Saturday, May 26, 2012

May mega research update

It's time once again for the monthly research round-up.  So let's dive right in:

The June International Journal of Selection and Assessment doesn't disappoint; let's take a look:

- More evidence of the link between personality variables and CWBs; this time with concurrent data in China

- Dovetailing nicely with a post I've been working on regarding promotional testing, this research indicates some interesting characteristics of internal test takers

- Why are supervisors open to behavioral interviews but shun discussion of "structure"?  Looks like how we communicate about them plays a big role.

- More research on self-efficacy, this time teasing apart the concept a bit.

- Always a popular topic: applicant reactions to selection mechanisms.  This time with a sample from Saudi Arabia.

- Speaking of applicant about another study?  This one comparing U.S. and Vietnamese college students.  By the way, not surprisingly work samples came out a winner in both of these studies.

- Next, a fascinating study of a hidden bonus to UIT: despite the cheating element, it likely increases your candidate pool and eventually performance outcomes

- Speaking of response distortion, here's another study, this time of military cadet selection using personality inventories

- Okay, one more on inflation.  This time a study of Chinese applicants--no difference compared to American samples.

- Back in March I wrote about a study Jeremy Bernerth published in J.A.P.  that got a lot of attention.  This time, Bernerth studied ethnic differences and found minority status was negatively related to credit scores.

Moving on to the summer issue of Personnel Psychology:

-  The "file drawer problem" is the theory that nonsignificant results are less likely to get published.  According to this study, that appears unlikely.  But IMHO looking at all correlations is different than looking at the correlations key to one's hypothesis(es)...

- Back to faking (that may be this post's theme!), can response elaboration reduce faking on biodata items?  This study suggests so.  Although I'm left wondering...what was the impact on validity?

- Speaking of biodata, there are various ways of keying these items.  This research suggests the best method depends on your sample size, although rational keying performed the worst.

How about the May issue of Journal of Applied Psychology?

Well this is interesting...Chad Van Iddekinge and his colleagues have provided an updated meta-analysis on the criterion-related validity of integrity tests.  What did they find? Well, the results appear to be less promising than those published previously (e.g., corrected r=.18 for job performance).  Much like SIOP's research journal, this time J.A.P. published several commentaries in response to the study that...well, let's just say a debate ensued about the analysis...

- The Dark Triad.  It sounds like something in a Dan Brown novel.  But in this meta-analysis the authors show that personality characteristics that make up this triad (Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy) explain some variance in CWBs.

- Why are some people more proactive in seeking career goals than others?  It's an important and under-researched question.  In this study the authors show that part of the explanation lies in "future work selves", or how people's hopes and aspirations as they relate to work.

- Think self-reports of CWBs are biased?  Perhaps not, according to this new study.

- Interested in what causes proactive customer service behavior?  According to this multi-national study, self-efficacy is a key (along with service climate).

- Why do some leaders engage in more self-interested behavior than others?  Perhaps not surprisingly, it appears due in part to the strength of their moral identity.

The May issue of the Journal of Applied Social Psychology has a couple gems...

- Hey, look, turns out being sensitive to your subordinates pays off.  Talk about a lesson that needs frequent repeating...

- And that's it.  Oh, wait, just this little study about using Facebook profiles to predict job performance...that I wrote about before....available in FULL right now...

Okay, getting to the end...The May/June issue of HRM:

- An interesting study of adverse impact in promotion decisions for managers in a Fortune 500 retailer.  The authors compared three methods (top-down assessment, assessment centers, and  multisource appraisal) and the results demonstrate how complex these analyses are!

- Speaking of complex.  Think that successful job postings on the web is just fancy graphics?  Think again--it still involves some classic factors like the labor market, firm reputation, and compensation incentives.  The more things change...

- Identifying future leaders.  There are few other issues that are as important for most organizations.  Yet how exactly to do it eludes many.  These authors propose a model that focuses on four main features: analytical ability, learning agility, drive, and emergent leadership.

Finally, a few from PARE:

- Does item order impact response anxiety?  Not according to this study.

- What's that?  How do we use a new jacknife procedure to eliminating items and improve structural equation modeling?  You're in luck.

- Looks like a lot of research rely on beta weights when interpreting and reporting multiple linear regression results.  But there's so much more...

Happy reading!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

What The Avengers can teach us about high-performance teams

Like millions of other people, I saw Marvel's The Avengers yesterday.  It's anticipated to bring in around $200M in its opening weekend.  It's full of explosions, space aliens, and people in outlandish costumes.

