Monday, June 20, 2011

New emotional intelligence meta-analysis: Now with 65% more studies!

Emotional intelligence (EI) continues to be a hot topic in the I/O and HR communities. Some are big fans, some (including me) are more skeptical.

Last year's article in IOP by Cherniss, et al. and the accompanying commentaries provided a great overview of the current situation, with the bottom line that while many seem to agree on a definition of EI, measurement is all over the place, with different methods measuring different things and a distinct lack of convergent and discriminant validity.

EI has been shown to have important relationships with a variety of criteria, but many researchers and practitioners have been left wondering, what exactly is being measured?

In the latest Journal of Organizational Behavior, O'Boyle et al. attempt to shed light on the situation, primarily by looking at whether measures of EI add predictive validity above and beyond cognitive ability and five-factor personality measures.

You may remember a similar study published back in early 2010 by Joseph and Newman. So why the need for this one? The current authors point out that in addition to updating the data and using more current estimates of other relationships, "our data set includes 65 per cent more studies that examine the relationship between EI and job performance, with an N that is over twice as large." I don't know why I found this so funny--there's nothing wrong with trying to get a better handle on things--I guess it just reminded me of packaging on dishwasher detergent or something. In case you're curious, their final sample included 43 effect sizes relating EI to job performance.

ANYWAY, what did they find? In the words of the authors: "We found that all three streams of EI correlated with job performance. Streams 2 and 3 incrementally predicted job performance over and above cognitive intelligence and the FFM. In addition, dominance analyses showed that when predicting job performance, all three streams of EI exhibited substantial relative importance in the presence of the FFM and intelligence." [Stream 1 = ability measures, Stream 2 = self report, Stream 3 = mixed models]

Let's do the numbers: the correlation between EI and job performance varied depending on which "stream" of EI research was analyzed, from about .24 to about .30. So if you're considering using a measure of EI, any of the reputably-built measures should add validity to your process (and in fact these numbers may be low since the job performance measures were primarily task-based). Since the numbers were pretty similar, it seems they support a similar construct, right? Not so fast.

When they looked at how the streams related to personality measures and cognitive ability, they were all over the place. In their words, "For all six correlates (FFM and cognitive ability), we found significant Q-values indicating that the three streams relate to other personality and cognitive ability measures differently...These differences in how the EI streams related to other dispositional traits provide a contrasting perspective to the assertion that the various measures of EI assess the same construct."

What about the incremental validity? It ranged from pretty much nothing (stream 1) to a respectable .07 (stream 3) with stream 2 in the middle at .05. The stream 1 measures seem to have much more overlap with cognitive ability measures, and since ability measures dominate the prediction of performance, well...there you go.

So does that mean employers should avoid stream 1 measures (e.g., MSCEIT)? Again, not so fast. The authors point out that this type of EI measure may be more resistant to social desirability and faking effects--it primarily seems to lose its value when you're already using a cognitive ability measure. (Although again, we're talking task performance here)

All of which leaves me still wondering: what exactly is being measured? More to come I suppose; after all, EI is a newbie in the history of I/O constructs. The authors themselves point out that "much more work is still needed" on the construct validaty of EI.

On the other hand, the more practical among you may be thinking, "who cares? it works!" And to them, I would only say, remember what Kurt Lewin said: "There is nothing so practical as a good theory." Without the theory...

You can see an in-press version here. It's good stuff.

Oh, and on a totally unrelated point, I highly recommend upgrading your Adobe Reader to version X if you haven't already. Highlighting with bookmarking at the click of a button.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mega research update

Time for a big research update. There's a lot to catch up on, so I'll go quickly and give you just enough for you to follow up on if you're interested.

- More support for the attraction-selection-attrition model

- A 25-year review of the study of leadership outcomes

- Faces with stereotype-relevant features are more open to prejudice

- Early socioeconomic experience plays big role in future risk-taking behavior

- Taking the perspective of another may be key to reducing racial bias

- Generational differences in Big 5 personality factors

- How to improve management research

- Pros and cons of using social networking sites to make HR decisions

- Research directions for talent management

- Organizational branding and "best employer" surveys

- Using social networking sites for hiring decisions (if we just had a single database...)

