Thursday, May 29, 2008

Predicting turnover

Turnover can be caused by many things. Inadequate supervision/ leadership. Too much work. Not enough work. Insufficient career growth opportunities.

According to many surveys (e.g.,'s recent one), these are the types of things people report as primary motivators driving them to change employers.

But these are all factors outside of the employee. What about aspects of employees themselves that might contribute to turnover? We know that people are changing jobs more frequently these days (every 2-3 years in the U.S.), and there seems to be a persistent dissatisfaction among the Gen Xers with their careers, but what about someone's personality? Might there be individual differences between people when it comes to changing jobs?

You bet, according to a new study published in the Summer 2008 issue of Personnel Psychology. After meta-analyzing 86 studies, author Ryan Zimmerman found that personality factors, particularly emotional stability and agreeableness, play a big role in predicting turnover. Emotional stability best predicted intent to quit, while agreeableness best predicted actual turnover.

In fact, personality traits predicted turnover better than did non-self report measures such as job complexity and job characteristics.

Implications? Many initiatives designed to reduce turnover may disappoint because it's not the job, it's the person. The next time you design an exit interview or turnover study, make sure to add this reason for why the person left: It had nothing to do with the job, it was just me.

This also provides more support for using personality tests to predict important outcomes.


The other study in this issue we should look at provides some support for all you O*NET fans out there. You know...O*NET? The replacement for the Dictionary of Occupational Titles? Developed by the Department of Labor? A fount of job analysis knowledge? If you don't know it, you should.

Anyway, in this study, the authors used O*NET data to predict literacy requirements across a wide variety of occupations compared to scores on the national adult literacy survey (NALS). Results? O*NET did well--quite well in fact, with correlations around .80.

What does this mean? It means that occupational requirements listed in O*NET just got a big boost in terms of their validity. When it comes to job analysis, don't leave O*NET out.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Another member of the blog family

I consider this blog to be part of a fairly small family (with a few notable exceptions, e.g., Selection Matters) in that I focus on trying to put personnel psychology research into layperson terms. But I think I may have found a lost member of my blogging family.

The Association of Test Publishers (ATP) has an I-O Division, and lo and behold, they have a blog! And it's been up since January! I feel so...out of touch.

Anyway, check out some of their recent posts:

- The Validity-Diversity Dilemma (yes, we both blogged about this)

- Input Needed on "Model Guidelines" Revision

- Economic Study of Impact of Pre-Employment Assessment

So, belated welcome to the blogosphere! Like what you see? Pick up the feed.

Friday, May 23, 2008

How good are you at test accommodation?

How good is your organization at accommodating individuals with disabilities when test-time rolls around?

A recent article in Diversity Executive magazine highlights the work of Certiport, a software certification outfit, and the different test accommodations they offer, including:

- Voice recognition software

- Test assistants/surrogates

- Separate, larger rooms

- Extended test times

The article also points out some disturbing facts, like the 70% unemployment rate of individuals with disabilities and the fact that 2 out of 3 of these unemployed individuals would like to work.

Makes me wonder (for the millionth time) about the true nature of the looming "talent shortage"...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New blogs to watch

Here are a couple of new blogs to head over and check out:

HR Recruiting Alert; here are a few recent articles:
Interested? Feed is here.

The other to check out is HR-Worldview; here are some recent articles:
Like it? Here's the feed.

Now if I could just add 5 hours to my day to read all this great stuff!

Monday, May 19, 2008

B = f (P,E)

One of the most famous axioms in social psychology is what's sometimes called "Lewin's equation" (after the famous psychologist Kurt Lewin): behavior is a function of both the person and the environment. This equation is good to keep in mind when looking at all kinds of human behavior, including recruitment and assessment.

Research presented in the May 2008 issue of Journal of Applied Social Psychology addresses this equation. Let's take a look at it and see if helps us answer an age-old question: What's more important--the observer or what's being observed?

Tell me if this situation sounds familiar. A hiring manager insists on hiring someone based on something they saw in the person's resume (e.g., the candidate graduated from a particular college), even though the person did not do well on a structured, validated assessment. The first study shows that HR is not immune to this phenomenon. In it, HR managers were presented with two types of information about a candidate: preliminary information (like a resume) and performance on an assessment center. The managers were then asked to rate the candidate. Results? Managers were unable to exclude the preliminary information, even though they had better information (the assessment center results) in front of them.

The second article looks at the legitimacy perceptions of promotion decisions and how they relate to information on deservedness (candidate performance) and entitlement (affirmative action). Participants felt that both deservedness and entitlement were related to legitimacy, but there was a gender effect--female participants felt increased resentment when the male candidate was promoted.

