Happy Holidays from I/O at Work!
Thank you to all of our readers for our continued success in 2014, and we look forward to bringing you another year of fascinating content in 2015. Check back in early January to keep up with the latest-breaking I/O psychology research.
-The I/O at Work Team
Specific Cognitive Abilities Can Benefit Selection Programs
Organizations oftentimes use specific cognitive abilities to help select people for jobs. Selection itself is important because organizations can sometimes waste millions of dollars in training people who don’t have the right aptitude, aren’t motivated, or who don’t fit minimum requirements for the job. When an organization selects employees, it often uses an assessment process to try and find the “right people.” This assessment often involves tests of general cognitive ability, which is basically what we’d consider overall intelligence. What if organizations could fine tune these processes so that they were more successful in identifying those who may succeed in a training context or in a job? Recent research findings offer a possible way to do this.
GENERAL INTELLIGENCE VERSUS SPECIFIC ABILITIES
Many researchers adhere to the view that intelligence is made up of a single “general” factor, also called general mental ability. This view explains that there is an underlying single-dimension of mental ability that underlies numerous different types of learning and performance abilities. However, researchers debate about whether including specific abilities of intelligence can provide just a little bit of extra predictive power for organizations. Some believe that these specific abilities can help predict beyond what general mental ability alone can offer when it comes to selecting individuals for the job.
THE RESEARCH FINDINGS
The researchers investigated the importance of using general mental ability and also specific abilities in a training context, specifically military personnel learning a foreign language. The researchers examined the predictive ability of general mental ability and the specific abilities within the trainee group by using different approaches to measuring cognitive ability. Results showed that if the specific mental abilities of the applicants aligned with what was being assessed, then using the specific abilities would add predictive value for the organization. For example, in testing learning of a foreign language, the specific ability of foreign language aptitude would be more useful than numerical ability.
IMPLICATIONS FOR ORGANIZATIONS
These findings challenge many assessment and selection practices within hiring and training. In some cases, testing for general mental ability may be sufficient, but in other cases, managers should not underestimate the role that specific abilities may play in helping organizations predict who will succeed at training and on the job. This would require testing for specific abilities that are either closely aligned with job responsibilities, or are a requirement in a training program. Specific abilities should not be used when these responsibilities are not clearly defined or if there is a mismatch with actual job requirements.
When specific abilities match what is needed for either training or job success, then specific abilities can provide extra predictive power over merely assessing general intelligence in candidates. It is important to note that even a small incremental advantage in prediction for large selection programs could have a profound influence on return on investment figures.
Teamwork- How Team Personality Influences Individual Behaviors
In most work places, teamwork is a common feature that can have many benefits for organizational productivity and competitiveness.
But not all group dynamics are helpful or add value, so a fair bit of research has been done on the behaviors that produce desired outcomes. Much of it has looked at how someone’s personality affects whether they would be helpful or not. But few researchers have looked at the impact “team personality” has on individual actions.
The team of researchers behind a new study on teamwork and cooperation sought to examine the extent to which group dynamics ultimately influence individual behaviors.
TEAM PERSONALITY AND GROUP NORMS
Group norms are the accepted, unofficial standards that members of a group follow, which help to evaluate the behavior of individuals. These norms help individual group members identify which behaviors would be permissible within a certain situation and which would not.
Some groups have norms that promote greater interdependence, and therefore appreciate helping behaviors more that groups which don’t adopt these norms. In general, groups with co-operative norms have higher performance and satisfaction.
This study investigated the influence Team Personality (i.e. those characteristics that define a group) would have on encouraging these norms and its subsequent impact on individual helping behaviors.
THE IMPORTANCE OF EXTROVERSION & AGREEABLENESS
Researchers were interested in examining two primary traits at the group level– extroversion and agreeableness.
Agreeableness is essentially about cooperation with others, while extroversion concerns the sociability of the individual. Given the social characteristics of individuals with these traits, teams that are characterized by such individuals tend to show greater cohesion and work-load sharing, but less friction.
The researchers believed that a group with a large number of individuals who ranked high on extroversion and agreeableness would have high levels of cooperative group norms, which is a strong predictor for an increase in individual helping behaviors.
