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Practitioners' Forum

Joan Brannick
Brannick HR Connections

Judy Blanton started this column a year ago with the goal of providing greater visibility to the varied and innovative work of practitioners in SIOP and to highlight the scope of I-O practice. She certainly did that and more over the past year and I want to thank Judy for her outstanding efforts on this column.

My goal for this column is to continue to highlight the diverse and inventive work of SIOP practitioners. I’d also like this column to be a place where practitioner needs and interests related to the science and practice of I-O psychology are discussed in light of what SIOP and SIOP members are doing regarding those needs and interests.

During the recent celebration of the 25th anniversary of the SIOP conference, there was much formal and informal discussion about the future of I-O psychology and SIOP. This column echoes some of that discussion and further develops thoughts about the future of I-O psychology practice. It also describes some short-term and long-term developments within SIOP as they relate to the future of I-O psychology practice.

Future of Practice: Short Term

One of the most exciting developments related to the future of I-O psychology practice is SIOP’s Practitioner Mentoring Program. The program is currently in the pilot phase and is open to all SIOP practitioners who are Fellows, Members, Associate Members, and International Affiliates. This initiative was one of Gary Latham’s goals during his term as SIOP president, and it was launched at the SIOP conference in Atlanta with the first practitioner speed-mentoring event. Over the last year, Mark Poteet chaired a subcommittee of the Professional Practice Committee that focused on this effort. Van Latham and Heather Prather were members of this committee, which took Gary’s charge and made it a reality. Based on feedback from SIOP Executive Board members and potential mentoring program mentors and protégés, Mark Poteet and his committee designed a practitioner mentoring program intended to provide early career practitioners with the following opportunities for:

  • Networking: Provide participants with opportunities to broaden and expand their networks and relationships within SIOP.
  • Knowledge and skill transfer: Provide participants with opportunities to develop specific skills and abilities (e.g., presentation skills), increase their knowledge of content areas, pass on their experiences and lessons learned, and gain perspective on recent developments in the field.
  • Career development: Help participants gain insight on best ways to begin their careers, transition to new areas, and pursue rich experiences to enhance their career progress.
  • Professional development: Help participants gain practical knowledge, learn how to apply academic education to business issues, and understand how I-O psychology contributes to business success.
  • Situational guidance: Enable participants to gain guidance on how to handle practitioner-related projects, duties, dilemmas, and problems.

To provide a structured yet flexible mentoring experience and deal with the real-world challenges often associated with formal mentoring programs (e.g., limited number of mentors, protégé–mentor matching issues, geographic restrictions, etc.), the Practitioner Mentoring Program has three components: speed mentoring, group mentoring, and virtual mentoring. Details of each component are:

  • Speed mentoring: This aspect of the mentoring program was launched at the 2010 SIOP conference in Atlanta. This activity will occur at future SIOP conferences and Leading Edge Consortium (LEC) events. This part of the mentoring program provides an opportunity for early career practitioners to meet with seasoned professionals in a roundtable format to discuss a particular topic of interest. Prior to the SIOP conference, 60 participants signed up for two 20-minute roundtable discussions as part of the 1-hour speed-mentoring event. Eleven mentors led discussions on seven topics. Topics and mentors for this event were:
    • Making Career Transitions: Industry to Academics and Internal to External Consulting; Ed Salas, University of Central Florida, and Nancy Tippins, Valtera
    • A Realistic Preview of Working as an I-O Practitioner; Rich Cober, Marriott International, and Alana Cober, Transportation Security Administration
    • Communicating I-O Psychology to Clients and Decision Makers; Doug Reynolds, Development Dimensions International
    • Navigating Challenging I-O Practice Minefields; Mort McPhail, Valtera
    • How Things “Really” Work and Get Done Within Organizations; Lise Saari, New York University, and William Shepherd, Huntington Bank
    • Differences, Advantages, and Disadvantages of In-House Consulting/Work Versus Working in an External Consulting Firm; Gary Latham, University of Toronto
    • Gaining Credibility and Influence and Working With Senior Managers, Executives, CEOs, and Other Organizational Decision Makers; Rob Silzer, HR Assessment and Development/Baruch-CUNY, and Sandra Davis, MDA Leadership Consulting

I extend many thanks to the mentors, participants, Practitioner Mentoring Program Subcommittee, and everyone else who made this event so successful. Mark Poteet and his committee collected feedback at this event and will use that feedback to change and improve this aspect of the mentoring program moving forward.

