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Profiles in I-O Psychology
Science–Practice Excellence:
Bank of America

 The Bridge: Connecting Science and Practice

 

Larisa Belau Niedle

and

Lisa N. Littrell

 

Column Editors: Lynda Zugec, The Workforce Consultants; Craig Wallace, Oklahoma State University; and Mark L. Poteet, Organizational Research & Solutions, Inc.

The purpose of the Bridge column is to provide an additional conduit, building upon SIOP’s current efforts, for connecting science and practice. The column strives to accomplish this by publishing various types of article content on the subject of science and practice integration; for example, case studies of effective practice; discussions between scientists and practitioners on a relevant topic, reviews of the key scientific and practical implications of a topic area; summaries of latest research findings and their implications for practice; summaries of key practice issues and their implications for needed research; and/or, calls for research to help practitioners overcome challenges associated with effective practice (please see Poteet, Zugec, & Wallace, 2016, for more background information on the column).

In this, the second issue of this column, we describe an award program designed to highlight effective examples of science and practice: the HRM Impact Award. Additionally, we profile one of the 2015 winners of this award, Bank of America, highlighting key steps, challenges, and lessons-learned through the implementation of an I-O related project. By highlighting this work, it is our intention to share how science and practice can work together to create great workplaces.

The HRM Impact Award

Sponsored by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), the SIOP Foundation, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and the SHRM Foundation, the HRM Impact Award was designed to recognize, reward, and publicize  “best available evidence regarding the usefulness and impact of successfully implemented innovative HRM initiatives” (“Human Resource Management Impact Awards”, n.d., para. 1). This award reflects a “commitment to promoting human resource management practices that contribute to the success of today’s global work organizations, making them better places in which to work” (“Human Resource Management Impact Awards”, n.d., para. 1).

Applications for the HRM Impact Award are sought annually, with organizations being encouraged to submit for recognition the HR practice or initiative that it believes best exemplifies effective evidence-based practice. Reflecting true science–practice collaboration, applications are reviewed by an awards committee consisting of academics and practitioners from each of the four sponsoring organizations. Several criteria are used to evaluate applications, including business financial or operational impact, people impact, scientific impact on the research and practice of HR, and quality of evidence provided. Winners of the HRM Impact Award are recognized in various media outlets and receive a plaque presented at SIOP and SHRM events. Benefits to the award winners include recognition as a leader in evidence-based HR practice and increased attraction and retention of HR professionals committed to effective evidence-based practice.

The Bank of America, as noted above, was one of two most recent winners of this award. We contacted representatives from the company and requested them to respond to a few open-ended questions about their experience. The company’s profile and comments about its experience with providing evidence-based HR practice are outlined below.

 


Company Profile

Bank of America (BAC) is one of the world's leading financial institutions, serving individual consumers, small and middle-market businesses and large corporations with a full range of banking, investing, asset management and other financial and risk management products and services. The company provides unmatched convenience in the United States, serving approximately 47 million consumer and small business relationships with approximately 4,700 retail financial centers, approximately 16,000 ATMs, and award-winning online banking with approximately 33 million active users and approximately 20 million mobile users. Bank of America is a global leader in wealth management, corporate and investment banking and trading across a broad range of asset classes, serving corporations, governments, institutions and individuals around the world. Bank of America offers industry-leading support to approximately 3 million small business owners through a suite of innovative, easy-to-use online products and services. The company serves clients through operations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and more than 35 countries.

Describe a project within your organization where science was connected to practice.

BAC has many call center and operations roles that are similar yet unique, focusing on different products, services and customers. These roles used prehire assessments, and although those assessments were different, many components were similar. Often, candidates would apply for several call center or operations roles, resulting in them completing multiple assessments which led to a poor candidate experience.

BAC was interested in increasing on-the-job performance and reducing turnover given the criticality of these positions to exceptional customer service. In partnership with SHAKER, BAC developed an online, multimethod, preemployment assessment and realistic job preview (RJP). This is a modular assessment, named the Universal Fit Assessment, to represent the breadth of jobs covered. All candidates take a core set of modules relevant for all roles, which are augmented by job-specific modules covering additional situational judgment scenarios, biodata items, various simulation components, and RJPs. The specific modules that candidates complete are dependent upon the job family to which they applied and the modules previously completed. When candidates apply for multiple jobs that require the Universal Fit Assessment, they do not retake common modules previously completed as part of another application.

What steps did you take to ensure science was integrated into this project?

