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Jenny Baker
/ Categories: 2021, 583

Culture-Infused Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Sharon Glazer and Krystal N. Roach, with Reeshad Dalal, Laura Dryjanska, Andrei Ion, Catherine T. Kwantes, Rana Moukarzel, D.J. O’Donnell, & Chet Robie

The world is experiencing a major global culture shift due to COVID-19, which is also affecting the welfare of countries, organizations, families, and individuals. As nations differ in their tendencies to value economic security and health, the people, entities, and institutions within countries are adjusting differently. It is clear, however, that globally, we are witnessing a revolution of culture changes, whether from an industrial and organizational psychology (I-O) lens, it is the culture of the global virtual workspace or the group cultures of essential, nonessential, or unemployed workers. The recognition of what is really important in life is shaking up some things, and yet others remain the same. Businesses today are suffering through COVID-19-related required closures, ergo so are workers. Some people are continuing to maintain mostly comfortable, well-paying jobs but feel the strain of restrictions on physically meeting people (both indoors and outdoors). Others, in contrast, are facing threats from lack of income coupled similarly with minimal social contact. Where are we, as I-O professionals, in this evolving social construction of our world of work?

I-O professionals have a great deal to offer at this time but are often not at the table discussing with decision makers how to best address the new work challenges. Where are I-O professionals in facilitating adjustments and changes in the new culture of the global virtual workforce? How can cross-cultural psychology inform I-O so that I-O professionals can help design, redesign, modify, and support workers and nonworkers during the shared global transitions the pandemic has created? The incorporation of a global lens to I-O is becoming more markedly important as trade, commerce, communications, cybersecurity, and the like become all the more salient due to our physical isolation from one another, in the name of security and health. What can cross-cultural psychology do to inform I-O’s contributions and to promote and sustain a healthy workforce in transition?

This article has two discrete aims that indirectly also complement one another. The first aim is to promote a cross-cultural lens to I-O so that I-O professionals can effectively navigate the current state of work and the workforce. The second aim is to share with the I-O community outcomes from the June SIOP virtual conference Community of Interest session, Identifying Emerging Issues in I-O Psychology Around the World.

A Cross-Cultural Lens in Industrial and Organizational Psychology

To address the first aim, we first ask, “What is culture?” Culture can be defined as values, attitudes, axioms, norms, language, and history that are shared within a group of people, passed down from one generation to the next and taken for granted by those within it (Glazer, 2002). Family units, social groups, professional groups, business units, organizations, and nations all have cultures that influence individuals who are part of them and also are influenced by people who are a part of them (Erez & Gati, 2004).

Cross-cultural psychology reinforces perspective taking in ways that I-O does not. In order to effectively engage with people around the globe, it is vitally important to understand their perspectives. How are people around the globe viewing the world of work during this pandemic? What experiences in their past have they had that make them better or less prepared than those in organizations in other countries? What are the relationships among government, politics, healthcare, population density, cultural values, infrastructure, communications technology, and economic landscapes that shape affects, behaviors, and cognitions in one country (compared to other countries) that makes them successful in handling organizational issues and ensuring a healthy workforce?

Through a cross-cultural psychology lens we are reminded to look beyond, or perhaps better yet well in advance of, statistics to guide decision making. It reminds us that statistics are merely one means for understanding human behavior; there are other approaches that require nonstatistical methods for appreciating and understanding cultural differences. We cannot be short sighted by statistics; they are only one component of the picture. We believe that qualitative and mixed methodologies should complement more quantitative and positivistic approaches. Aycan and Gelfand (2012) explain that cross-cultural research has four functions, including (a) expanding the range of organizational behavior, (b) testing the universality of organizational theories, (c) illuminating emic (i.e., culture-specific) phenomena and reducing ethnocentrism, and (d) improving intercultural interactions.

We believe that our attention today should be focused on the third point of identifying and understanding emic phenomena. It is our perspective that we need to embrace the opportunities of sharing information so that we can consider creative ways of contributing our expertise to improve people’s work experiences around the world—around this new evolving world of work.

The International Affairs Committee (IAC) of SIOP serves to connect SIOP members globally with the intent of promoting the exchange of international and cross-cultural practice and research. Several of the topics mentioned and discussed above are ones that the international community of I-O professionals may benefit in addressing together.

Outcomes From the IAC Community of Interest

The second aim of this article is to share the outcomes of the IAC’s Community of Interest (COI) session held during the SIOP virtual conference in June. In so doing, we first provide a brief background of the aims of the IAC.

The IAC is responsible for

  • Fostering the collaboration between national and international conference attendees;
  • Encouraging international research collaborations in I-O psychology;
  • Facilitating the international dissemination of I-O-related knowledge; and
  • Establishing a collaborative framework with various international I-O organizations/associations.

