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Results From the 2015 Practitioner Needs Survey

Meredith Ferro, Ben Porr, Ted Axton, and Soner Dumani

Practitioner Professional Development: Results from the 2015 Practitioner Needs Survey

 

Meredith Ferro - PDRI, a CEB Company

Ben Porr - Federal Management Partners

Ted Axton – HR Avatar, Inc.

Soner Dumani – American Institutes for Research

 

Introduction

In the July 2015 TIP, the SIOP Professional Practice Committee (PPC) presented the first of a series of articles reporting the results of the 2015 Practitioner Needs Survey that the PPC conducted between March and April 2015. The objective of the survey was to gather information about current needs of I-O practitioners to provide insights to SIOP leadership and committees (e.g., PPC, Licensure, Visibility) about developing future initiatives. In addition, the survey was designed to collect information that could be directly compared to the results of the 2008 Practitioner Needs Survey in order to examine progress on issues identified in 2008. 

This article focuses on I-O practitioners’ professional development needs identified in the 2015 survey results. In 2008, Silzer and colleagues reported that when asked about satisfaction with “SIOP support for advancing your I-O practice career,” full-time practitioners had a mean satisfaction rating of M = 2.77 (five-point scale where 5 = very satisfied). The 2015 results indicate that full-time practitioners have the same level of satisfaction on this item in 2015 (M = 2.77), despite several practitioner development-related initiatives that were implemented after the 2008 survey (e.g., Speed Mentoring/Group Mentoring, Webinars, Careers Study). Therefore, it is important to examine current practitioner needs and use that information to shape our practitioner outreach agenda so we can better support the specific needs of those who are implementing I-O science in the workplace. In this article we report on (a) resources practitioners currently use to gain professional knowledge and skills, (b) perceived value of activities that SIOP could provide to help practitioner development, and (c) perceived value of knowledge and skill training in specific topic areas. 

Survey Respondents

A total of 469 valid responses were obtained from the 2015 survey; which reflects a response rate of 10% across the SIOP membership (the 2008 survey received 1,005 responses; which was a response rate of 36%). Detailed information on the characteristics of the respondent population is provided in the July 2015 TIP article. To compare the 2015 and 2008 results, we grouped respondents using the same “practitioner categories” used in analyzing and reporting the 2008 data. Each respondent was grouped into a practitioner category based on the amount of time the respondent indicated he or she devotes to being an internal or external practitioner (as opposed to an educator, scientist/researcher, or other): 

  • •    Full-time practitioners devote 70% or more of their time to practice 
  • •    Part-time practitioners devote 21–69% of their time to practice 
  • •    Occasional practitioners devote 1–20% of their time to practice
  • •    Nonpractitioners do not devote any time (0%) to practice

Similar to 2008, most of the 2015 survey respondents were designated as full-time practitioners (see Table 1).

Table 1

SIOP Practitioner Needs Survey Respondents by Practitioner Category

 

N

Percent of 2015 sample

Percent of 2008

sample

Full-time practitioner

340

72%

61%

Part-time practitioner

55

12%

10%

Occasional practitioner

35

8%

19%

Nonpractitioner

39

8%

10%

Total

469

100%

100%

 

 

 

 

Professional Resources Used

To identify the professional resources currently used by practitioners, respondents were asked, “Which of these resources did you actually use in the last 12 months to gain professional knowledge and skills?”  Thirteen resources were listed as response options, and respondents were asked to check all that apply. As shown in Figure 1, over 50% of survey respondents in all practitioner categories indicated they use the following resources: 

  • •    Website/online resources
  • •    Articles (both nonresearch I-O and business management or HR)
  • •    Professional conferences
  • •    Books (psychology, SIOP published)
  • •    Research articles

This suggests that reference information (e.g., website/online sources, articles and publications, books) and professional conferences are among the most valued resources.