The third article is a fascinating take on how people how people perceive discrimination. Specifically, the authors looked at ambiguous situations and the impact of how "prototypical" the person doing the discriminating is. What they found was that the amount of control the perceiver felt they had over discrimination in their lives moderated the influence of the prototype effect. In other words, whether a white male (the prototype) was acting in a discriminatory fashion depended a great deal on the perceiver. Like research on stress, control was found here to have a significant effect on perceptions.

So given these three articles, what's more important--the observer or what's being observed? The research above gives us a clear answer, and one that validates the wisdom of Kurt Lewin: both.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Adverse impact of assessment centers (May Applied Psych)

The May '08 issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology is out with lots of great content. Unfortunately only one is directly related to recruitment and assessment, so let's check that one out then I'll give you links to some others that look interesting.

The study is Ethnic and gender subgroup differences in assessment center ratings: A meta-analysis by Dean, Roth, and Bobko. The authors found overall d-values of .52 for Black-White differences, .28 for Hispanic-White differences, and -.19 for male-female differences. (the second group in these comparisons performs better)

The results suggest that the Black-White difference is larger than previously thought but may be a more "diversity friendly" option for Hispanics and females.

There are some other great articles in here for fans of organizational behavior, including:

Subjective cognitive effort: A model of states, traits, and time. (which, by the way, suggests another reason why conscientiousness may predict job performance)

Early predictors of job burnout and engagement.

Event justice perceptions and employees' reactions: Perceptions of social entity justice as a moderator.

Harmful help: The costs of backing-up behavior in teams.

Trust that binds: The impact of collective felt trust on organizational performance.

Stirring the hearts of followers: Charismatic leadership as the transferal of affect.

The influence of psychological flexibility on work redesign: Mediated moderation of a work reorganization intervention.

...and several more!

Monday, May 12, 2008

New SIOP networking groups

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), bless its heart, is getting into the 21st century.

In their April newsletter they mention that two SIOP members, John Golden and Daniel Russell, have formed a LinkedIn group called I-O Practitioners Network. To join, click here. (If you don't have a LinkedIn account, and shame on you, you'll have a chance to create one)

But wait, that's not all, John Golden has also created a Ning site for I-O practitioners, which comes with joining the LinkedIn group. ("What the heck is Ning?" you say? Think Wikipedia meets MySpace)

So bravo, John! And SIOP, welcome to the party! (now will someone please tell them about RSS feeds?)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

In search of highly skilled workers

The U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) has a new study out called In Search of Highly Skilled Workers. Like all MSPB studies, it's focused on the federal government. But it has a lot of good info regardless of what sector you're in.

For example:

- MSPB recommended that departments should not rely exclusively on USAJOBS since this was not the primary way people found out about jobs--word of mouth was, through friends/relatives or their supervisor/co-workers

- More and more hires are being made from the veterans program, and this results in the most white males compared to other mechanisms; this has resulted in upper level hires trending toward white males. Interestingly, the most diverse hires were made through "direct hire", which does not require rating & ranking candidates.

- Use of the competitive exam process (e.g., need to rate & rank) is less and less frequent.

- Job security was by far the top reason new hires applied for federal jobs; other highly ranked factors included mission of organization, opportunity to serve the public/do good, benefits, and opportunity to use talents/have a better job.

- OPM's television campaign is seeing some success, with increased traffic.

- Candidates are pretty lazy and/or strapped for time. About 1/3 of hires did not apply for other jobs because they would have had to re-write their narrative description of their KSAs while about 1/4 did not because they would have to have rewritten their resume (!).

- More than ½ of upper-level hires were not aware of their application status until they called for an interview/job offer (sadly, probably not that rare).

- Many new hires indicated they would have accepted their job even with a reduction in pay because of workplace flexibilities and benefits.

- Coordination of hiring managers and HR was key: 98% of managers involved with the development of assessment tools said they got the talent they needed; only 82% of managers not involved felt that way.

- Upper level hires were willing to wait about 2 months between job application and job offer--most felt anything after that was unreasonable.

- Things the feds don't do well? According to new hires, they don't deal effectively with poor performers, their leave benefits could be better, and (not surprisingly) they weren't thrilled with the pay.

- Something else federal departments can improve on: providing clear minimum qualifications that truly are the "lowest bar", and verifying that applicants have them.

