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Global Vision: Industrial and Organisational Psychology in Australia: The 4th Australian Industrial-Organisational Psychology Conference

Catherine Collins
University of New South Wales

Mark A. Griffin
Queensland University of Technology

 The Australian Industrial and Organisational Psychology Conference continues to grow as a showcase for Australian I-O research and practice. The conference is a biannual event and the fourth conference was recently held in Sydney. There were 530 conference delegates who attended, including a balance of academics and practitioners. The conference provides a great opportunity to review some Australian I-O psychology as well as international links with Australian research. The highlights of the conference can be captured in the following themes:

  • International linkages and contributions
  • Quality Australian research

International Linkages and Contributions

The 4th Australian I-O Conference attracted many conference delegates from outside Australia, including the USA, UK, Canada, Israel, and New Zealand. Their involvement ranged from presenting individual papers and symposia to conducting preconference workshops and keynote addresses. The international flavor at the Australian conference was kick-started with five preconference workshops. Steve Kozlowski (Michigan State University) conducted a workshop on how to enhance the development of employees adaptive capabilities by taking into account individual differences (e.g., abilities and traits) and contextual (e.g., leadership processes) and developmental influences (e.g., training and learning). In Denise Rousseaus (Carnegie Mellon University) workshop, she addressed the issue of how idiosyncratic psychological contracts between individual workers and their employers is challenging equalizing arrangements such as procedural justice and equal pay for equal work. David Bartrams (SHL Group PLC, UK) workshop investigated the pros and cons of testing through the Internet and advocated the need for developing good practice guidelines to guard against security and confidentiality issues. Robert Dipboyes (Rice University) workshop on employee selection highlighted the need for balancing structured and unstructured interviews with other selection methods such as assessment centers and mental ability tests. Malcom Higgs (Henley Management College, UK) explored the nature of emotional intelligence and its potential value in organizational contexts in his workshop.

A keynote presentation by Daniel Kahneman continued the international flavour at the conference opening. He presented research on judgment and decision making with finance investors. Evidence to date illustrates that individual investors have a bias for optimism and loss aversion when making decisions, and are thus at a disadvantage in the market relative to institutional investors.

Six other keynote presentations were featured in the program; five of these were from the preconference workshop presenters. In addition, Beryl Hesketh from the University of Sydney described how developments in science and technology are enabling simulations for selection and training practices to become more realistic with interactive technology.

International contributions extended beyond the keynote presenters. Symposia involved overseas researchers such as Dov Zohar (Israel Institute of Technology) and Carol Borrill (University of Aston, UK). Individual presentations also included overseas researchers. Two good examples include Natalie Allen and Tracy Hechts (University of Western Ontario) work on The Romance of Teams, and a piece of collaborative work between Michael Higgs and Robert Wood (Australian Graduate School of Management) with Carmen Tabernero (University of Salamanca, Spain) on individual differences in implicit theories and stereotyping behaviour in organizations; both pieces of work received best paper awards.

Quality Australian Research

All papers presented at the 4th Australian I-O Conference were subject to a double-blind reviewing procedure. To illustrate the Australian research presented, we describe a sample of the simulation and field studies that were presented.

Simulations research presented at the conference included work-in-progress from two large Australian projects jointly funded by government and industry. One project was the work from Andrew Neal and colleagues at the University of Queensland. Their work with air traffic control simulations is extending the ability to model human performance with a particular focus on the mental workload, skill acquisition, and motivation. Another simulation project was outlined in Beryl Heskeths keynote presentation; her work with Australian colleagues focuses on advancing selection and training techniques with driving and fire-fighting simulations.

Field studies conducted by Australian researchers were presented throughout the program; three papers that received best-paper awards are exemplars. First, Andrew Pirola-Merlos (University of New South Wales) work on organizational innovation differentiates processes involved in individual and team innovativeness. In his work with research and development teams, Pirola-Merlo has illustrated that team climate and synergistic interactions are important components for team innovation. Second, Renu Burr and John Corderys (University of Western Australia) longitudinal work with self-managing production teams investigated the relationship between work-method autonomy, self-management efficacy and task motivation. Results built on the accumulating evidence for the positive and long-lasting impact of job design and, in particular, autonomy on an individuals cognitive functioning. Third, Catherine Jordan (University of Western Australia) and Peter Sevastos (Curtain University of Technology) paper validated the organisational citizenship behaviour construct through a cross-validation procedure. Their results from state government employees provided support for a five-factor model of organisational citizenship behaviour. These three examples highlight that Australian I-O researchers are seeking to explore organizational issues directly through field research with longitudinal and multilevel designs, which is important to keep in touch with the world of work that is increasingly dynamic.

Other research presented in symposia and individual presentations included topics such as emotional intelligence and creativity, training, stress, leadership and organizational development, organizational commitment, work and family, teams, motivation and self-efficacy, psychological assessment, organisational change, affective events theory, and selection and attracting employees.

In addition to the academic side of the 4th Australian I-O Conference, practice forums were included in the program. The aim of these sessions was to address issues and problems with the implementation and application of I-O in the business world. Examples of issues discussed included how to deal with the media, legal issues involved with assessment of people and jobs, setting up private practice, the pros and cons of psychological assessment online, and organizational performance in the public sector.

In conclusion, the 4th Australian I-O Conference was a resounding success. The conference now appears to be a well-established forum that attracts both Australian and international psychologists. To give you plenty of time to organize a sabbatical and/or holiday to the land down under, take note that the 5th Australian I-O Conference will be held in mid-2003 in Melbourne. You are sure to receive a warm welcome!


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