 

Figure 1. Resources Used for Professional Development by SIOP Professionals

Comparing results among the categories indicates that full-time practitioners and part-time practitioners tend to use similar resources, but full-time practitioners make more use of their professional I-O networks and use slightly more of the non-I-O business and HR resources (e.g., articles, networking, books, benchmark data) than those in the part-time practitioner category. Interestingly, part-time practitioners make use of research articles, I-O books and nonresearch articles, and professional conferences more so than full-time colleagues. Nonpractitioners report similar levels of usage as full-time practitioners for many resources (e.g., websites/online sources, networking, books, articles); attend professional conferences and meetings at a higher frequency; and use seminars, workshops, and training programs at a lower frequency than full-time practitioners. The resources used by few respondents in all practitioner categories were traditional academic courses and seminars, workshops, and training programs (online and on site). Potential factors in the more limited use of workshops, seminars, and training programs could be the cost associated with these types of resources and the time away from work that those opportunities may require.

In comparing the results to 2008 (see Figure 2 from Silzer, Cober, Erickson, & Robinson, 2008b), the findings are almost identical. Some of the rank ordering changed, but website/online sources was the most used resource and traditional academic courses were used the least. Psychology and I-O (non-research) articles exhibited the biggest jump in terms of rank order, which may be the result of SIOP focusing on more practical articles in TIP and through the white paper series. One puzzling difference is that usage percentages in 2015 are slightly lower overall than what was found in the 2008 results.  

 

Figure 2. 2008 Resources Used Chart

Professional Development Activities and Services

To identify activities and services that practitioners would most like to see SIOP provide, respondents were asked, “How valuable would each of these activities be to I-O Practitioner Development if SIOP provided them (assume that they would be high quality and low cost)?”  Participants were asked to indicate whether each of the potential SIOP activities/services listed would be highly valuable, valuable, or not valuable. The response options included 18 activities/services that were drawn from those offered in the 2008 survey yet modified to remove three items that have already been undertaken since 2008 (e.g., make I-O research and reference materials more readily available) and to add one item (provide structure/resources for forming and maintaining local I-O groups).   

 

Results for those in the full-time practitioner category are presented in Figure 3. Almost all of the activities were rated as highly valuable or valuable by most full-time respondents. The greatest value was assigned to information-related resources that could be provided by SIOP. These included resources such as benchmarking survey results and other opportunities to share best practices, a practitioner journal, more online resources, article and book summaries, advanced workshops, and standards for practice and practitioners. Activities not rated as highly were providing additional writing opportunities, practice discussion list sharing, and virtual online forums. 

 

 

Note. Totals do not equal 100% because some respondents did not respond to all items.

Figure 3. Developmental Activities Desired by Full-Time Practitioners

In comparing responses by practitioner category (see Table 2), providing more online resources is perceived as the most valuable service that SIOP can provide for all categories except the part-time practitioners, who rated it as less valuable than others (ranked 4th in that category). Providing a practitioner journal or newsletter and providing article and book summaries both ranked in the top five for full-time, part-time, and occasional practitioners, but nonpractitioners rated these items as less valuable. Other activities or services vary in their rankings across the categories, but commonly valued items include more help in finding practitioner job opportunities, practice benchmark surveys and opportunities to share best practices, and providing standards for practice and practitioners. Items that were unique to a category included full-time practitioners desiring more workshops, seminars, and retreats; and nonpractitioners reporting a need for help in making global connections with other practitioners and help maintaining local I-O groups. We noted that although practice workshops are among the lowest used resource by practitioners, both the full-time practitioners and part-time practitioners perceive that having more advanced practice workshops would be valuable. perhaps examining what type of format, cost, and timing is most feasible for practitioners to attend workshops would be an important follow-on activity if SIOP pursues offering more of these opportunities in the future. Several open-ended responses specifically requested virtual formats for these types of workshop opportunities: 

  • •    “Although I would find workshops, seminars, retreats on specific topics very helpful, I would have a strong preference for a virtual format.”
  • •    “I really like the idea of virtual ways to get connected with others and have presentations on key topics”

Table 2 

Rank Order of the Value of Developmental Activities for Each Practitioner Category

Rank

Full-time practitioners (70% and above)

Part-time practitioners (21–69%)

Occasional practitioners (1–20%)

Nonpractitioners

(0%)