We strive to achieve these aims by creating global connections between I-O professionals (students, faculty, and practitioners). As a first step to understanding the needs of the international community of I-O professionals, the IAC hosted a COI during the 2020 virtual conference in which roughly 30 attendees were divided into four breakout rooms. Each breakout room represented a different theme that emerged from a brief response to questions posed when attendees preregistered to participate in the COI. The four themes were

  1. Healthcare and well-being across cultures;
  2. Psychometrics, selection, and assessments across cultures;
  3. Internationalizing I-O psychology;
  4. Immigration, migration, and working conditions for undocumented migrants.

Interestingly, the issue of COVID-19 was not identified as a topic of interest, though it was brought up in breakout-room discussions.

Attendees in each breakout room were asked to discuss three questions. Below are the questions that were posed and attendees’ responses, summarized and organized by action category. Several common themes emerged, and in our review of the notes taken, it is clear that the attendees want to see actions that align very clearly with the goals (responsibilities) of the IAC.

  1. What are actions the IAC can pursue in order to raise awareness around cross-cultural aspects of …[each of the themes]?
  • Connect people
  • Find ways to facilitate research connections across cultures in an effort to increase collaborations and global diversity in study samples.
  • Create a platform/database to connect/match researchers and practitioners on interests and locations where people want to conduct research (e.g., lunch-club platform in Silicon Valley).
  • Create a list of I-O-related local groups around the globe to be connected to local I-O communities internationally.
  • Disseminate knowledge.
  • Contribute to practitioner-oriented journals with an expedited review process
    • Identify and share information about top-tier journals that regularly publish on international topics that relate to I-O psychology.
    • Contribute to TIP on best practices in the domain of occupational health and well-being around the globe.
    • Consider focusing efforts in countries and regions where there are several groups that do not seem to have much contact with SIOP.
    • Polling or surveying international groups and contacts on topics of research or practice that are of interest to help bridge the gap in those areas.
      • Extend research and practice
  • Encourage I-O research on immigration, as well as on immigrant and refugee populations, as current I-O research tends to capture the experience of expatriates but not immigrant populations, including undocumented immigrants and refugees.
  • Apply some considerations about immigrant populations to a wider scenario than the USA, sharing helpful practices from overseas (e.g., sharing cultural mediators relevant to practice).
  • Investigate what is being done in crisis management research and practice, especially with regards to COVID.
  • Many of the WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) countries (Henrich et al., 2010) have organized work psych groups, whereas others do not. This raised a question of where and how we can explore I-O in more culturally distant cultures. More specifically:
    • What best practices and research are generalizable around the world (i.e., etic)? In addition, it is also useful for researchers and practitioners to know what best practices and research are culture specific (i.e., emic).
    • It is possible to broaden the scope of our search for I-O research and practice, focusing on regions both with and without an organized I-O presence, and also investigating work being done in similar disciplines across cultures (e.g., management, business) and coming from different sources (e.g., international human resource practitioners, internal consultants at multinational enterprises).

2. How can SIOP facilitate internationalization of practice and research in each of the themes?

  • Connect people
  • Collaborate with other organizations (e.g., EAWOP, CSIOP, IAAP) to create a task force to engage in a collaborative research effort on worker-health research.
  • Support outreach to researchers internationally in ways that include within-country (i.e., emic) variations.
  • Investigate areas in which SIOP can provide additional support to international students studying in the United States and students from other countries who are studying I-O.
  • Support and encourage international experiences that enable faculty, students, and practitioners to travel abroad (e.g., creating a formal exchange program).
  • Access to more affordable membership options for international members.
    • Disseminate knowledge
  • Issue guidelines to address specific legal and ethical concerns, especially regarding research with undocumented immigrants.
  • Develop a repository of online resources on topics related to the recommended white papers that need to be navigated in I-O research and practice.
    • Extend research and practice
  • Encourage a special call for a theme track on well-being and on healthcare from an international or cross-cultural perspective, which can help inform practice.
  • Increase access for international I-O professionals to the SIOP conference by having a place to indicate that a submission is international (non-U.S.-based) or cross cultural, and then evaluate if submissions that would not normally be accepted on the basis of U.S.-centric biases may be admissible due to their international or cross-cultural lens.
    • Miscellaneous
  • Clarify SIOP’s aims for the IAC. Is the IAC foremost intended for outreach from SIOP internationally or as a means to internationalize SIOP?
  • Consider making a values statement on immigrant employees, in much the same style as SIOP’s impressive values statement on LGBTQ employees a few years ago.
  • Consider a non-U.S.-based location every other year or evaluate the traditional conference format to consider how SIOP can increase more international attendances.
  • Is there a need for a president/executive to encourage internationalization?

