Saturday, April 21, 2012

A fascinating example of an organization making hiring job #1

Recently the employee handbook of Valve, a software and video game development and distribution company (famous for things like Half-Life and it's Steam service) was leaked and frankly it's one of the most interesting things I've read in a long time.  It's available several places, including here as of this writing.

Why so interesting? Several reasons...

1) It doesn't look or read like a typical employee handbook.  It's very informal, devoid of legalese, balances positivity and expectations, and is graphically very attractive.  Not exactly signs of your typical handbook.  As an example, the document starts with this statement on the cover:

A fearless adventure in knowing what to do when no one’s there telling you what to do.

(They do keep their formal policies on their Intranet (e.g., about benefits).)

2) It's a very interesting example of how a flat organization describes itself.  They don't appear to have much of a management hierarchy so much of the handbook is devoted to explaining how employees are supposed to select assignments, etc.

3) The document itself is editable on their Intranet.  Yes, you read that right, the employee handbook is a collaborative document.

Last but definitely not least,

4) This is a great example of how an organization can emphasize that hiring is the most important activity employees engage in.  The document is replete with examples.  Consider the following passages from the handbook:

p. 6: "hiring is the single most important thing you will ever do at Valve"

p. 14: "We have made significant strides toward bringing more predictability, measurement, and analysis to recruiting. A process that many assume must be treated only as a “soft” art because it has to do with humans, personalities, language, and nuance, actually has ample room for a healthy dose of science."

p. 17: "The thing we work hardest at is hiring good people"

here's my favorite:

p. 44: "Hiring well is the most important thing in the universe. Nothing else comes close. It’s more important than breathing. So when you’re working on hiring—participating in an interview loop or innovating in the general area of recruiting—everything else you could be doing is stupid and should be ignored!"

p. 45: "Missing out on hiring that great person is likely the most expensive kind of mistake we can make...a poor hiring decision can cause lots of damage, and can sometimes go unchecked for too long."

They also talk about how they hire:

p. 47: "When unchecked, people have a tendency to hire others who are lower-powered than themselves...We should hire people more capable than ourselves, not less."

pp. 47-48: "[In some circumstances] hiring someone who is at least capable seems (in the short term) to be smarter than not hiring anyone at all. But that’s actually a huge mistake. We can always bring on temporary/contract help to get us through tough spots, but we should never lower the hiring bar."

There are so many examples it's almost more of a introduction to hiring rather than to the company!

Also, in case you're interested, here's their "work at valve" page, which supports the culture as described in the handbook.

This "leak" has gotten a lot of press, and likely has done a lot to increase its attractiveness as an employer--another reason why this is such a fascinating example.

So I ask you: how much of your organization's handbook discusses the importance of hiring?  Do they make it clear it's a shared responsibility of every employee?  Is there a passion for hiring right?

Sunday, April 01, 2012

April research update

Okay, so I didn't quite hit my March But I'm awful close, so without further ado let's take a look at what research has come out lately. And boy is there a lot to cover...

First, the Spring Personnel Psychology, which it should be noted is all free at the time of this writing (!):

- Moore, et al. describe the development and test of a measure of "an individual's propensity to morally disengage", which is really (as the title suggests) about investigating why people do bad things at work. Looks like it has promise beyond existing measures that predict things like CWBs.

- Next, O'Boyle and Aguinis present the results of a fascinating study of the distribution of human performance. Turns out it may not be normal after all, but rather Paretian. This has big implications for...well, all sorts of things, including selection. Read here for more.

- Avery, et al. describe results of a study of racioethnic matching (employees and customers) and the impact on productivity (which turned out to be positive, through customer satisfaction). The authors present several very practical ways of interpreting this finding without jumping to hiring based on race.

Next, the March Journal of Applied Psychology:

- First, van Hooft and Born with a fascinating study of eye-tracking to investigating faking on personality and integrity measures. Looks like eye movement differs depending on the intent to inflate, and it also suggests response time could be an indicator of inflation.

- Next, Madera and Hebl with another eye-tracking study, but this time on the impact that facial stigmatization has on interview performance. Discouragingly (but perhaps not surprising), the results suggest individuals with facial stigmatization may receive lower ratings, in part due to the interviewer being distracted.

- Into core self-evaluations? You might want to read this study by Wu and Griffin, in which they argue that CSEs are predictors of, but also influenced by, contextual factors such as job satisfaction.

- Lievens and Sackett provide evidence that individuals' procedural knowledge of interpersonal behavior may be valuable in predicting performance (in this case, medical students).

- Bernerth and colleagues discuss the usefulness of credit scores in predicting job performance, which I wrote about in an earlier blog post.

Next up, the May Journal of Organizational Behavior:

- Peng, et al. suggest that deployed soldiers with higher levels of conscientiousness and lower levels of neuroticism may be able to better cope with psychological distress (the effect of extraversion was mixed).

- Derous, et al. discuss discrimination in resume screening among individuals who belong to multiple minority groups (in this case with a focus on Arab women). Applicant, job, and recruiter characteristics were all important.

The March Industrial and Organizational Psychology has a fascinating focal article on how I/O psychology and HR can contribute to organizational strategy and competitive advantage. Several commentaries follow, at least one of which directly addresses selection. Move quick, because right now both the focal article and the commentaries are free!

Now here are some miscellaneous articles you may be interested in:

- Jackson, et al. describe a study that suggests going through military training may alter someone's personality...

- Using a 1- or 2-item measure of personality traits, thinking you don't need more than that? Think again.

- Looking for creative thinkers? Gino and Ariely provide evidence that may give you pause: those that are the most creative may be more dishonest...(!)

- Hiring people into a particularly political environment (naw, none of us ever have that)? Chang, et al. present results that suggest you may want to pay attention to their self-monitoring skill and level of conscientiousness...but maybe not in the way you think.

- Still getting over St. Patrick's Day? Then check out van den Born and van Witteloostuijn's research on "shamrock" organizations. They suggest this type of organization may explain the conflicting findings on modern job tenure.

Finally, all the presentations from the 2011 IPAC conference that were previously available only to members have been made public. There is so much good stuff here I can't even begin to summarize it. Just go check it out.