a California Supreme Court decision but covers the answer to this question generally.*

* Short answer: it's rare (except for Section 1981 or 1983 claims** and failing to verify employment eligibility***) but you may be named anyway as a tactic on the part of the plaintiff.

** Which can be particularly nasty since there is no cap on damages and no administrative requirement (like filing with the EEOC). On the other hand it is more difficult for plaintiffs to prevail in these cases, and it's only relevant in cases of disparate treatment.

*** Okay, this might be nastier because you could face jail time. Don't forget those I-9s!

Monday, September 17, 2007

September '07 Issue of JOOP

The September, 2007 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology is out and has several articles worth taking a look at. Let's look at some of them:

The first article, by Ng et al., presents an overview of the different theories of job mobility. Specifically, they look at the impact of "structural" factors (e.g., the economy), individual differences, and decisional factors (e.g., readiness for change, desirability of the move). Good stuff to keep in mind when thinking about why people get and change jobs.

Next, Kenny and Briner provide an overview of 54 years worth of British research on ethnicity and behavior. A very broad article that includes discussion of research on recruitment/assessment (draft here).

Third, a fascinating study of the impact of job insecurity on behavior by Probst, et al. Using data gathered from both students and employees, the authors found that perceptions of job insecurity tended to have a negative impact on creativity (I'm thinkin' because your brain's busy thinking about the upcoming unemployment) but seems to have a moderately positive impact on productivity ("maybe if I work hard enough they won't fire me"?).

Next up, Hattrup, Mueller, and Aguirre analyzed data from the International Social Survey Programme on work value importance across 25 different nations. The authors found that conclusions about cross-cultural differences in work values will vary depending on how "work values" are operationalized. Why is this important? Because oftentimes sweeping statements are made about how people in certain countries view work-life balance, the importance of job security, interesting work, etc. This research reminds us to pause before adopting those conclusions.

Last but not least, Lapierre and Hackett present findings from a meta-analytic structural equation modeling study of conscientiousness, organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs), job satisfaction, and leader-member exchange. If this makes you say, "Huh?" then here's the bottom line: (with this data at least) conscientious employees demonstrated more OCBs, which enhanced the supervisor-subordinate relationship, leading to greater job satisfaction. Job satisfaction also seemed to result in more demonstration of OCBs. More evidence to support the value of assessing for conscientiousness, methinks. Also more support for expanding the measure of recruitment/assessment success beyond simply "productivity."

Friday, September 07, 2007

A hiatus and government blogging

I'll be taking a brief hiatus from blogging as I move from the Pacific Northwest to California. There's plenty more blogging to come, it just may be a few weeks as I get settled in.

In the meantime, for those of you interested in learning more about blogs--how to make them and how to use them--you should check out an IBM study that came out recently titled The Blogging Revolution: Government in the Age of Web 2.0 by David Wyld. It's chock full of info, and not just for those of you in the public sector. Topics include:

- How do I blog?

- Touring the blogosphere

- Blogging policy

If this is a topic that interests you, don't forget to check out Scoble & Israel's Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers.

Oh, and if you look at the bottom of my homepage you might just see a link to an article that a certain someone (okay, me) wrote recently about how to use blogs for recruitment, assessment, and retention.

Thanks for reading & I'll be back soon!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Corporate Leavers Survey

This just in from the Level Playing Field Institute: a new study, sponsored by Korn/Ferry, that finds that corporate unfairness, in the form of "every-day inappropriate behaviors such as stereotyping, public humiliation and promoting based upon personal characteristics" costs U.S. employers $64 billion annually.

This sum, based on survey responses from 1,700 professionals and managers, is an estimate of "the cost of losing and replacing professionals and managers who leave their employers solely due to workplace unfairness. By adding in those for whom unfairness was a major contributor to their decision to leave, the figure is substantially greater."

Examples of the type of behavior they're talking about:

- the Arab telecommunications professional who, upon returning from visiting family in Iraq, is asked by a manager if he participated in any terrorism

- the African-American lawyer who is mistaken THREE TIMES for a different black lawyer by a partner at that firm

- the lesbian professional who is told that the organization offers pet insurance for rats, pigs, and snakes, but does not offer domestic partner benefits

What does this have to do with recruiting? Aside from the obvious (turnover-->need to backfill), check this out:

One of the top four behaviors most likely to prompt someone to quit: being asked to attend extra recruiting or community related events because of one's race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.

Not only that, but 27% of respondents who experience unfairness at work in the last year said this experience "strongly discouraged them" from recommending their employer to other potential applicants.

What can employers do to prevent this? Aside from the tried and true methods (good and regular training for all supervisors, prompt and thorough investigations), the report offers other suggestions, which vary depending on the group (e.g., more/better benefits for gay and lesbian respondents, better managers for people of color).

Definitely some things to ponder.

Summary here