  • Group mentoring: Each mentor will work with a group of up to 10 protégés. The mentor will conduct one 1–2 hour conference call each month, which will be attended by all ten protégés at the same time (i.e., not 10 individual 1–2 hours calls). During the call, the mentor will provide instruction and guidance, answer questions, present discussion topics, and so on, to the entire group of 10 protégés in a mini-workshop setting. Mentors will indicate the specific topic(s) they wish to provide mentoring on when they sign up for the program, and in general their mentoring discussions will be restricted to these topics. Protégés are also allowed to submit specific issues, questions, and work situations they would like discussed during the call. Once the mentor and topic(s) to be discussed are determined, protégés will sign up for the 10 slots on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Virtual mentoring: To supplement the ongoing group-mentoring process and the speed-mentoring activities that take place at the SIOP conference and at the LEC, SIOP practitioners will have access to an online resource network for posting any career-, work-, or topic-related questions they may have to be answered by one or more expert practitioners (i.e., mentors).
    • Where appropriate and feasible, the SIOP practice wiki site will be used as an online resource for conducting this component of the mentoring program.
    • SIOP will identify and solicit the participation of a number of experts in different topic areas who will periodically review the list of submitted questions, choose one or two that match their content area, and draft responses that will be posted in an “advice column” format. Responses will then be made available to all who have access to the Web site.

While in the pilot phase, the Practitioner Mentoring Program continues to evolve, but it is off to very good start. If you have any questions about the Practitioner Mentoring Program or if you want to participate in this program as either a mentor or a protégé, contact Mark Poteet at mlpoteet@verizon.net.

Another short-term development that has potentially long-term implications for the future of practice is the ISO Assessment Service Delivery Standards. ISO (the International Organization for Standardization) is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies. The ISO technical committee on psychological assessment has developed new standards for international testing in two parts. The “Assessment Service Delivery—Procedures and Methods to Assess People in Work and Organizational Settings—Part 1 (Requirements for Service Providers) and Part 2 (Requirements for the Client)” are scheduled to be voted on for ratification this winter. Assessment for the ISO standards has been fairly broadly defined to include tests and assessments used for selection, development, and certification as well as performance management tools and organizational/employee surveys. Nancy Tippins has represented SIOP on this committee. In addition, SIOP members Kurt Geisinger, Wayne Camara, and William G. Harris have participated, representing other organizations. By the time you read this article, an open call to SIOP members for reviewers will have occurred, feedback from SIOP members will have been collected, and Rich Cober and the Professional Practice Committee will have reviewed, summarized, and provided feedback to Nancy and the committee.

Future of Practice: Long Term

As SIOP celebrated the 25th anniversary of the SIOP conference in Atlanta, many in our profession were looking forward to the next 25 years and what that means for individual I-O psychologists, SIOP, and the profession. Several SIOP conference programs cited the following issues that are and will continue to affect our future:

  • Increased competition,
  • Globalization,
  • Technological advances,
  • The need to demonstrate the value of what we do, and
  • The many and varied challenges associated with educating and training I-O psychologists.

One of the most thought-provoking programs that I attended at the SIOP conference was “Envisioning the Next 25 Years of I-O Practice: An Exercise.” In this program, Steve Ashworth, Karen Paul, Rob Silzer, and Nancy Tippins shared their views on the future of I-O practice. At the end of the program, each panel member was asked to sum up their view of the future in a headline that might appear 25 years from now on a major publication. The audience then voted on the headline that they expected to occur and the headline that they wanted to occur. Space requirements for this column do not permit me to present each panel member’s comments from this session. I can say that each presenter provided extremely thoughtful comments based on his or her extensive knowledge and experience of I-O psychology practice, SIOP, and trends that are likely to impact the future of the profession. Some panel members were more optimistic than others about the future, and the headlines reflect their varying levels of optimism. The headlines and the results of the audience vote were:

1.  I-O Psychologists Become the Indispensable Gurus of Talent (audience voted this headline as what they want the future to be)

2.  More of the Same (audience voted this headline as what they expect the future to be)

3.  I-O Psychologists Leave SIOP Behind for Successful Careers

4.  Chief Strategists for HR

Initially, I was disappointed in the outcome of the vote because of the apparent disconnect between what people expected (“More of the Same”) and what people wanted (“I-O Psychologists Become the Indispensable Gurus of Talent”). Upon further reflection, however, I realize that there is likely to be some truth to all the headlines and that the top “expected” and “wanted” headlines can occur simultaneously. The “More of the Same” headline suggests that the challenges we face today are the challenges that we will continue to face in the future and that, as a profession, we need to find new and better ways to meet them. The “I-O Psychologists Become the Indispensable Gurus of Talent” headline suggests that we can aspire to something else in addition to dealing with “More of the Same.”

It is important to know the future we expect and the future we want. Another important question is what will individual I-O psychologists and SIOP do to meet the challenges of the future? Will we react passively and allow the challenges we face to create our future? Or, will we create the future that we want? My personal preference (and hope) is that individual I-O psychologists and SIOP will create the future that they want.

In reviewing the next section of this article prior to submitting it for publication in TIP, I was reminded of the movie, Jerry McGuire. At the beginning of the movie, Jerry (played by Tom Cruise) spends a few days (and sleepless nights) writing a “mission statement.” The mission statement contains principles and actions that Jerry thinks his company and its employees should aspire to, much of which runs counter to what the company and employees are actually doing. He distributes his mission statement to all company employees, including senior management, and promptly gets fired because people think he is, at best, too preachy and, at worst, crazy. Before anyone fires me, you need to know that I get a little annoyed with people who ask questions without providing any suggested solutions. On the other hand, with respect to the future, I feel like “who am I to tell people what the future holds or what to do to prepare for the future?” I can’t even begin to know and understand all the varying perspectives on the future, and I certainly can’t provide solutions that are guaranteed to effectively address the challenges that our profession faces. My overwhelming need to provide some suggested solutions, however, outweighs my fear of appearing, like Jerry McGuire, too preachy or crazy. So, here goes. Consider the following as simply some possible courses of action for individual SIOP members and SIOP to pursue in creating the future.