THE RESULTS OF THE STUDY
Researchers found that the level of extroversion within a group’s team personality impacted the adoption of cooperative norms, even when there was quiet a difference in extroversion levels amongst individual members.
A high level of extroversion implies a greater degree of assertiveness and influencing of others to accept certain norms. So, even if there are only a few team members who rank high on extroversion, they’re still influential. The norms accepted within this group then influence individual helping behaviors.
Agreeableness was different. Only where there was little difference on agreeableness between team members would it quickly facilitate the adoption of co-operative norms. If there was a lot of difference between team members, then the emergence of co-operative norms was often hampered.
BIG PICTURE TAKEAWAYS
Cooperative norms and high levels of helping behaviors can greatly enhance a team’s output. This study showed that team personality does affect these aspects.
The results have implications for managers wanting to facilitate the change of group norms, as well as those bringing a new individual on to a team.
In short, understanding both the team personality and the individual personality are important for finding a good fit, and also important for influencing helping behavior outcomes.
Top 5 Most Popular Article Reviews – June 2014
Check out I/O AT WORK’s Top 5 most popular article reviews for June 2014 on Diversity, Stereotypes, Work Teams, Deceptive Candidates and more!
Diversity in the workplace has become an increasingly important topic in recent years. A new study examines the draw of diversity during the hiring process, with a focus on how a prospective employee’s perception of an organization’s diversity climate may ultimately affect their interest in pursuing a given job.
It’s a well-known fact that gender stereotyping has historically played a role in organizational leadership selection. But a new study suggests that job candidates who do not fit the stereotypical mold are viewed more objectively, resulting in more fair decisions during the selection process. The research suggests that exposure to those that break the stereotypical mold can also provide inspiration for other women.
Teamwork is essential to organizational success. But assembling a team that can work together effectively can make all the difference in whether a given project succeeds or fails. A new study suggests members’ individual needs play a significant role in intragroup conflict, and should be strongly considered when putting a work team together.
The applicant interview is crucial in finding the perfect candidate for a given position. But what happens when applicants use deceptive impression management to weasel their way into a job. A new study examines how organizations can try to alleviate the problem by selecting interviewers capable of detecting when an applicant is being deceptive.
In the past, the advent of greater access to computers and the Internet inexorably changed the methods by which organizations recruited talent, and also the way in which possible hopefuls searched for and applied to these organizations. A new study suggests that assessment via mobile phone could be the wave of the near future.
Are You Promoting Work Engagement, or Workaholism?
All business organizations want their employees to be highly involved in their work (which is also known as Work Engagement), but not obsessive-compulsive about it (a.k.a. Workaholism).
Unchecked workaholism can eventually lead employees to burnout, inclinations to leave the company, and other behaviors that put good organizational citizenship at risk.
But how can organization leaders spot the difference between healthy and unhealthy levels of work engagement, and encourage employees towards the former? In “The Differences Between Work Engagement and Workaholism, and Organizational Outcomes: An Integrative Model,” author Youngkeun Choi offers some guidance.
Knowing The Difference
While at work, truly engaged employees tend to be positive, dedicated, and absorbed in their work (Schaufeli et al, 2002).
From previous research, we know that employees suffering from workaholism usually work excessively hard without finding any enjoyment in it. They tend to be perfectionists, distrusting of their coworkers, and often suffer from poorer mental and physical health.
Encouraging Work Engagement
So what can a business organization do to encourage healthy levels of Work Engagement?
The best solution is to provide job resources for its employees. In this article, Choi found that both social support from colleagues and supervisory coaching have a positive impact on Work Engagement, leading to employees who approach their jobs with more vigor, dedication and absorption.
To the organization’s benefit, employees with greater work engagement more often reported that they didn’t intend to quit, and that they were more likely to help others and be a good organizational citizen.
What can an organization do to discourage Workaholism among its employees?
Perhaps not surprisingly, the solution is the same: Provide job resources. According to Choi’s research, when ample job resources were available, fewer characteristics of workaholism were reported, regardless of the demands of the job.
Choi concluded that providing resources such as performance feedback, supervisory coaching and colleagues’ support is the key to developing engaged workers who don’t fall into the trappings of becoming workaholics.