Good lessons here for employers everywhere.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Mini book review: Groundswell

Did you know that by reading this blog post you've been put into a category? Yep, at the very least you're a "spectator." In fact, you might be a "joiner", a "collector", a "critic" or even (as I am) a "creator." Where am I getting these labels? They all come from Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff's new book, Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies.

This is by no means a new subject. There have been quite a few books in recent years that cover social technologies and how they can be used productively. But these books have tended to have either a more narrow focus (e.g., by focusing on particular technologies or organizational functions such as marketing) or an extremely broad focus. In Groundswell, Li and Bernoff, both VPs and analysts at Forrester Research, describe the current slate of social technologies and provide organizations with a road map of how they should (or shouldn't) be used.

Those of you familiar with Charlene's blog will recognize much of the content of the book--in fact to be honest there aren't a lot of new concepts in the book, which is a potential drawback. The book is, to a large extent, a collection of the various concepts that the authors have already published. But there's no denying that having it all in one place is mighty handy, and the in-depth case studies serve to flush out the details. And those of you that aren't avid readers of the blog will find much in here to digest.

So what is "the groundswell"? According to the authors it's "A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations."

These technologies include all the usual suspects, including blogs, wikis, social networks, forums, review sites, tags, RSS, widgets--you get the point. They also touch on newer technologies such as Twitter (which isn't so new anymore).

The biggest strength of the book lies in its description of two concepts:

- the social technographic ladder, a graphical description of various categories of technology participation. These are the categories I mentioned at the beginning of this post and it's how the authors suggest organizations stratify their customers to figure out what social technology will work best.

- POST, the authors' recommendation for how to plan to engage the groundswell. This deliberate, logical approach to using social technologies is the biggest takeaway from the book. It recognizes that not all technologies are appropriate for all organizations and provides users with a rational way of planning the strategic implementation of them.

On balance, the book is an easy read and provides a great mix of big picture considerations with real-world examples. Unless you're completely new to the subject it's not likely to rock your world, but if you're interested in using social technologies but aren't sure how, this is not a bad book to have.

What would improve the book? More specifics--details--on how exactly to use the technologies. Best practices for setting up a Facebook page, for example. The different blogging platforms and their pros and cons. It's not enough to understand the concept of the technology--you need to understand the technology itself.

So what does all this have to do with recruitment and assessment? Quite a bit actually, but mostly with the former (after all, check out where people spend their time). Tapping into social technologies is a great way to spread and monitor your employment brand--i..e, why should people want to work for you? It's also a great way to identify potential candidates and spread the word about opportunities. In terms of testing, we're not there yet (and won't be until we have a secure database of individual test scores). But maybe that's okay--after all you want a job-person match, not a person-test score match.

So why did I call this a mini-review? Because I haven't read the whole book (yet). I've read most of the beginning and latter chapters, but haven't made my way through the middle, which is comprised mostly of case studies. I don't claim to have read it cover-to-cover, so take this review with that in mind.

Friday, May 02, 2008

First issue of new SIOP journal

SIOP (the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology) has a new journal. It's called "Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice."

The idea of the journal is to offer a couple of focal articles and then print several peer commentaries associated with each.

In the inaugural (March 2008) issue, two topics are covered.

In the first focal article, Macey and Schneider treat us to a historical and research-based view on a very hot topic, employee engagement. Here's a sample:

"The notion of employee engagement is a relatively new one, one that has been heavily marketed by human resource (HR) consulting firms that offer advice on how it can be created and leveraged. Academic researchers are now slowly joining the fray, and both parties are saddled with competing and inconsistent interpretations of the meaning of the construct."

The authors provide a great overview of the different ways of viewing engagement. The treatment is generally positive, and they sum up their view this way:

"Although engagement may best a profile model of a multidimensional construct, we see engagement as not only a set of constructs but also a tightly integrated set, interrelated in known ways, comprising clearly identifiable constructs with relationships to a common outcome."

The focal article is followed by no less than 13 commentaries from a variety of authors, both academics and consultants. The authors follow with a reply and point out that the debate over engagement is a great example of the "research-practice gap."

The second topic is assessment centers. In it, Charles Lance investigates why they don't work the way they're supposed to. Specifically, candidate ratings seem to reflect the particular exercise they're completing--not the dimensions they're supposed to be rated on. The conclusion sums up their view nicely:

"It is now time to acknowledge the last quarter century's worth of research findings and reorient assessment away from broad dimensions and toward exercise-based assessment."

The focal article is followed by ten peer commentaries by folks such as Ann Howard, Winfred Arthur, and Filip Lievens, and the authors' response.

Great, in-depth stuff for those of you out there interested in either topic.