- How computer adaptive testing aids in delivering unproctored internet tests

- How broad dimension factors may improve assessment centers

- Practical intelligence predicts success as an entrepreneur

- Psychological capital (efficacy, hope, optimism, resilience) is related to job performance

- Expressions of personality factors varies with the situation

Last but not least, this gem, a meta-analysis of the efficacy of simulation games for instruction. Relevance for us? As active engagement went up, so did learning. Lessons? Consider interactive simulations for recruitment and selection, but make sure the viewer is truly involved and not just a spectator.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Can an applicant be TOO qualified? And...does it matter?

I've worked with people that seemed overqualified--you probably have too. They brought a bazooka when all that was needed was a squirt gun. Cognitively speaking.

They work amazingly fast, are incredibly innovative, but often seem bored or unhappy with their jobs. It's made me wonder what organizations can do with these folks to (1) get the most out of their skills, and (2) help them be satisfied with their work life.

Of course it's not just me who has ruminated about this issue. Recruiters and screeners are often faced with this question: do we take a chance on someone who seems to have much greater education, training, or competencies than the job calls for? Are they likely to simply turn around and leave? This issue takes on increased importance in this day and age with higher unemployment and more people simply looking for *A* job.

There have even been lawsuits about this issue. You may remember the Jordan v. New London case, where a law enforcement applicant sued the City for age discrimination after they failed to hire him because he scored too high (yes, you're reading that right) on a cognitive ability exam. (BTW, the City won)

But despite this case and recruiter perceptions, we're still left with a legitimate question: can an applicant be too qualified in ways that matter for an organization?

In the June 2011 issue of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Erdogan, et al. provide an overview of this issue and argue that this situation deserves more attention than the scant it has received so far--particularly in comparison to other I/O topics.

What the research does seem to indicate is this: individuals that are overqualified (either objectively through, for example, having "too much" education, or through subjective perceptions) have more negative job attitudes. Specifically, they have been shown to have:

- lower job satisfaction
- lower life and career satisfaction
- lower organizational commitment
- higher turnover intentions

This makes intuitive sense. If you believe your qualifications far out-strip those required for the job, you're likely to feel underutilized and under-challenged, which in turn is likely to make you feel unsatisfied and cause you to look elsewhere.

What about actual turnover? Are overqualified applicants actually more likely to leave? This is one of the primary research questions and there is some research that supports this. However, the authors point out several problems with this line of thinking, including its cross-occupational nature.

In addition, the authors argue (and I agree) that more important than turnover is job performance. I think we'd all take a chance on someone that would have a huge positive impact, even if their stay was short.

So what about the performance of the overqualified; what does the research say? To quote the authors:

"There is...a small, but growing literature suggesting that overqualified individuals perform their jobs better than their less-qualified coworkers...whether turnover is good or bad for the organization needs to be considered within the context of how well individuals are performing their jobs." [emphasis added]

The authors also point out several additional advantages to hiring overqualified workers:

- they may be prime candidate for future roles, including leadership positions

- even if their tenure is short, their impact may be significant

They also point out that this is the tip of the iceberg of this research: much remains to be done in terms of defining overqualification, in studying how recruiters make these determinations, situational factors, measurement, and other important issues.

So bottom line: yes, there may be downsides to hiring someone that appears to be overqualified--but how certain are you that this is the case? And even if it's true, would the benefits outweigh the risks?

If organizations choose to go with someone they perceive as overqualified, it becomes even more important to communicate openly and frequently with this applicant about job expectations, as well as possibilities. And management needs to realize that they may be getting more than their money's worth.

(Interestingly, the other focal article in this issue has to do with performance management, and how difficult it is to get right. One of the points the authors make loud and clear is it's important for supervisors to offer frequent, informal feedback. The common thread between the two articles: the importance of engaged, communicative supervisors who have an accurate view of their team's competencies.)