Building successful and sustainable HR interventions
Topic: Change Management, Strategic HR
Publication: Journal of Business and Psychology (JUN 2011)
Article: HR interventions that go viral
Authors: Yost, P. R., McLellan, J. R., Ecker, D. L., Chang, G. C., Hereford, J. M., Roenicke, C. C., Town, J. B., & Winberg, Y. L.
Reviewed by: Alexandra Rechlin
Why do some HR interventions fail while others succeed? In this article, Yost et al. (2011) attempt to answer that question by using three different methods: a literature review, a case study, and interviews with senior I/O and HR professionals. The authors provided a case study of a successful HR intervention. They noted five important characteristics of the intervention:
- It was strategic. Resources and tools were written in alignment with business strategy.
- It was systemic. The intervention complemented and enhanced other company initiatives.
- It was simple. Resources and tools were simple, easy to read and understand, and written in the language of business leaders (not that of HR).
- It was sustainable. The intervention was created with the explicit intent to sustain it for a long time.
- It was sneeze-able. It was designed to be interesting and passed on to others.
The authors also reviewed the literature and interviewed 16 senior I/O and HR professionals about both successful and unsuccessful HR interventions.
Getting Emotional at Work
Topic: Stress, Change Management
Publication: Journal of Organizational Behavior (MAY 2011)
Article: Stability, change, and the stability of change in daily workplace affect
Authors: Beal, D. J., Ghandour, L.
Reviewed by: Larry Martinez
Have you ever noticed how some people are just more emotionally volatile than others? A coworker that comes to work happy as a clam one day and down in the dumps the next? Researchers call this affect spin, which refers to an individual characteristic that reflects the extent to which people experience more than one emotion over time. For example, in the picture above, each point represents one’s levels of positive and negative affect of any particular day (so four days in total). So, since the points fall all on different parts of the circumplex, the figure represents someone with high affect spin, or several varying emotions on different days. Beal and Ghandour (2001) examined this concept with positive and negative emotions and task motivation in the midst of a major natural disaster: Hurricane Ike.
These researchers examined several different aspects of emotional reactions. First, they found support for a weekly cyclical cycle such that emotions are most positive during the weekend and most negative around Wednesday. Also, for people who were high in affect spin there was a relationship between task motivation and positive emotions and motivation on one day influenced positive emotions next day. This was not the case for those low in affect spin. Finally, those high (but not those low) in affect spin experienced more negative emotions after Hurricane Ike than before.
So, the results show that most employees experience a predictable pattern of emotions throughout the week. In addition, some employees are more likely to have stable variability in the extent to which they oscillate between emotions over time, over and above the weekly cyclical pattern. Finally, some employees will recover emotionally from catastrophes than others. This information can inform workplace human resource management decisions.
human resource management,organizational industrial psychology, organizational management
Practical advice for designing a 360-degree feedback process
Topic: Feedback, Change Management
Publication: Journal of Business and Psychology (MAY 2011)
Article: When does 360-degree feedback create behavior change? And how would we know it when it does?
Authors: Bracken, D. W., Rose, D. S.
Reviewed by: Alexandra Rechlin
Have you ever participated in a 360-degree feedback process that seemed pointless and didn’t appear to change anything at all? If so, you’re not alone. However, a 360-degree feedback process, when well designed, has the potential for lasting behavioral change. This article discusses critical design factors of a 360-degree feedback process used to create sustainable behavioral and organizational change. The authors also provide questions for future research and practical advice for making the process successful. Four critical design factors are discussed: relevant content, credible data, accountability, and census (organizationwide) participation.
Relevant content: The authors recommend using custom surveys rather than standardized tools, but they acknowledge that there’s quite a bit of debate about this. They argue that custom surveys can increase motivation and engagement due to their meaning and relevance.
Credible data: You need to have reliable data, but your stakeholders also need to perceive your data as being reliable.
Organizational Change: The Good, the Bad, the Ambivalent
Topic: Change Management, Human Resources
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (MAR 2011)
Article: Ambivalence Toward Imposed Change: The Conflict Between Dispositional Resistance to Change and the Orientation Toward the Change Agent
Authors: S. Oreg, N. Sverdlik
Reviewed By: Lauren A. Wood
Change management has become a buzz word of business leaders and academics alike, and the reason is simple: organizations are undergoing changes at a faster rate today than ever before. Despite these increases in change frequency and a growing body of research dedicated to understanding organizational initiatives, the vast majority of planned organizational changes still fail. But, why? According to Oreg and Sverdlik, the answer is a little complicated.
It is common knowledge that the success of any change initiative relies on employees’ acceptance and commitment to the change. And, indeed much research has been dedicated to understanding reasons behind and solutions to assuage employee resistance. However, this body of research typically categorizes employees into two types: those who support the change and those who resist. What about employees who are on the fence? The authors categorize these employees as ambivalent (experiencing both positive and negative feelings about different aspects of the change at the same time).
