Saturday, July 23, 2011

July Research Update

Okay, it's past time for a research update. Let's see what's going on out there:

- Looking to get a better salary offer? Research by Thorsteinson suggests that you shouldn't be afraid to aim high...

- Trying to hire for creativity? You'll be interested in Madjar et al.'s research that indicated that depending on the type of creativity you're after (i.e., radical or incremental) both personal and environmental factors play a role. For example, if you're after radical creativity, look for a willingness to take risks and career commitment.

- You stats guys and gals out there will want to check out Johnson et al.'s study that investigated common method variance (CMV). Specifically, they found that by applying different types of remedies for CMV, they altered the relationship between two variables (core self-evaluation and job satisfaction). Something to consider when investigating criterion-related validity.

- Speaking of core self-evaluation, Chen disputes the inclusion of several factors in the concept, and argues that problems exist with its convergent and discriminant validity.

- Observer ratings of personality are hot. And Oh, Wang, and Mount get into the action with their study that found (as other have) that observer ratings yield higher predictive validities than self-reports. Now if we only had an easily-accessible database of observer ratings...

- Do hiring managers really discriminate against obese individuals? Yep, as Agerstrom and Rooth show. Specifically, scores on the implicit association test predicted whether hiring managers were likely to invite obese applicants for an interview.

- Looking to increase the number of staff that exhibit organizational citizenship behaviors? (ya know, things like helping out a co-worker when they don't have to) You might look first to the supervisor, as Yaffe and Kark demonstrate.

- A recent study that found that more women on a team increased group performance garnered some press, but the real story was the predictive role played by social competence (which women happened to score higher on). The authors pondered whether social competence could be trained, thus increasing group performance. Well, a new study by Kotsou et al. seems to suggest just that, showing that a group-format intervention increased emotional competence in adults (it also resulted in lower cortisol secretion and better subjective and physical well-being).

- Speaking of trying to maximize team performance, a study by Humphrey et al. found that both short- and long-term team performance was highest when variance in conscientiousness scores was lowest but variance in extroversion was highest. What does this mean? It suggests that people perform best when around others with similar levels of conscientiousness but perform better when working with people that vary in their levels of extroversion. Fascinating, and something to consider when hiring for or building teams.

- And speaking (again) of emotional competence, Seal et al. describe the development of a new measure of social and emotional development.

- Finally there is Hee et al. with an important study of prejudice. Specifically, the authors found that prejudice against out-group members increases with in-group size and perceptions of homogeneity among both the in-group and out-group. In addition to validating the importance of intergroup contact, this research suggests prejudice may be reduced when dealing with small groups and increasing an understanding of the differences within each group. Makes a lot of sense.

Last but not least, for you IPAC members don't forget that presentations from the just-concluded conference (which I heard was a rousing success) are starting to be posted in the members-only portion of the website. Good stuff!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Is Google+ what we've been waiting for?

No doubt by now you've heard about Google+ ("Google plus"). It's essentially Google's latest stab at trying to topple Facebook as the global social networking leader. While Facebook holds a lot of promise in the way of recruiting, selection, and other core HR functions, its use has been sporadic due to a number of issues. Can Google+ give us the functionality we've always wanted--and stick around long enough to be a major player?

If you haven't heard of Google+ (or haven't read enough), you can get more information here or here or here or here. Or heck, just watch their intro video. By some estimates it already has around 10 million users, which is pretty amazing considering it only came out a few weeks ago, although it's not anywhere near Facebook which claims it has 750 million.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's first review why Facebook isn't the holy grail we once thought it could be.

At first blush, a public social networking site holds a heck of a lot of promise. It allows organizations to learn more about potential candidates, things beyond a test score. It allows people to network, potentially increasing the speed and efficiency of information sharing. And it allows applicants to learn more about organizations--faster and more informally than a career webpage.

This all sounds good in theory. And some organizations have made Facebook work for them, by using things like fan pages. But for many, the promise has never been fulfilled. Let's look at the main reasons why, and how Google+ may be the answer.

The main problem is that on Facebook, there's just one you. When you post something on Facebook, it goes to all your connections. Friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances--everyone, unless they've "hidden" you. (Yes, you can post to a smaller group but it's a pain and who actually does this?) This has several implications:

- You watch what you say. Do really want to say the same thing to your friends that would to your family? Do you really want to post that picture for everyone to see?

- It increases "lurkers", who simply read but never post, thus not being true participants in the online social interaction.

- This hyper-openness serves as a barrier to some users, who are simply uncomfortable sharing their life with people.

- You have friend request anxiety. You dread getting an email that your boss or someone you don't really know wants to be "friends" on Facebook. If you say no you feel like a jerk, if you say yes then you're openness goes down a notch. What fun is that?

Google+ deals with all this by allowing you to create something called "circles" where you add individuals to certain groups (e.g., friends, colleagues, family) which thereby allows you to post things to only those groups. It even allows you to view your own profile as if you were someone else (IMHO one of the most innovative features).

What are the implications of these circles? There are many:

1. People are more likely to create profiles. Along with the increased attention to security attracting new people, once it gets out that you can manage your social identity much better (and easier) with Google+, it's more likely that someone will create a profile to begin with.

2. Individuals will be more likely to accept invitations to connect from organizations and recruiters. Why? Because they'll be able to manage what information gets shared with those individuals.

3. The information employers have access to will be less--but of higher quality. Assuming people think before posting (yes I'm giving people the benefit of the doubt here), while there may be less information on a profile for an employer to view, it will be more relevant. Instead of posts about children or parties, it will be opinions or accomplishments--things that might actually be job related and much less likely to get employers into legal hot water.