Based on a comprehensive job analysis, the custom assessment and RJP content were created, which was subjected to a criterion-related, concurrent validation. Assessment and performance data were analyzed for 1,126 incumbents from 38 job codes across 11 sub-lines of business (LOBs). Results led to streamlining of assessment content and creation of the final, competency-based scoring approach. Following implementation, the assessment was revalidated and further refined using a criterion-related, predictive validation. The following outcomes have been empirically demonstrated: reduced candidate assessment time, a more engaging and informative candidate experience, increased new hire retention, and improved hew hire performance.

What challenges did you encounter when integrating science into practice?

Due to the large scope of work, project management was complicated when developing and validating the Universal Fit Assessment. Many partners, such as staffing, human resources, Legal, business leaders, front-line employees, workforce management, performance management, communications and branding, and IT, had to be engaged across multiple lines of business. Given the extensive group of stakeholders, detailed project plans and timelines were crucial to ensure that the project remained on track and would enable us to anticipate timeline issues in advance. Communication was also important as it was imperative that at every stage, we reengaged stakeholders to remind them of the purpose of the project, explain next steps/associated timelines, and illustrate their role in achieving required actions.

Because this initiative was a push from the internal I-O psychologists rather than a pull from the business, it was necessary to create buy-in across many individuals and business units with competing priorities. For example, we needed to clearly articulate the benefits of the assessment to the LOB leaders as it required taking their employees off the job to participate in the validation studies. One influencing strategy was to clearly articulate the connection between the end-state assessment and the ability to hire great talent. The key was to stress the data-driven approach used to create and validate the assessment would ultimately lead to increased on-the-job performance.

What advice and lessons learned would you share with practitioners to assist them in integrating science into their practice projects?

  • Identify stakeholders: Ensure that the appropriate partners are engaged from the beginning and understand the “why” behind the process. Communicate the “why,” in a way that resonates with the LOB leaders. Identifying all critical stakeholders at the outset ensures you do not lose momentum later on when an unknown critical stakeholder may question the purpose and value of the project.
  • Obtain leader buy-in early: Key leadership buy in is critical for both communicating the value of the assessment to the line of business as well as messaging what is needed at various stages in the process. Partner with the leaders to craft communications they can send to the business to outline their role in the process. These communications position the project as something leadership stands behind which will help tremendously with active participation and engagement from the line of business.
  • Be flexible and creative: Business realities may alter your original plan so be creative in thinking of solutions that will allow you to collect needed data but also help the business feel that you understand the challenges they face. For example, data collection for the validation was done in waves to accommodate the busy periods of the various LOBs.
  • Build slack into your project plan: Assume that there may be delays, especially with large scale projects, and incorporate them into your timeline. Also, overestimate your sample size for validations because it is likely you will not get 100% response from those selected to participate.
  • Communicate in a simple and straightforward manner: Structure requests in easy to understand formats. Page long emails with blocks of text often go ignored. Succinctly explain what you’re asking for, why you’re asking for it, and make sure it’s clear what action is needed and by when. Attach calendar reminders to emails in addition to following up yourself.
  • Tell a good story:  Presentation skills are key when obtaining buy-in and sharing the impact of your solution. Create clear and visually engaging presentations to tell your story in a way that resonates with the business and make it easy for a nontechnical audience to understand.
  • Partner with your vendor: The true partnership we had with SHAKER contributed to the project’s success. We operated as one collaborative team, which enabled us to brainstorm solutions and quickly trouble-shoot problems. A strong partnership will also help you build your and your vendor’s credibility within the organization, creating an environment where stakeholders are inviting you in to do additional value-added work.

Moving Forward

Consistent with the aims of this column, we hope this contribution has provided the reader with (a) an understanding of one of the programs being managed by SIOP and its partners to encourage and highlight effective science-practice, and (b) some guidance into the principles, challenge, and key steps for implementing sound, evidenced-based HR/I-O initiatives. 

As outlined in Poteet, Zugec, and Wallace (2016), moving forward the TIP Editorial Board will continue to have oversight and review responsibility for the new column. Members of the Professional Practice Committee (PPC) and Scientific Affairs Committees (SAC) will identify content areas and format, secure authors and column participants, and assist with and review members’ contributions to the column. While PPC and SAC members will actively recruit column contributors, we invite interested potential contributors to contact us directly with ideas for columns following the article types listed above. If you are interested in contributing, please contact either Lynda (lynda.zugec@theworkforceconsultants.com) or Craig at (craig.wallace@okstate.edu).

References

Human Resource Management Impact Awards (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.hrmimpactawards.org

Poteet, M. L., Zugec, L., & Wallace, J.C. (2016, April). The bridge: Connecting science and practice. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist53(4), 17-23.