The results reveal that ambivalence results from an interaction between an employee’s personal orientation to accept change (openness to change) or reject change (resistance predisposition) and the employee’s positive or negative feelings about the change agent. So, four outcomes result. Obviously, (and the best case for the organization) employees who are open to change and who generally like the change agent, will be supporters of the change. And the opposite, employees who tend to resist change and who dislike the change agent, will resist the initiative.
Trading Voice for Service: The Impact of Perceived Voice on Organizational Commitment During Periods of Change
Topic: Change Management, Organizational Commitment, Potential, Trust
Publication: Human Resource Management (JAN 2011)
Article: The influence of perceived employee voice on organizational commitment: An exchange perspective
Authors: E. Farndale, J. Van Ruiten, C. Kelliher, and V. Hope-Hailey
Reviewed By: Allison B. Siminovsky
Everyone likes to feel important on occasion, whether through achieving a major goal or being recognized for an accomplishment. The workplace is no exception to this rule, as employees like to feel as though their decisions impact the actions their organizations take. During major corporate change, leadership and culture can be shaken up dramatically and as a result, previous levels of perceived employee impact (“I make a difference”) might not remain intact. What benefits does an organization reap if employees feel they have a voice, and how is this impacted through the change process? This article attempts to answer these questions.
The researchers found that when employees perceive themselves as having impact on organizational decisions, they show higher levels of organizational commitment. This sense of voice is inferred through relationships with line managers and, to an even stronger extent, with senior management. Employees were found to react positively to organizational change when their perception of having voice was not compromised during this often tumultuous period.
The Employee Network: to Keep or Not to Keep Under the Radar
Topic: Organizational Performance, Change Management
Publication: Harvard Business Review (MAR 2010)
Article: Harnessing your staff’s informal networks
Authors: R. McDermott, D. Archibald
Reviewed by: Liz Brashier
Communities of practice are voluntary, informal employee networks where experts
can share knowledge and information, and it’s in these groups that employees form innovative solutions to real organizational problems. While in the past, these informal networks have succeeded on their own, this is no longer the case; these networks function best when they have management on board. McDermott and Archibald (2010) examine the status of communities of practice at companies including Pfizer, Fluor, and Conoco Phillips, and have concrete directions for guiding the once under-the-radar employee network.
The authors provide principles to lead management in designing effective communities, though these sound like no-brainers: 1) focus on important issues for the organization, 2) establish goals, 3) provide governance, and 4) set high management expectations. Maybe harnessing these communities isn’t too challenging after all! A differentiation that is a bit more interesting is one that the authors make between communities and teams. As managers, it is easy to view these groups as one in the same, even though they’re not.
Communities focus on long-term issues, peer collaboration, and knowledge
management, while teams focus on short-term deliverables and problems. The authors also offer suggestions for maximizing community impact. So, while communities of practice – and the solutions that come with them – used to be free and self-governing, they now need structure and guidance to maintain expert contributions to their organizations. Just as the business world has become more complex, so has the (informal) employee network.
Ashes, Ashes, Organizations All Fall Down!
Topic: Change Management, Organizational Reputation
Publication: Academy of Management Journal (DEC 2008)
Article: Good fences make good neighbors: A longitudinal analysis of an industry self-regulatory institution
Author: M.L. Barnett, A.A. King
Reviewed By: Katie Bachman
In these “interesting” economic times, it seems like every company is struggling to overcome challenges within their organizations. Bad news: You need to be worried about what your competitors struggle with too! In a recent article in the Academy of Management Journal, Barnett and King describe the influence of reputational spillover on organizations. The nuts and bolts of their argument is that a) consumers have a hard time telling similar companies apart and b) when something goes wrong in one company, it can taint others by association. For example, if you think back to the months after 9/11, Americans didn’t just stop flying on United Airlines, they stopped flying on airplanes. Tragedies that garner negative publicity are likely to hurt many companies within their industry.
Interestingly, there is a way to ameliorate the negative consequences when something like this happens and it may not be what you think. While companies may want to differentiate themselves from a tainted company (a short-term option), in the long term, companies would do well to band together. By keeping tabs on each other and forming some sort of self-regulatory institution, companies can keep away from bad publicity by keeping their competitors from making errors. Everyone benefits when no one’s screwing up.
How Downsizing Can Damage Your Rep
Topic: Change Management, Off The Wall
Publication: The Academy of Management Journal
Article: Character, conformity, or the bottom line? How and why downsizing affected corporate reputation.
Author: E.G. Love, M. Kraatz
Featured by: Benjamin Granger
In a recent study, Love and Kraatz (2009) attempted to identify how corporate downsizing might affect a firm’s reputation Prior to presenting the results of their study, Love and Kraatz outlined three broad perspectives, each offering predictions for how and why organizations’ reputations might change. The authors then tested each perspective using a sample of Fortune 100 companies during the years of 1985-1994. Specifically, Love and Kraatz used rankings of Fortune’s “Most Admired Companies” (annual survey of several thousand analysts and executives) as an indication of organizational reputation.