How Power Distance Agreement Improves Performance in the Workplace
Research in I-O psychology suggests that, when leaders and their employees share similar attitudes about how work should be done, it creates positive outcomes in the workplace.
A recent study by Cole, Carter, and Zhang (2013) has found that agreement on the appropriate amount of power distance– the disparity in control between employees and their supervisors– can play an especially significant role in workplace harmony, leading to improved performance.
When people expect leaders to assume complete authority and make all decisions, the company’s culture is said to be high on the power distance index. When those leaders are expected to make decisions democratically, using employee input, and employees are assumed to be on equal footing, the culture is said to be low on the power distance index.
As part of the study, researchers examined the extent to which leaders and their employees agreed on power distance expectations. When this agreement was higher, two positive outcomes were usually found: Team performance improved, as did organizational citizen behaviors (when employees go beyond their formal job descriptions to benefit the organization).
But why did this happen? The authors found that, when leaders and employees had similar expectations regarding power distance, there was agreement as to who should be making the decisions. For example, when high power distance was expected, all parties agreed that the leader should be making decisions unilaterally.
This type of agreement leads to a perception of procedural justice, or the feeling that employees are being treated fairly. In our example, the employees do not expect to make decisions, and perceive it as fair when they are not asked to do so. Procedural justice was ultimately associated with higher job performance and organizational citizenship behaviors.
The authors concluded that organizations should find ways to discover the power distance expectations of leaders and their employees. When agreement is low, the organization can then take steps to help correct the mismatch and train leaders to better suit their followers. Ultimately, this knowledge of team members’ preferences can be an important step towards improving overall team performance.
What’s Missing from the Research on Work-Family Balance?
Although research on work–family balance has continued to grow and develop in recent years, there is a notable gap between what we know and what actually gets implemented in the workplace. Initially it was a field that focused on women and minorities as they began to join the workforce; however, in the modern era, work-family research has gone through quite a bit of evolution. As companies began to offer work-family related perks in an effort by human resource management to make their companies more attractive to employees, work-family balance began to become a vital part of any discussion regarding benefits and productivity. The term family now holds many more meanings than it did before, and the phrase work-family balance is being replaced in many discussions with work-life balance, so as to include a broader spectrum of non-work and personal roles held by employees at various stages of personal, social, and professional development.
Unfortunately, a growing number of employers are reducing or eliminating some family friendly benefits. Generally, the first programs to go are flextime, elder care referral, and adoption assistance, as well as paid maternity leave. Research presents a compelling argument for why employers should continue to offer and enhance their work-family policies despite the economic downturn. Research indicates that these work-family balance oriented policies promote positive employee attitudes, such as Job Satisfaction and Organizational Commitment, and foster a continued supply of potential candidates, who stay with an organization and thus save the organization money due to low turnover, decreased absenteeism, and fewer accidents.
So, why are more and more employers turning away from family friendly policies? The article suggest that, in part, the fault lies with the type of research being done.
More work needs to be done examining the pivotal role technology plays in blurring work-family boundaries. Researchers must realize that policies do not affect everyone in the same way. In this era of globalization, researchers also need to focus more internationally, where work is very much an offshoot of the culture in which it resides. Additionally researchers should focus on discovering how employees cope with the burdens of managing limited resources, such as their time and energy, while attempting to achieve and maintain a healthy work-family balance.
In short, we need to speak more practically about what is working; why it is working; and what employees and companies can do — whether it’s policies that support working from home, various types of telework, flextime, maternity and paternity leave, or something new – to ensure that work-family balance creates a happy, productive employee, enabling companies to achieve their full potential.
Employee Behavior and Wearable Monitoring Devices
Is big brother watching you? Is he hiding in your clothes?
This article focuses on wearable computing and tracking devices that record the behaviors of employees. They both monitor and measure the speed of task completion, as well as any changes in the way tasks are completed. The goal of these wearable monitoring devices is to provide feedback on employee behaviors and task performance that can be used to better design work, improve the efficiency of task flow, and hold employees accountable to certain productivity standards.
The idea behind this research is not new, and was actually made very popular by Frederick Taylor’s time and motion studies a century ago. What is new is the technology now available for monitoring. In the modern era of technical sophistication, a human doesn’t have to observe employees’ actions. Instead, highly advanced wearable monitoring devices can easily scrutinize employee behavior and generate data for three kinds of analysis:
- Measurement of people’s work movements to track the speed of work tasks.