1

More online resources

Practitioner journal or newsletter

More online resources

More online resources

2

Practitioner journal or newsletter

More help in finding practitioner job opportunities

Early career development for practitioners

Implement clear standards for professional education and training

3

Practice benchmark surveys/opportunities to share best practices

Article and book summaries

Practitioner journal or newsletter

Standards for practice and practitioners

4

Article and book summaries

More online resources

Article and book summaries

Early career development for practitioners

5

Standards for practice and practitioners

Advanced practice workshops

Practice benchmark surveys/opportunities to share best practices

More help in finding practitioner job opportunities

6

More help in finding practitioner job opportunities

Early career development for practitioners

Implement clear standards for professional education and training

Article and book summaries

7

Advanced practice workshops

Implement clear standards for professional education and training

Fund practice-related research and practice projects

Fund practice-related research and practice projects

8

Early career development for practitioners

Fund practice-related research and practice projects

Standards for practice and practitioners

Practitioner journal or newsletter

9

More continuing practice education resources

Standards for practice and practitioners

More continuing practice education resources

Help practitioners make global connections

10

Organize workshops, seminars, retreats

Practice benchmark surveys/opportunities to share best practices

More help in finding practitioner job opportunities

Structure/resources for forming and maintaining local I-O groups

 

A one-way ANOVA was used to examine whether there were significant differences between the four groups on desired activities. Results are presented in Table 3. Post hoc Tukey HSD analyses revealed that all significant differences between groups were between full-time practitioners and one of the other categories. Nonpractitioners viewed implementing clear standards for professional education and training significantly more valuable than full-time practitioners; full-time practitioners rated provide online resources as significantly more valuable than part-time practitioners; occasional practitioners rated organizing a practice listserv as significantly more valuable than full-time practitioners; and benchmark surveys and opportunities were more valued by full-time practitioners than part-time practitioners. 

Table 3

One-Way ANOVA for Average Value Ratings of Professional Development Activities Across Practitioner Categories

ANOVA

 

 

Practitioner Category

 

 

Full-time
(70%+)

Part-time
(21-69%)

Occasional
(1-20%)

Non
(0%)

F

Provide more online resources (annotated literature, Q&A on practice areas)

2.52

2.27

2.41

2.60

2.66*

Provide a practitioner journal or newsletter

2.49

2.37

2.36

2.28

1.61

Provide article and book summaries (research and professional press)

2.42

2.28

2.35

2.36

.77

Provide practice benchmark surveys and opportunities to share best practices

2.44

2.15

2.34

2.18

4.16**

Provide standards for practice and practitioners

2.28

2.17

2.28

2.42

.82

Provide more help in finding practitioner job opportunities

2.26

2.30

2.26

2.38

.21

Provide advanced practice workshops

2.22

2.25

2.12

2.09

.49

Provide early career development for practitioners

2.11

2.23

2.37

2.40

2.77*

Organize more workshops, seminars, retreats (not conference-based) on specific topics

2.06

1.91

1.85

2.13

1.53

Provide more continuing practice education resources

2.07

2.09

2.26

2.09

.58

Fund practice-related research and practice projects

1.95

2.18

2.28

2.31

3.52*

Help practitioners make global connections with other practitioners

1.96

2.02

2.19

2.23

1.81

Organize interest groups (informal meetings, networks, etc.)

2.02

2.00

2.12

2.04

.19

Implement clear standards for professional education and training

2.02

2.21

2.33

2.44

4.98**

Provide structure/resources for forming and maintaining local I-O groups

1.95

2.05

2.17

2.22

1.62

Organize virtual online practitioner forums

1.92

1.91

2.07

2.05

.60

Provide more writing opportunities (TIP, I-O Perspectives)

1.81

2.10

1.76

1.95

2.13

Organize practice Listserv sharing (of ideas or data sets to researchers)

1.74

1.91

2.20

2.00

4.68**

Rating scale: 1 = Not Valuable, 2 = Valuable, 3 = Highly Valuable. Differences between practitioner categories were tested using one-way ANOVA and Tukey’s HSD.
*p < .05, ** p < .01.

The open-ended comments associated with this item provided additional suggestions for activities or services that could be valuable, such as certificate programs on various topics, updates on media associated with I-O in the business world, a forum for practitioners to submit research topics or questions to academics, organized activities to do pro-bono work, and summary notes on SIOP conference sessions for those who could not attend.