The three perspectives differ in their explanations of how organizational reputation changes. For instance, the first perspective stresses character, such that reputation reflects how others’ view the overall character of the firm. The second focuses on how well organizations adhere to widely accepted norms and practices (organizations that comply with norms have better reps!). Finally, the third perspective stresses technical competence and overall firm performance (i.e., We give financially successful organizations their due).
Overall, corporate downsizing had a negative effect on organizations’ reputations. Specifically, corporate downsizing appeared to signal low character, at least in the early years (1980s). This trend is supportive of the first perspective suggesting that corporate reputation is influenced by the character of the organization (low character = low reputation).
Interestingly, however, Love and Kraatz mention that toward the end of study year band (1994) when downsizing became much more commonplace, that it did not have such a negative effect on organizational reputation. This lends support to the second perspective which suggests that firm reputation depends on the organization’s adherence to widely accepted norms and practices.
Another interesting finding, which is in support of the third perspective, suggested that the damage to an organization’s reputation was mitigated if the practice (i.e., downsizing) helped the firm’s overall performance. The organizations that suffered the most were those whose performance continued to decrease after downsizing.
Overall, there seemed to be at least some support for each perspective. From a practical standpoint, however, these findings clearly suggest that downsizing can have a negative influence on outsiders’ perceptions of the organization. And remember, if reputation falls, then so may firm performance.
Curing the Organizational Restructuring Blues
Topic: Change Management, Organizational Development
Publication: Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology
Article: Employee identification before and after an internal merger: A longitudinal analysis. Author: J. Bartels, J. Pruyn, S. DeJong
Featured by: Benjamin Granger
One employee factor crucial to the success of organizational change is the extent to which employees identify (align themselves) with their organizations prior to the restructuring. But, employees can identify with the organization at different levels. For example, employees can identify with the organization as a whole, with their particular department or division, or even their work group.
So how does employee identification effect organizational restructuring? And how can we help assure that employees will identify with the “new” organization (or division/department) post merger or restructuring? In an effort to answer these questions, Bartels, Pruyn, and de Jong (2009) conducted a two and a half year study on an organization going through an internal restructuring (combining 13 departments into 5 new ones).
Bartels and colleagues’ findings suggest that employee identification with the organization as a whole prior to the restructuring was an important determinant of their organizational identification after the departmental merger. In addition, perceived external prestige (how employees think the outside world views their organization) was also found to be an important determinant of employee identification post-merger.
However, overall organizational identification is not the real issue here!
The organization as a whole is not changing; the departments within the organization are changing. Bartels et al.’s findings suggest that employees’ identification with their department prior to the merger as well as the extent to which employees felt that departmental members communicated effectively (communication climate) with each other were important determinants of post-merger identification with the newly created department.
Interestingly, perceived eternal prestige was not found to be important to departmental identification.
Overall, these findings imply that successful mergers are partially determined by the workforce’s identification with the “old” organization (or organizational unit – department, division, work group). Managers should continuously monitor and foster employee identification (not just during restructuring) and ensure open and honest communication during restructuring. And of course, it doesn’t hurt to be a highly reputable organization!
Bringing Back the Cynics!
Topic: Change Management, Job Attitudes
Publication: Human Resource Management
Article: Organizational change cynicism: the role of employee involvement.
Author: M. Brown, C. Cregan
Featured by: Benjamin Granger
Organizational cynicism involves a negative attitude on the part of an employee toward his/her organization. It’s the belief or feeling that one’s organization has sacrificed the basic principles of honesty and fairness to further the self-interest of organizational leaders (CEOs taking $20,000 flights on private jets while begging congress for bailout…hmm…).
But, there can be many different targets of cynicism (organization as a whole, specific managers, organization change efforts, etc). In order to shed light on the issue of employee cynicism toward organizational change efforts (AKA Organizational Change Cynicism – OCC), researchers Brown and Cregan (2008) empirically investigated several factors that may reduce the likelihood of OCC (i.e., employees becoming cynical of change efforts).
Why should organizations give a hoot about whether their employees are cynical of their change efforts? Here’s why: Cynical employees may have lower commitment to the organization, lower job satisfaction, and may be less likely to engage in behaviors that help the organization (i.e., organizational citizenship behaviors).
But, Brown and Cregan’s findings show that OCC can be thwarted by a few relatively simple actions: (1) Information Sharing and (2) Employee Involvement in Decision Making.
So here’s the upshot: When management (the custodian of information) shares vital information about the organizational change effort (through workshops, training, written materials, etc.)and gives employees a voice in the decision making processes, they return the favor by being less cynical.
But, this does not mean that organizations can simply give the ILLUSION of information sharing or voice. If they do this, it may actually lead to higher levels of employee OCC. So how can organizations manage OCC? Organizations can encourage their managers to share decision-making responsibilities and take an active role in sharing relevant information with their employees.