When these wearable monitoring devices are used for productivity reasons, employees are generally annoyed by the feelings of “surveillance;” however, when they are used for safety and/or fatigue monitoring, employees find them much easier to accept.
- Analyzing time and motions needed to successfully complete a complicated process
This type of monitoring can be used with groups to help employees collaborate better and work smarter, if not necessarily faster. Also, these are commonly used with pilots to improve communication and allow better interpretation of information in the cockpit.
- Data quantifying the physiological things inside of us: Monitoring things like heart rate and cognitive processing to understand health and or thought patterns.
It almost sounds like a psychological debate over mind versus body. Are we just fancy, mindless robots to be tweaked and refined for ultimate production outputs, or are we humans making critical judgments to accomplish the goals of our work, in the way we each best see fit? As a scientist, I find these devices fascinating and beneficial. But, as a human, I also find them somewhat intrusive and borderline invasive. My own polarization makes me wonder how they will be used and received in more organizations going forward.
Raise employee engagement with volunteerism
In this study, learn how strong volunteer programs are a win for the NGO, a win for the employee who volunteers, and a win for the company that sponsors the volunteerism. To measure the actual benefits or drawbacks of company-sponsored volunteerism programs, Caligiuri, Mencin, and Jiang gathered responses from employees, NGO managers, and line managers.
Here’s how each group benefits from volunteerism:
- Employees, who were from a Fortune 500 company, indicated that corporate volunteerism provides fresh ideas and alternative perspectives they can use at work;
- For the employee’s business, corporate volunteerism leads to increased employee engagement;
- For the NGO, corporate volunteerism increases sustainability of the organization and leads to continued involvement by the employee even after volunteer assignment.
Additionally, the study found that some volunteer assignments are more valuable than other. A number of factors can increase the value of the volunteerism program. Volunteer program are valued more when they are international, when volunteers can use their professional skills while volunteering, when volunteers’ get to develop skills that will help in their regular work, when the volunteers believe their projects contribute meaningfully the NGO, and when there are concrete resources to sustain the volunteers’ projects.
Does your company offer volunteer programs? Have you participated? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!
Keeping Your Business Model Afloat Before It Goes Under Water
At some point in our lives we’ve all had that nagging worry of being replaced or displaced by someone younger, smarter, better looking, or more talented. Well, navigating the business world is much the same. You’ve got to be vigilant and constantly on the lookout for new products or services that come to market and threaten to steal your client base.
The best way to protect your organization from a typhoon that could be heading your way is to accurately assess the current state of your business environment, and compare the pros and cons of the goods or services you provide against those of potential threats or “disruptions” to your business. Disruptive innovations are those products that possess technological or business model advantages over their competitors. These advantages enable them to gain traction and maintain their industry status as they become more advanced and continue to gain market share.
Wessel and Christensen provide a basic framework through which you can accurately evaluate whether a threat is looming on your horizon, and if so, plan a strategic response accordingly. First off, identify the strengths of your disruptors’ business model, or their “extendable core.” What are your competitors doing really well that is allowing them to expand their market share and gain traction? Next, identify what your organization’s strengths or areas of competitive advantage are, and why consumers turn to your company to meet their needs. What aspects of your competitors’ “extendable core” may enable them to develop better products or offer better services, but in what strategic spheres might you still have a clear advantage? Finally, look to the future. What conditions could enable a looming disruptor to subsume your business and what circumstances might thwart or hinder its hostile takeover within your domain?
Consider online grocers, for example. Consumers love that they no longer have to drive to the store, search for their items, stand on long lines and drive all the way back home again. With one click of a button you can have everything you need brought straight to your door. At the same time though, your local supermarket or grocery store serves its purpose for last minutes runs to pick up ingredients for dinner. Also, there’s something about being able to squeeze your tomatoes before you buy them that online grocers will never be able to compete with. Online grocers certainly have a clear advantage when it comes to nonperishable, staple items that people stock up on. However, the necessary changes to their business model that would allow them to meet consumers’ last minute shopping needs would destroy their competitive advantage.