  • •    “SIOP should create their own [coaching certificate} or partner with existing organizations in some way (e.g., International Coach Federation).”
  • •    “Certificate programs. For example, I have a certificate earned from the Family Firm Institute…I’d rather it be from SIOP.”
  • •    “News updates regarding status, prestige, or awareness of I-O in the general community, including true or false perceptions in the media or business world.”
  • •    “Discussions between academic and practitioner side to help guide future research and utilize existing research—maybe through structured online meetings.”
  • •    “it would benefit both practitioners and researchers if practitioners could submit research questions they want answered”
  • •    “Organized opportunities to do more pro-bono practitioner-oriented work.”
  • •    “disseminating ideas from SIOP events… one of my co-panelists for an upcoming session in Philadelphia suggested that we put together slides and notes with a view toward interested I-Os who will not attend our session.”

Knowledge and Skills Training Needs

The specific knowledge and skills that practitioners would like help developing were addressed by asking, “How valuable would knowledge or skills training in these areas be to your professional development if SIOP provided them?” Results highlighting the areas rated as most to least valuable by full-time practitioners are depicted in Figure 4. We calculated mean scores for each area within each practitioner category and the top 10 knowledge and skill areas are rank ordered from most valuable to least valuable within each practitioner category in Table 3. 

 

Figure 4. Value of Professional Knowledge and Skill Training as Reported by Full-Time Practitioners 

The top three areas most frequently identified as highly valuable by full-time practitioners (presenting data persuasively/showing ROI; analytics and big data skills; and strategic thinking and planning skills) point to practitioners needing the knowledge and skills to identify and clearly communicate meaningful and impactful results to an organization, and then provide consulting on how the organization should use that information moving forward. Table 4 shows that full-time practitioners are not the only ones prioritizing this set of knowledge and skills. Part-time practitioners and occasional practitioners also had presenting data/showing ROI and analytics/big data as their top two areas of most value. The rank order of other topics varied, but common areas identified across practitioner categories also included organizational assessment/program evaluation, consulting skills, I-O technical knowledge and skills, and coaching skills. 

Table 4. 

Rank Order of the Value of Professional Knowledge and Skill Training for Each Practitioner Category 

Rank

Full-time practitioners (70% and above)

Part-time practitioners (21–69%)

Occasional practitioners (1–20%)

Nonpractitioners

(0%)

1

Presenting Data/ Showing ROI

Presenting Data/ Showing ROI

Analytics & Big Data

Presenting Data/ Showing ROI

2

Analytics & Big Data

Analytics & Big Data

Presenting Data/ Showing ROI

Statistics

3

Strategic Skills

Statistics

Consulting Skills

Research Skills

4

Org Assessment/ Program Evaluation

Organizational Development

Business Protocol

Leadership Skills

5

Organizational Development

Org Assessment/ Program Evaluation

Statistics

I-O Technical Knowledge & Skills

6

Consulting Skills

Consulting Skills

Business Management

Job Analysis

7

Leadership Skills

I-O Technical Knowledge & Skills

I-O Technical Knowledge & Skills

Org Assessment/ Program Evaluation

8

I-O Technical Knowledge & Skills

Coaching Skills

Org Assessment/ Program Evaluation

Analytics & Big Data

9

Coaching Skills

Business Protocol

Research Skills

Strategic Skills

10

Statistics

Technology

Coaching Skills

Individual Assessment

 

Results from a one-way ANOVA indicate there were significant differences in the perceived value of training areas between practitioner categories on three items: strategic skills (F(3,374) = 3.12, p = .03); research skills (F(3,378) = 8.73, p = .00); and teaching skills (F(3,371) = 8.25, p = .00). Post-hoc analyses using Tukey HSD for these items indicated that the mean score (where 1 = not valuable, 2 = valuable, 3 = highly valuable) on strategic skills for full-time practitioners (M = 2.29, SD = .73) differed significantly from part-time practitioners (M = 1.98, SD = .80) at p < .05. For research skills, full-time practitioners (M = 1.68, SD = .72) differed significantly from occasional practitioners (M = 2.20, SD = .65) and nonpractitioners (M = 2.24, SD = .74) at p < .01. Full-time practitioners (M = 1.40, SD = .59) and nonpractitioners (M = 1.96, SD = .85) also differed on the perceived value of teaching skills (p < .01). 