3. How can the IAC best contribute to SIOP’s white paper series?

  • Points to remember
  • What are some cross-cultural issues that managers, particularly those in the healthcare industry, are facing?
  • When preparing white papers, remember to consider what actions managers and HR can take away from the white paper.
    • Ideas and suggestions for white paper topics
  • Health and well-being
  • Empowerment of nurses in healthcare.
  • Gig work and occupational stress across the globe, e.g., lack of training, national policies on gig work, compensation, and benefits.
  • Cross-cultural views on stress and well-being and variant predictors (e.g., income, status, equity and equality, justice).
  • Infectious diseases (e.g., COVID-19) that disproportionately impact marginalized populations (e.g., immigrants). Specifically, challenges that practitioners face in keeping these populations safe, and explaining how practitioners can ensure health, safety, and employee dignity in workplaces.
  • Cultural lens on within-culture communities
  • Global lens on the digital divide among unique cultural communities (e.g., the deaf, autistic, rural, and indigenous communities).
  • Legal, ethical, and methodological issues that need to be navigated in I-O research and practice involving documented and undocumented immigrants. Methodological challenges might include measurement equivalence, lack of trust, technological barriers (e.g., lack of representation on online panels such as MTurk), and cultural barriers (e.g., lack of experience taking surveys).
  • Implications of human resources management practices (e.g., job design/redesign, pay and benefits, health insurance, physical safety regulations, union organizing, and “adverse impact”) related to immigrants. (Note: Immigrants may not be a legally protected category in many countries, therefore an adverse-impact approach could be applied on ethical rather than legal grounds.)
  • General cross-cultural information
  • Problems of access to work psychology research in developing nations (e.g., journal access, cost of textbooks, Internet access).
  • Differences in the names and practices of I-O in different regions around the world.
  • Transporting assessments globally.
  • Legal issues across the globe that I-O professionals should know about (e.g., implications of I-O input on undocumented immigrants in different countries).

The IAC has been discussing and planning implementation of some of the above recommendations. For example, the IAC is working with the Membership Committee to create greater outreach to prospective members around the globe, updating questions to the membership survey, and considering ways of increasing dual memberships between a region-wide association and SIOP. Additionally, IAC members have submitted responses to two focal articles in Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice and two new white papers are in development. The IAC is also currently exploring the creation of a social media account.

As a second step to understanding the needs of the I-O community, we encourage you to reach out to the IAC (via email to: iac@siop.org) to share with us any contact information you may have with local I-O groups around the globe. We are working intensely to identify local I-O groups across the globe so that we can create a database/searchable repository. Please assume we do not know of one near you and email us.

We would also like you to contact us if you would like to author a white paper on your own topic of interest or any other topics we have provided above. You may see some of SIOP’s existing white papers (many of which were contributed to via the IAC) here: https://www.siop.org/Research-Publications/SIOP-White-Papers.

Finally, please consider applying early to join the IAC. Applications should be submitted, typically within 1 month of the SIOP conference, through the SIOP Volunteer System (SVS) sign-up form. Membership dues must be up to date to join any SIOP committee. We seek diversity and inclusion of I-O colleagues from around the globe, both in academia and practice. The committee is organized around several subcommittees, including conference, visibility, publications and white papers, grants and awards, and procedures and processes. In addition, the IAC has recently created a new subcommittee with specific attention to international students interested in I-O. The subcommittee is intended to support students connect with local groups in their region or country, to educate students about U.S. norms and expectations as an I-O practitioner and researcher, and to create global connections. Several committee members serve as liaisons to internal (to SIOP), domestic, and international organizations and associations.

Summarily, the IAC can serve as a conduit for bringing together I-O professionals from around the globe to tackle wicked issues related to work-, organizational-, and personnel-psychology matters, particularly in a confined environment created by COVID-19. This newly developing global work culture coupled with the focal interests of those who attended the IAC’s COI session show that it is clear that the international community of I-O professionals have much to contribute. We invite you to contact us with any questions or comments, as well as connections to your local I-O group.

References

Aycan, Z., & Gelfand, M. J. (2012). Cross-cultural organizational psychology. In S. W. J. Kozlowski (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of organizational psychology (Vol. 2, pp. 183–214). Oxford University. doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199928286.013.0033

Erez, M., & Gati, E. (2004). A dynamic, multi-level model of culture: From the micro level of the individual to the macro level of a global culture. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 53, 583–598. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-0597.2004.00190.x

Glazer, S. (2002). Past, present, and future of cross-cultural studies in industrial and organizational psychology. In C. Cooper & I. T. Robertson (Eds.), International Review of Industrial and Organizational Psychology (Vol. 17, pp. 145–185). Wiley. doi: 10.1002/9780470696392.ch5

Glazer, S., & Ion, A. (2020, June 22). Identifying emerging issues in i-o psychology around the world. [Community of Interest session]. Presented at the 34th Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, virtually delivered.

Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). Most people are not WEIRD. Nature, 466, 29. doi: 10.1038/466029a

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