  • Creating the future of SIOP and I-O psychology: possible courses of action for individuals
    • Remember that the future begins with me. No matter how much I want other people to change, the reality is that the only person I can change is me. If I want SIOP or I-O psychology to be more visible, I need to be more visible. If I want SIOP to do a better job of collaborating with others both inside and outside of our profession, I need to do a better job of collaborating with others both inside and outside of our profession. When I get frustrated with others for thinking or doing things the same old way, I need to think and do things differently. To create the future I want, I need to model the change I want to see rather than expecting SIOP or others to change. For anyone who thinks that he or she can’t make a difference, I ask you to think about the many significant changes that have occurred in the world as the result of one person with an idea and the energy and determination to pursue that idea.
    • Use good science and good practice. One of the most important factors that distinguishes our profession from others and, in my opinion, the one factor that adds the most value to the individuals and organizations that we serve is our knowledge and use of good science and good practice. It’s often difficult to do this given the demands and constraints that I face in working with individuals and organizations. Just because it’s difficult, however, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it. Doing what I can to make sure I use good science and good practice not only helps the individuals and organizations with which I work, it also helps create a stronger and more viable future for me and, possibly, for SIOP and our profession.
    • Communicate and collaborate. I sometimes catch myself complaining after a decision is made that I disagree with even though I said little or nothing to others while the decision was being made. SIOP leadership and others can’t read my mind. If I want something changed or I don’t like something, I need to speak up. If I like something or I think something is good or adds value, I need to speak up. To get the future I want, I must let people know what I want (or don’t want) and then work with others to try to change things for the better. Communicating and collaborating doesn’t guarantee that I will always get what I want. Not communicating and not collaborating does, however, make it much less likely that I will get what I want or that what I think needs to happen will actually happen.
  • Creating the future of SIOP and I-O psychology: possible courses of action for SIOP
    • Revisit SIOP’s vision for the future. To get the future we want, we need to clearly define and communicate a vision. We then need to revisit that vision periodically to make sure it still reflects what we want. As a result of a strategic planning process that SIOP began in the fall of 2005, the SIOP Executive Committee adopted the following vision statement in January 2006: “SIOP vision: To be recognized as the premier professional group committed to advancing the science and practice of the psychology of work.” I think SIOP has made progress towards the vision. Others may disagree. I wonder how much people’s views about the progress SIOP has made (or not made) in this area reflects actual fact and how much of it reflects a need to better communicate the progress that has been made to all SIOP members. As we look towards the future, it might be helpful to revisit SIOP’s vision. Is it still what SIOP wants to aspire to? If so, what do we plan to do in the future to move towards that vision? On the other hand, if SIOP wants to aspire to something different, what might that be? Whether SIOP wants the current vision moving forward or not, we need to revisit the vision periodically and make sure that it still reflects where SIOP wants to go. Moreover, SIOP needs to evaluate everything it does relative to the vision to make sure that it supports moving SIOP in the direction that it wants to go in the future.
    • Focus on shared values and a common purpose. In listening to Dave Ulrich’s closing plenary session at the SIOP conference as well as the comments of SIOP President Eduardo Salas, about various divisions within SIOP, I was reminded of a quote by John Dickinson, “United we stand, divided we fall.” Identifying and articulating the values that we share and rallying around a common purpose or goal are two things that our science and practice tells us improves group or team performance. So, what are SIOP’s shared values? As a result of a strategic planning process that SIOP began in the fall of 2005, the SIOP Executive Committee adopted the following core values in January 2006:
      • Excellence in education, research, and practice of I-O psychology
      • Intellectual integrity and the scientific method
      • Maintaining a professional, collegial, and inclusive community through member involvement
      • The importance of psychology to the world of work
      • Improving the effectiveness of organizations and the well-being of individuals in the workforce
      • The highest ethical standards in research, education, and practice

        I think most, if not all, SIOP members support these values and most, if not all, of SIOP’s decisions and actions reflect these values. The ongoing discussion about the fragmented nature of SIOP suggests that there is a need to do more to focus SIOP members’ attention on these values (and possibly others). I am not suggesting that focusing on shared values and a common purpose means that conflict in SIOP will end or that it should even be avoided. I am suggesting that focusing on shared values and a common purpose will make the inevitable conflicts in SIOP more constructive in tone and will produce more positive outcomes. So, how can SIOP help members focus on shared values? Continuing to make decisions that are aligned with SIOP’s values, communicating those decisions in a way that is consistent with SIOP’s values, and recognizing those who exemplify SIOP’s values are just some of the things that SIOP can do to help members focus on shared values. Another question is to what purpose can SIOP apply these values to create the future that SIOP wants? SIOP’s vision may be that purpose. Or, SIOP may want to pursue another purpose. Only time and further discussion will tell. Either way, focusing on shared values and a common purpose can help create stronger bonds across different groups within SIOP.
    • Look outside for education and inspiration. Over the years, I’ve heard people, both inside and outside of SIOP (including me), comment that SIOP is insular. There’s no denying that we have varied and deep expertise within SIOP. There’s also no denying that we should value and use that expertise moving forward. The scope of challenges facing our profession is, however, in my opinion, unprecedented and requires new and different ways of thinking and doing. We need information from a broader array of sources if we want to address the challenges of the future most effectively. To ensure SIOP’s future viability, we also need to engage those new to our profession and re-engage those who have been around for awhile. Making sure we look both inside and outside SIOP for information and solutions related to the future can help SIOP better define and achieve the future that it wants. It can also help inspire and energize SIOP moving towards the future that it wants.

These possible courses of action for individuals and for SIOP regarding the future are just that, ideas and suggestions that are intended to generate more thought, discussion, and action. If you have different ideas or suggestions about the future of the I-O psychology practice, SIOP, or even just this column, let me know. You might also want to check out the Practice Perspective column in the next issue of TIP. It’s my understanding that Rob Silzer will report the results of a survey that was completed earlier this year on practitioners’ perceptions of the future of I-O psychology practice. In the words of Peter Drucker, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Let the creating begin.