On the Horizon: Unfinished Business
Eastern Connecticut State University
Three years ago when I started working on this column in TIP, I had set some general goals to accomplish during my tenure. The primary goal of the column has been to discuss new developments in the I-O field: new technology, research and statistical techniques, employment trends, teaching techniques, and buzzwords that became workplace trends. After a quick review of some of what I (or guest writers) have discussed in the past, Id like to briefly discuss some of the topics that I wasnt able to get to.
Teaching I-O is a topic that is near and dear to my heart, so I couldnt have been happier to kick off the column with a piece by
Milt Hakel on the importance of learning-centered teaching. Although that term may seem to be redundant, we can often fall into the trap of teaching what we know and hoping that the class/workshop gets it. Milt gently reminded us that we need to think of the learner first and design the course or the training in such a way to ensure that the student/trainee will leave with the KSAs intended. I also spent some time in one issue on a tribute of sorts to those who see themselves as teachers first.
Ive also used the column to draw attention to some underrepresented areas. Nonprofit organizations have started to receive more attention from I-O psychologists recently, but this is a development that has been long overdue. They are a segment of the workforce that is in desperate need of our help, and they provide a unique avenue for multiple research questions. In addition, qualitative research has not had the same stronghold in our field as it does in others. Training at the graduate level needs to include qualitative methods to a greater extent if nothing else but to provide an additional tool for the I-O researcher.
On the Horizon has also addressed ongoing trends that show no signs of abating. Specifically, the globalization of SIOP and issues of diversity have been growing in importance in the past 2 decades and are issues with which every organization has had to contend. Computers have also become essential workplace tools, and
Wendi Everton, Paul Mastrangelo, and Jeff Jolton provided a column on the personal use and misuse of computers at work. Employers continue to struggle to determine the point at which using computers at work for personal reasons begins to interfere with getting the job done. In another guest column,
Tom Becker provided a comprehensive review of the topics covered in our top six journals and provided an excellent state of the I-O research union summary.
Two years ago I also conducted a survey of a cross-section of colleagues to get their views of whats hot or whats on the I-O horizon. If I had been smarter (now using my 20-20 hindsight), that column could have supplied me with the ideas for many subsequent columns. All the topics raised in that unscientific survey continue to be hot for SIOP, and Id like to discuss some of them as well as a few topics I simply wasnt able to get to in my 3-year tenure.
Its surprising to me that I didnt do a column on the Internet and the explosion of Web-based applications in the business world. Several companies have moved to exclusively online job applications for many positions and Web-based selection testing as well. Research on the impact and effectiveness of this shift is beginning to bear fruit. Similarly, the use of the Internet as a business research tool has skyrocketed in the last 10 years and many companies have developed data-mining tools to harness the vast abundance of information that is literally at the fingertips of anyone with an Internet connection. Applicants are certainly using company Web pages to do job-hunting research, and companies have also started investigating just how this new medium affects applicant perceptions. Simply put, the Web is a topic that deserves additional attention.
Another topic that I have been remiss in addressing is the increased power available for data analyses. Our statistics have become more sophisticated and PC power is keeping up with, if not better enabling, desktop data analyses. For instance, hierarchical linear modeling and structural equation modeling advances have enabled more complex designs that better examine the complex workplace that we try to study. Again, this just scratches the surface, and someone with a stronger statistical background than I could go to town on the latest advances.
On the other end of the spectrum, there has been resurgence in the softer side of I-O as well. Greater interest in emotions at work and the concept of emotional intelligence has launched new debates and lines of research. Although many I-O people deny having (or simply dont have) a more clinical side, there have been many advances in team building, executive assessment, and other topics that draw attention to the need for greater collaboration between I-O and clinical psychologists. Although some of the I-O hardcore might argue that these trends are just signs that were getting soft, Im not ready to go that far.
Finally, the topic of diversity deserves a little more attention as well. Although SIOP has taken many great steps in the recent past to address the growing diversity in the workplace, theres much more to do. Im currently using a book by Peter Wood, an anthropologist, who has cast a more critical eye upon the (often knee-jerk) treatment of diversity issues in organizations. The diversity movement has taken on a great deal of steam, some of which is yielding great advances and some of which is just hot air. There is much SIOP can do to ensure that diversity, in all its myriad definitions, is better managed by the organizations that we serve.
Although Ive suggested at least another years worth of columns, Im going to pass the torch and let someone else have the fun that Ive had in the past 3 years. I would like to thank all those whove contributed to the column in one way or another as well as those who have contacted me with comments about the column. Finally, thanks to all of you for listening. As always, if youd like to contact me about anything in this column, please feel free to contact me at
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