4. It could help with referrals, as individuals will feel more comfortable sharing information about jobs--or their own interest in jobs--without fear of what their management might think.

5. It could give potential applicants a more realistic job preview. With the concern about tanking your job lessened, people will be more likely to be open about the good--and the bad--things about where they work.

You can envision how Google+ has broader applicability for organizations. It allows organizations to create employee-only groups. It allows employees to create informal social groups--or more formal interest groups. It adds another way for colleagues to share knowledge. And it helps create that intangible bond that connects co-workers in a way that meetings and off-sites never can.

So there is quite a bit of promise, but there are still many questions. Could Facebook add design elements to mimic aspects of Google+? Absolutely (and I strongly suspect they are in the process of doing just that). Could Google fail to attract enough followers to its new site to make it the killer app that Facebook is? Sure; in fact there's a good example of this in Orkut (although it is quite popular in Brazil and India). Are there examples of many social networking sites that have flared and fizzled? You bet (heard of MySpace?). And the juggernaut that is Facebook is not to be ignored.

But there are reasons to believe that this could be the real deal. Google spent a lot of time testing this thing out and appears to be listening intently to users on issues from design to privacy--something Facebook has been grilled about for as long as I can remember. And I didn't even touch on the other features of Google+, such as real-time group video chat.

The bottom line is when it comes to websites, most of us are followers. All it takes is your friends and colleagues to start posting somewhere else (heck, it's just another bookmark), and before you know it Facebook could start looking a lot like another casualty in the hyper-competitive web wars. Fortunately, organizations will be the better for it.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Should you hire more women for your teams?

Should you hire more women for the teams within your organization? You might think so after reading an article in the June 2011 Harvard Business Review. It's an interview with the authors of some research that came out last year in Science. In fact this hiring strategy has even been suggested based on this research.

But let's take a deeper look.

The takeaways from the HBR article (and the published study) suggest:

- there is a "collective intelligence" factor (c) that is related to team success

- this (c) factor out-predicts team success compared to the average team intelligence score, the highest intelligence score among the team members, or other logical factors such as group cohesion and satisfaction

- the (c) factor is primarily related to the average social sensitivity of the team members, the equality of distribution of turn-taking during team conversation, and...(drumroll please) the proportion of females in the group

In the studies, the authors had nearly 700 individuals (one assumes students? the subjects aren't described) participate in teams of two to five on a variety of tasks, such as completing puzzles, brainstorming, and negotiating. At the end of the session they had them complete the criterion task--in the first study a video game of checkers against a computer opponent, in the second, an architectural design task.

So what did they find? As Kai Ryssdal would say, let's do the numbers:

- There did seem to be some general factor that predicted a significant amount of variance in the criteria (43% and 44% respectively).

- (c) seems to be related, at least to a small amount, with both average individual intelligence (r=.15) and maximum member intelligence (r=.19), but the authors stress higher correlations with average social sensitivity of group members (r=.26), variance in the number of speaking turns (r=-.41), and proportion of females in a group (r=.23), although the latter was largely a result of the women scoring much higher on the measure of social sensitivity, which the authors stress came out on top in terms of unique prediction power.

- the instrument used to measure social sensitivity, the "Reading the mind in the eyes" test, has subjects identify the emotion being displayed by a set of eyes (reminiscent of some emotional intelligence tests I've seen). It would be interesting to see how well other measures of social sensitivity (e.g., body language, tone of voice) predicted team decision making, and tie this with other research that has shown emotional intelligence measures predicting team performance.

- The standardized regression coefficients (betas) for (c) were .51 and .36 for the two criteria, substantially above average member intelligence (.08, .05) and maximum member intelligence (.01, .12).

- (c)'s relationship with performance on the various tasks in Study 1 varied pretty widely, from .38 to .86. This, combined with the differential prediction of the criteria, suggests (c) as conceptualized may be more useful for predicting performance on certain group tasks. It's worth noting that the lowest correlation was with brainstorming--a task that requires less team interaction.

- The authors do not say what instrument was used to measure individual intelligence. This may or may not matter.

There are some important lessons here:

1. As is often the case, the farther we get from the actual publication, the more important it is to view the interpretation with caution. In this case, I believe some writers have over-emphasized and over-played the "flashy" result (more women on team -> better decisions) and failed to consider things like effect sizes or relationships among variables. What I'm more interested in is why the women scored higher.

2. From this research the concept of a collective intelligence factor does seem promising (and has been the subject of other recent popular publications). In reality this line of research is old as well as thriving, and includes such well-researched concepts as groupthink as well as several lines of research around what makes an effective team.

3. It is important to remember that job performance is multi-faceted. We know this from (among other things) previous research that has shown intelligence tests do a better job predicting task performance than contextual performance, where non-cognitive tests are at their best (this fact has interesting implications for the study that is the subject of this post). The results of this study remind us to carefully consider what behaviors we're hiring for.

4. It's studies like this that, when improperly analyzed, muddy the waters of our profession. Using this research to say you should hire more women is like saying you should hire more Whites than Blacks because they tend to score higher on intelligence tests. Aside from the obvious discriminatory intent, this is just plain bad decision making: it over-emphasizes differences at the group level and assumes that you have clear evidence that intelligence tests are highly correlated with performance in the job you are hiring for (and similarly valid tests with smaller mean group differences are unavailable).

I have to give the authors credit for going beyond gender as a causal factor in predicting team performance and looking for root relationships, and for not leaping to conclusions like organizations should hire more women, but instead focusing our attention on the implications for team development (they suggest electronic collaboration tools may increase collective intelligence).

This type of press is great for getting us to talk more about what matters. Let's just make sure when we do so we start with the research and consider all the important angles.