So what does The Avengers have to do with recruiting and hiring?  Nothing.  Unless you care about building a high-performance team.

Sure, the movie is nominally about a egomaniacal godlike being, Loki, who is attempting to destroy all humans using an army of aliens summoned through a space portal (I call that Monday).  But I think what the movie's really about is the challenge of building and sustaining a high-performance team.

The power of teamwork

Nick Fury has a tough job.  As the Director of a secret international espionage and military agency, he's tasked with figuring out how to respond to the threat that Loki poses.  While his bosses (let's call them the board) encourage him to use more drastic solutions, Fury steadfastly sticks to his team (that'd be The Avengers--Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye, and The Hulk).  Why?  Because he believes that their sum exceeds their parts.

Which brings us to our first lessons:

1) Teams are particularly effective when you need the benefits that come with combining talents and skills to deal with a complex situation beyond the abilities of any individual.

2) Successful team leaders believe passionately in the power of the team and are personally devoted to seeing them succeed.  They may even need to resist pressure from above and put their reputation on the line.

Dealing with Superstars(heroes)

Fury's biggest challenge lies in assembling the team and keeping them cohesive.  Why?  Because each one of them is a "high producer".  Technically they don't need each other to do great things--and each one of them is extremely confident in their abilities (with Iron Man, played by Robert Downey, Jr. being the poster boy).  Each is used to dealing with big challenges themselves, in their own way.  Not only are they not used to a "boss" (Fury), but they struggle to form a group identity.  Lessons:

3) Recognize that building a team of superstars will be a challenge.  And then recognize it publicly.  Acknowledge to the team that accomplishing great things will likely not be easy--but it is doable (and in this case, necessary).

4) Plan ahead for what will attract these individual performers to come together.  Is it broader recognition?  Satisfaction of a job well done?  A sense of duty?  An opportunity to right wrongs?

5) Prepare for some in-fighting.  This is likely inevitable among individuals used to working in their own fashion (and, not coincidentally, getting all the glory).

Bringing them together

So how do you recruit and keep together a group of often-selfish, always stubborn, personalities?  Fury gives us some clues...

6) Seek out the diverse talents you need.  While each member of The Avengers is super in their own right, each also brings something different.  For example, Black Widow is particularly adept at persuasion and interrogation; Captain America is a natural leader; and Thor, well...Thor happens to be related to the main bad guy so he's pretty familiar with the core issues.

7) Appeal to a greater cause.  Fury isn't shy about sharing his passion for the idea of The Avengers: the world's most powerful superheroes coming together to defeat evil that threatens the planet.  That's a pretty powerful EVP and/or leadership vision, wouldn't you say?  (By the way, he's also good at manipulating team emotions for the greater cause)

8) Harness the unique talents of your team members.  While Fury is a pretty good recruiter in his own right, he recognizes that certain team members (namely Dr. Bruce Banner a.k.a. The Hulk) might be better wooed by others (i.e., Black Widow).  Similarly, as the two scientists, Iron Man and Bruce Banner, are brought together we see immediate results of their complimentary passion and talent.

Keeping them together

Here's where Fury stumbles a little, and it results in the biggest setback the team experiences.  The team starts bickering and Fury lets himself get drawn into it.  This intensifies the mistrust and distracts them while their enemies infiltrate their headquarters.  Only the immediate threat solidifies the team.  Last lessons:

9) As a leader, stay above the fray.  Teams with strong personalities don't need another one.  Your job is to stay and produce calm.  Fury would have been better served by calling for a time out so people could cool their jets.

10) Stay focused.  Don't let distractions such as momentary setbacks or petty infighting ruin the potential.  Remind people why they're there.

11) Be honest.  In Fury's case, he's caught with hidden intentions and it drastically lowers team trust.  Superstars are often particularly adept at spotting weaknesses in leaders.  Don't give them reason to doubt.

There's a lot of research and writing on the topic of building and sustaining high-performance teams.  Heck, there are even conferences devoted to it. Interestingly, it's one of the most enduring themes in graphic novels as well (think Fantastic Four, X-Men, etc.).  There's a reason why there is so much interest: there are times when special teams are called for, and it's exciting to think about harnessing disparate talents and focusing them on achieving great things.

The best lessons, I think, to draw from The Avengers are that bringing together superstars isn't easy, and keeping them together may be even more difficult.  And it's another example of where the strength of leadership can make or break the mission.  We may not be trying to recruit and engage superheroes.  But we should all be familiar with the challenges inherent in bringing individuals together in the pursuit of a common goal.  Even if it isn't saving the world.