Saturday, March 14, 2015

The secret to successful organizations: Let HR drive hiring

Why do organizations make bad hires?  Because they rely too much on supervisors to do the hiring.

Imagine this scenario.  You take your car into the shop because it's making a strange sound.  The mechanic fixes it, you pay, and you're about to leave.  But on your way out, the mechanic stops you.  She* notices that you're frustrated with your iPad because it's being sluggish.  She offers to fix it for you, reasoning that cars and iPads can't be all that different.

Would you take the mechanic up on her offer?

Of course not.  But handing over important decisions--arguably the most important decisions--to the wrong people is something organizations do every day.

Auto mechanics are trained to deal with a specific situation, and to do it successfully: fix cars.  Their education and experience prepares them to do so.

Similarly, supervisors are trained to do primarily one thing: supervise the day-to-day work.  They're usually promoted because they excelled at the line level (i.e., they understand the work) and they show aptitude for leadership (hopefully).  They are not, generally speaking, schooled or experienced with the professional side of personnel selection.

Am I suggesting supervisors NOT be involved?  Absolutely not.  Am I suggesting that all HR shops are staffed with experts in personnel assessment and measurement?  Nope.

What I am suggesting is organizations get serious about this issue and stop treating supervisors as if they are people measurement professionals.

In the modern workplace with information overload and time at a premium, it's tough enough to ensure that hiring and promotion decisions get made in a thoughtful fashion.  The problem is exacerbated by the fact that most supervisors overestimate their hiring ability.  After all, how hard can it be to interview someone?

Not hard, if you don't care about getting it right.  But getting it right requires careful thought and planning; hiring right is not something done at the last minute without regard to competencies that drive success in the specific position.  It's not something that looks exactly the same time.  It's tailored to the position, the culture, and the particular needs at the time.

Great hires happen systematically for one reason: a tight partnership between line supervisors and talented HR consultants.  The supervisor knows the job. They often know best what competencies are needed to perform the job successfully (although a good internal HR consultant will have a pretty good idea).  HR professionals are trained in the professional side of selection, recognizing the pitfalls and identifying those measures most likely to predict success.

"But our HR shop doesn't know what it's doing.  They don't have the expertise!" some might say.

Perhaps.  If so, you've just identified your second strategic problem.  And it should be fixed.  That's like having people in your budget office that are bad at math.

But consider this: you may be surprised to learn that many hiring supervisors welcome being removed as the primary driver of hiring.  Good supervisors recognize that this isn't their greatest strength, and they will be happy to have HR assist them in identifying the most qualified applicants.  Particularly in this age of online questionnaires and massive candidate lists for many jobs.

So who is responsible for ensuring this supervisor-HR partnership happens systematically and is built into the organizational culture?  The leaders at the top.  Director.  CEOs.  They're the ones minding the store, and they're ultimately responsible for organizational success.  They should be instituting policies, procedures, and cultural norms that emphasize how important and critical hiring is--so critical that it requires a team approach to get it right.

Anything else is simply not taking the success of the enterprise seriously.

* Did I throw you with a female mechanic?  Now might be a good time to take the implicit association test for gender and careers.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Mega research update

I hope you like research, because there's a lot of it coming your way...and many are free as of this posting!

Without further ado...

Let's start with the Journal of Applied Psychology, January 2015 issue:

- We see a lot of research involving large candidate groups, but much less for individuals.  In this meta-analysis of individual assessments, the authors found support for their usefulness, but it varied significantly across studies.  Highest validity was found for managerial jobs and assessments that included a cognitive ability test.

- Being in the wrong job can be frustrating for both the employee and the employers.  In this study, the authors show a relationship between poor vocational fit and counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs).

- Speaking of CWB, there may be more of them going on than you would think based on the assessment literature...

- And even more on CWB!  These authors found support for both self- and acquaintance-reported personality ratings, specifically conscientiousness and agreeableness, in predicting "workplace deviance".

- Unfortunately, gender bias still exists in selection.  In this meta-analysis, the authors found this to be particularly the case in male-dominated jobs.  On a positive note, they do suggest ways of mitigating this: provide clear evidence of the competence of applicants, encourage careful decision making, and use experienced raters.

- The over-/under-prediction of cognitive ability tests debate for different ethnic groups continues.  In this study, the authors find support of overprediction for African Americans, suggesting the tests are not predictively biased.

Next, the March issue of J.A.P.:

- More support for the predictive validity of emotional intelligence, but more importantly, how the concept overlaps with other constructs such as the Big 5 and self-efficacy.

- All situational judgment tests (SJTs) are not equal, and according to these authors in a large number of instances the context that is presumably important?  Not so much.

- Speaking of SJTs, these researchers suggest that putting the "situational" back in SJTs--i.e., assessing how the situation is analyzed rather than the response options--is a useful method.

- A fascinating update of effect size benchmarks that can be used for a variety of purposes.

- Trying to predict safety-related behavior?  This research suggests that personality traits, particularly agreeableness, can usefully predict this behavior.

Moving on to the March issue of IJSA (free right now!):

- Some guidelines on preparing norms for personality inventories.

- Evidence that different cultures have different procedural justice perceptions of different selection mechanisms

- Some important findings on the equivalence and stability of job performance ratings over time

- Development of a new measure of subjective career success

- More evidence that both technical knowledge and prosocial knowledge are important factors in predicting medical student clinical performance

- This study found that CWBs are under-reported and organizational commitment increases the likelihood that peers will report them

- Evidence that forced-choice and Likert-type scales used in personality inventories have similar measurement properties

On to the Spring issue of Personnel Psych (also free right now!):

- This meta-analysis on narcissism showed that it is related to leadership emergence (through extraversion) and leadership effectiveness in a curvilinear fashion.

- More evidence of the importance of political skill--particularly the aspects of networking ability, interpersonal influence, and apparent sincerity--in predicting a range of important outcomes, including task performance beyond GMA and the Big 5.  It would be interesting to see how this is related to emotional intelligence (yes this is a foreshadowing).

Turning to the March issue of Psych Bulletin:

- More on narcissism: this time, researchers found that men consistently report higher levels of narcissism compared to women, which is interesting when taken in combination with the study above.

In the December issue of Industrial and Organizational Psychology:

- The first focal article calls out researchers for using incorrect assumptions about criterion reliabilities, thus impacting criterion validity values.  They make suggestions for how to improve meta-analyses moving forward.

- The second makes the important argument that utility analyses should consider measures of well-being when determining the effectiveness of interventions (such as an employment test).

Finally, in the January issue of JOB (also free right now):

- a proposal for improving the calculation and reporting of Cronbach's alpha

- a fascinating study showing that high conscientiousness may hinder performance during stressful situations

- in support of EI, this study found a link between emotion recognition ability and income (interestingly through political skill and interpersonal facilitation...remember the earlier study on political skill?).

That's all for now!