Comparing the results for all training areas to 2008, it appears that needs have changed in terms of the highest priority areas. Presenting data/ROI and analytics/big data were not included on the response options list in 2008, but clearly those areas have jumped to the forefront in the minds of I-Os in recent years. Organizational assessment/program evaluation was a common topic in the top five for all categories in 2008, and strategic skills, consulting skills, and coaching were all commonly identified as highly valuable. 

SIOP can use these results to ensure that the top-rated knowledge and skills areas are addressed in any ongoing or future programs and initiatives, so as to significantly impact the professional development of its members and, ultimately, help its members provide organizations with value that will make I-O a more visible, driving force in the business world. The open-ended comments for this item pointed to several additional areas that should be considered as SIOP prioritizes knowledge and skill areas to focus on over the next few years, including business management and business financials, how to work with other business functions such as IT, cross-cultural issues, conflict management and resolution skills, business development skills, and presentation skills. Sample comments are provided below:

  • •    “Anything to do with how businesses run; all the things we skip in our I-O education. Internally, we compete with MBAs for jobs”
  • •    “Basic information on business financials (e.g., P&Ls, cash-flow, revenue).”
  • •    “Build bridges to finance, IT, other corporate functions (i.e., placing I-O initiatives into the context of the business).
  • •    ”information about the perspectives of organizational leaders, common constraints and considerations of HR departments, and the typical functions or departments (including legal) that consultants interact with would be helpful”
  • •    “Business development for budding consultants”
  • •    “Some of the important external consultant skills (effective presentation skills/executive presence) are developed over time, but perhaps there are some opportunities to offer a toastmasters sort of program”
  • •    “Cross-cultural training for practitioners.”

Conclusions and Recommendations

Based on the 2015 survey results related to practitioner development needs, practitioners want to be up-to-date on I-O findings and best practices that can be applied to their work, but they may have limited time and resources to engage in effortful searches or attend traditional workshops and seminars. The PPC currently supports the development of a number of resources such as miniwebinars, white papers, and practical articles in TIP that should be promoted and enhanced. Yet, there is opportunity to find other, practical ways to share information such as article summaries. One suggestion is to explore having practice groups collect and disseminate summaries, articles, and relevant findings on topic areas throughout the year that are geared toward the application of our science to work (e.g., succession management, workforce planning, analytics). Another idea is to explore the best methods for providing, or pointing practitioners to, resources that benchmark application of I-O best practices. 

Another common theme for practitioners appears to be the need for SIOP to support practitioners’ ability to understand and influence organizations in an impactful way. For example, presenting data and showing ROI is an area where most practitioners desire more knowledge, and many respondents commented on the need for I-Os to understand how to operate in a business environment. The PPC’s efforts around developing the business acumen competency model is a starting place in terms of identifying what practitioners need to know in this area, but it is clear that practitioners will be clamoring for the follow-on initiatives that stem from completing this model. In addition, training on organizational assessments/program evaluation and helping practitioners enhance their strategic skills and consulting skills will facilitate practitioners’ ability to add value to organizations in a tangible way and make I-O practitioners a desired asset in the business world.

There are a number of other commonly desired activities, services, and training areas highlighted in the results. The PPC and other SIOP committees can compare their current initiatives to the expressed needs of practitioners and evaluate how to enhance efforts that are already underway or begin new efforts that will address the highest priority items identified through this survey effort.

Next Steps

As next steps, the PPC will provide the complete technical report on the 2015 survey results to the SIOP Executive Board and will write two more TIP columns to share summaries of the results more broadly with the SIOP membership. Our next article will focus on practitioners’ research priorities for supporting effective organizational practice and practitioners’ perceptions of activities that are needed to better promote I-O psychology practice. The final article will provide survey results related to licensing issues. We welcome any feedback or questions you may have about the survey results and look forward to working with SIOP members and leaders as the PPC shapes its future agenda.

 

 

References

Silzer, R., Cober, R., Erickson, A., & Robinson, G. (2008a, July). Practitioner satisfaction with SIOP. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 46(1), 43–58.

Silzer, R., Cober, R., Erickson, A., & Robinson, G. (2008b, October). Practitioner needs survey: Final survey report. Bowling Green, OH: Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology.

Silzer, R., Erickson, A., Robinson, G., & Cober, R. (2008, October). Practice perspectives: Practitioner professional development. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 46(2), 39–56. 

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