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Practice Network:  Learnings From the SIOP Conference

Scott L. Martin

I was asked by Laura Koppes, the TIP editor, to use this column to focus on the SIOP conference. As always, I enjoyed the conference and learned more about the practice of I-O psychology. This column reflects a few of my learnings.

Fritz Drasgows presidential address was titled Computerized Testing and Assessment: Boon or Boondoggle? Fritz discussed how the computer can be used to create dynamic, interactive assessments that can be more realistic than multiple-choice tests. He presented research suggesting that these dynamic assessments are more valid than multiple-choice measures. This could be an exciting opportunity to improve our assessment practices. However, these assessments are more expensive than multiple-choice measures so well have to be sure the benefits exceed the costs.

I attended a couple of good sessions on coaching. David Peterson and Marc Sokol conducted a master tutorial titled Coaching Leaders Around Critical Choices. The session provided suggestions on how coaches can use various frameworks and models, such as the decision matrix, return-on-investment formula, or balanced scorecard, to prompt leaders to avoid cognitive biases and think more broadly. For instance, coaches might ask (a) What other options might be considered? (b) What criteria are you using to make your decision? (c) What are the costs associated with implementation? and (d) How might this impact customers on a long-term basis? This appears to be a convenient way for coaches to improve the quality of leaders decisions.

There was also a panel discussion titled Executive Coaching: A Deeper Look. Carol Timmreck chaired the session and the panelists were Robert Lee, David Peterson, Anna Marie Valerio, and Vicki Vandaveer. The session explored a number of interesting issues related to coaching, but one that was particularly impactful was how the coachs personality factors into the coaching relationship. For instance, those with a high need for closure may rush to judgment. As another example, a coach who tends to be independent may be perceived by the leader to lack responsiveness. The dynamics between the coach and leader can obviously get complicated, but the discussion should help coaches better recognize and manage their side of the coaching relationship.

There was an interesting practitioner forum on change management titled Success Factors and Pitfalls in Large-Scale Change Management Initiatives. Steve Robison discussed a large-scale change initiative at Dow Chemical. To improve communications Dow established an online message board in which any employee could ask a question and the CEO would respond. A natural concern about such open communication is that a few employees might abuse the situation by asking inappropriate questions. Steve indicated that there were a few of these incidents. However, when these incidents occurred, many other employees supported the CEO, and this had a positive impact on the change effort. I thought this was a great example of how being open and vulnerable works to your advantage (provided youre doing the right thing) and how this can be leveraged in the electronic age.

Finally, there was a practitioner forum titled Building and Developing Leaders for the Future: Managing Executive Talent. Erika DEgidio, from Bristol-Myers Squibb, presented a number of initiatives, but one that really resonated with me involved a systematic on-boarding process for executives. The process involved a few components such as bringing the executive and his/her direct reports together after the first 30 days to discuss what appears to be going well and what can be improved going forward. This initiative confirmed my general impression that organizations do not do enough to on-board new employees. I believe this is true at all levels but is particularly true for executives. We invest a fair amount of time and energy on the selection process but tend to adopt a sink-or-swim approach following the hiring decision. I believe there are research and practice opportunities for helping employees be successful once they begin a new job.

I continue to be impressed by the range of topics I-O psychologists address and the many opportunities we have to improve organizational performance. As always, if you have thoughts on the above or other comments please, let me know at Scott_L_Martin@payless.com or 785.295.6801. Thanks very much!

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