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On the Horizon: A More Global SIOP?

Peter Bachiochi
Eastern Connecticut State University

Whats new in I-O psychology should be an easy question to answer immediately following the annual SIOP Conference. After all, isnt that one of the main reasons we all go to the Conference: to find out whats hot or new in each of our own little I-O neighborhoods? I always leave the convention energized to take on the research world by tackling all of the new areas that were mentioned during the Conference. Sadly, half of that momentum wears off by the time you get back to the office. Ive still got a little bit of that post-SIOP buzz, but Im not going to talk about the papers and projects that I hope to submit, wrap up, or simply resurrect. Rather, Id like to discuss what seemed to be new at this years Conference.

So whats new in I-O? Easy question, right? After a perusal of the Conference program, however, the answer is not so obvious. Following a review of session titles to try to gauge whats new, whats current, and whats emerging, it appears that theres an awful lot thats new and/or emerging in I-O. Some of the topics for which you could hear about whats on the horizon at the convention were technology, absenteeism, selection testing, faking, Chinese management research, trust at work, compound traits, survey research, job analysis, O*NET, motivation, goal theory, perceived organizational support, executive leadership and education, counterproductivity, artifact corrections in meta-analysis, leadership development, mentoring, team leadership, voluntary turnover, affirmative action, retention, and cognitive and personality approaches to job analysis.

Granted, I simply selected the session topics that used the words new, emerging, recent, or future in their titles, but one thing seems clear: Theres something new happening in nearly every area of I-O psychology. Okay, if youre a little more cynical, you could just say that people put sexy words like emerging, current, or hot in their titles to attract the attention of conference selection committee members. However, Im sure that SIOP members are above that sort of cheap pandering and let their submissions stand on their own scientific merit.Regardless of how you choose to look at it, I know that the sessions I attended with the teaser of offering something new, current, or emerging actually offered something that wasnt just a repackaging of the same old stuff. Im not quite as cynical as some of my colleagues; we really are doing some cool new stuff in I-O.

One of the clearest trends that I noticed at this years Conference is the globalization of SIOP. After a decade, the Conference returned to the exotic foreign land of Canada. Okay, it wasnt Djibouti or Fiji, but when you work in a town where Chi-Chis is considered foreign cuisine, Toronto is exotic! However, one thing was obvious at this years Conference: There were many more SIOP representatives from countries other than the United States. Allow me to lie (or at least mislead) with statistics for a moment. The number of non-U.S. Conference attendees doubled from last year. In 2001 there were 187 Conference attendees from outside the United States and this year there were 389. Those numbers are true figures, but (and heres where the minor deception comes in) that increase was largely due to the increased representation of the Canadians at the Conference. Even if we controlled for the Canadian effect, though, there was still a remarkable jump!

As I gawked at nametags, it was refreshing to see many more people from Europe, Asia, Australia, Latin America, and Africa. I regret that I didnt stop to talk to more of them about recent I-O developments in their countries. I, and I dont think Im unique in this regard, tend to be a little insular about the right and wrong ways of doing things (the ugly-American syndrome) and its always fun to be reminded about the distinctly Western lenses through which I view the world.

At this years Conference, sessions addressed cross-cultural issues more than ever before. Sessions covered the challenges faced when cross-cultural issues are considered during instructional design, delivery, and evaluation. Workfamily issues in more than a dozen countries were discussed in a single session. Another session addressed issues of assessment and coaching in a global context and yet another session handled how personality at work varies as you cross cultural borders. Finally, a comparison of HRM practices in multiple countries and the challenges of exporting American I-O psychology were also discussed in two other sessions.

This years winner of the Data-Set-to-Kill-For Award has to be from the Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness Research Program (GLOBE). Data from 62 different cultures and from over 1,000 CEOs! Although Id prefer not to think about the hours and hours of coordination that must have been required to just get the study started, never mind the actual data collection and analyses, one has to respect the commitment and guts it must have taken to pull off such a project! Clearly this multinational design is something to which any of us doing cross-cultural research should aspire. Granted, few of us have the resources to make such a project happen, but every one of us should have in the back of our minds just how the phenomenon we are studying might be very different in another culture. The results from existing cross-cultural research tell us that what works in the U.S. cannot be safely assumed to work elsewhere in the world.

Equally exciting and interesting were the multiple sessions that illustrated that many of our tried and true assumptions no longer hold within our own borders. As the U.S. population is becoming more diverse, I-O research is beginning to reflect that demographic shift. If you review the nonposter sessions from the past few years of SIOP programs, the number of diversity-related sessions seems to be increasing. Ive defined diversity-related as dealing with race/ethnicity, culture (excluding corporate culture), gender, aging, sexual orientation, and workfamily issues. This years program had slightly more diversity-related material: approximately 13% compared to 10% in 2001 and 12% in 2000. Perhaps even more telling, the diversity-related poster session was moved from the dreaded Sunday morning at 8 a.m. slot in 2000 to the more attendee-friendly slot of Friday afternoon last year and this year. Although this may not have been an intentional decision on the part of the Conference Committee, I thank them!

As I-O psychologists, we need to take greater steps to test whether the American way of doing business still fits the new Americans. Sessions this year pointed out that we need to reevaluate the glass ceiling, sexual harassment, and other gender-related issues. A session was devoted entirely to the issues faced by Hispanic Americans. The impact of diversity on assessment, employee attitudes, and performance was addressed in another session. And for what I believe is the first time, there was a session devoted to diversity and inclusion within (as well as outside) SIOP! Although one look around the Conference bears out that SIOP is still pretty darned White, change seems to be afoot. SIOP is starting to look a little more like the people outside our little I-O neighborhood.

The events of the past year seemed to draw the world together in many respects. If nothing else, it has become very clear that this is a much smaller world in which we live. It has been refreshing to see that SIOP has started to reflect that shrinking world. In an age of increasingly efficient technology, were more closely linked with others around the world, and at this years Conference the lines of communication became even more direct. I sincerely hope that the contacts we were all able to make at this years Conference will be maintained and that they wont become victims of the all too common post-SIOP momentum loss. You probably have a few business cards from contacts you made with people from other countries at the Conference. You probably talked enthusiastically about the potential for some truly interesting collaboration that would yield some interesting data or would create some corporate synergy. Dig out those business cards and send those people an e-mail today, and kickstart that idea one more time. It should be that easy!

As always, if youd like to give me some feedback about what Ive said or have ideas for future articles, please drop me a line at bachiochip@easternct.edu.


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