Modern App:#SIOP17 Program Preview: Technology Roundup for Orlando
Tiffany Poeppelman and Evan Sinar
As we look back to our July 2015 year in review issue (Blacksmith & Poeppelman, 2015), we could see then, as clear as it is today, the vast influence new technologies are having on our I-O research and professional efforts. Given that the significant investments in technology continue across diverse sectors and industries, in turn impacting I-O psychologists and the workplaces in which they practice and conduct research globally, we wanted to provide a summary of this year’s technology sessions to be shared at the SIOP 2017 conference. In Orlando, we expect a diverse selection of research topics across all I-O content areas, including technology. The objective of this article is to not only help streamline your potential choices for technology sessions to attend at SIOP 2017 but to also shed light on related trends we spot and gaps in technology research suggesting areas to further delve into for SIOP 2018.
Exploring SIOP 2017 Program Trends
To explore conference themes, we drew on the tagged content areas from all sessions submitted to this year’s program. Overall, across 928 sessions at SIOP this year, 33 tagged technology as a primary content area (up from 30 in 2016 and 21 in 2015, its first year as a stand-alone content area), whereas 19 listed technology as a secondary content area (a decrease from 23 in 2016 and 27 in 2015). Two trends are evident: overall, a consistent number of sessions across the 3 years, but notably, a steady increase in the number of times technology was a primary content area. That is, technology is shifting from a sideshow to the center stage for many conference sessions.
Through the use of data visualization tools such as RAWgraphs (used to generate the trends graphic below), we show the most common topics associated with technology. The graph (a visualization type called an alluvial diagram) is based on data from all SIOP 2017 sessions that indicated technology as a primary or secondary content area during the submission process. It shows three types of data: First, the sizes of the black bars on the left show the relative frequency of technology indicated as a primary or secondary content area (in this case, slightly more often primary than secondary); second, the sizes of the black bars on the right show how often technology was linked to each content area as either primary (blue) or secondary (orange); third, the width of the “streams” connecting the left bars to the right show how often each combination occurred. For example, whenever technology was linked to Research Methods, technology was always the primary content area, shown by the entire width of the Research Method stream being blue. As another example, technology was linked to Personality nearly equally often as primary and secondary, shown by the blue and orange streams flowing into Personality being almost identical in width.
Figure 1. Content areas linked to technology
Expanding from this initial view, we identify the topics falling into each of two categories: first, the most widely associated topics aligned with technology and second, those that are rarely or never linked to technology. Realizing that not all I-O topics will or should be technology related, it’s nonetheless our aim for this article to uncover what potential gaps exist and to raise the possibility of expanded scope and breadth of connections. Additionally, we propose research investigations for content areas within which technology is underrepresented, a guide for questions to ask presenters, and a list of recommended technology-focused sessions in Orlando.
Content Areas Most Linked (Relatively So) With Technology
In looking at these sessions, it became clear there are five content areas (the largest five black bars on the right of the graphic above and discussed further below) that tend to be most often paired with technology. Though these numbers don’t rise above the single digits for any one paired content area, this wasn’t unexpected given the sheer number of possible primary–secondary content area combinations among 34 potential topics. Putting the numbers below in context, the most common combination across the entire program was Testing/Assessment and Personality, occurring 22 times. The relatively low number of technology linkages, however, does suggest room for further investigation and discussion of technology’s influence within the workplace.
- Testing/Assessment: Of the 111 times Testing/Assessment was listed as a content area (58 primary, 53 secondary), 8 were associated with technology, making this the most commonly paired content area involving technology. Similar to findings in 2015, there continue to be significant technology advancements in the testing and selection space. Common research areas include advanced assessment and hiring techniques, gamification and mobile learning approaches, and work–life balance measurement. SIOP 2017 sessions track closely alongside accelerated company investment in more automated and measurement-rich mechanisms for selecting the right talent. Example SIOP 2017 sessions include:
- Staffing: Of the 71 times Staffing was listed as a content area (36 primary, 35 secondary), 6 were related to technology, which continues to have a heavy influence on selection practices to include online cognitive tests, incorporation of social media into the hiring process, video-based methods for interviewing potential talent, and enablement of alternative work practices in organizations. These new approaches continue to remain top of mind for I-Os as well as business leaders. Example SIOP 2017 sessions explicating the disruptive influence of technology on staffing practices include:
- Groups/Teams - Of the 73 times Groups/Teams was listed as a content area (35 primary, 38 secondary), 4 were specific to groups and teams. Virtual team dynamics continues to take on new forms with the addition of new technologies for messaging, sharing, meeting, connecting, and collaborating. With our technology platforms adapting to these mechanisms, we are still seeing a significant amount of research on trust, approaches to building a strong team dynamic, and perceptions around how we represent ourselves in these environments. The four SIOP 2017 sessions linking Groups/Teams and Technology are:
- Teaching I-O Psychology/Student Affiliate Issues/Professional Development: Of the 31 times this was listed as a content area (21 primary; 10 secondary), 4 were associated with technology. Building our I-O brand and network remains top of mind for our field and shows up in our session list this year. Additionally, professional development topics largely focus on social media, skill gaps, and internship opportunities. The four SIOP 2017 sessions linking this content area with technology are:
- Research Methodology: Of the 59 times (25 primary; 34 secondary) Research Methodology was listed as a content area, 3 were associated with technology. New analyses capabilities are being developed to change the way I-O psychologists conduct their research, including automated data collection methods and the use of crowdsourcing techniques for data gathering. The three SIOP 2017 sessions linking Research Methods and Technology are:
Content Areas Least Linked With Technology
Next we turn to the topical flipside: content areas that were rarely or never paired with technology. This analysis answers a different question than discussed above. The five content areas above are those with the heaviest saturation of technology: topics where technology’s integral role is well-established and under heavy scrutiny by researchers and practitioners. In contrast, those below represent the most notable disconnects between overall content area engagement by I-O psychologists and recognition/exploration of technology as a modality or enabler of these topics.
Our criteria for this ranked list of technology-bereft topics were to first limit to content areas with at least 30 sessions on the program overall and second, with the lowest ratio of technology-paired sessions to total sessions for that content area (for example, Leadership was listed as a primary content area 68 times yet only paired with technology once). These criteria produced five content areas with a low or nonexistent technology saturation. We’ll discuss each below with an eye toward future research questions to explore the possible technology connections:
- Inclusion/Diversity: The most prevalent primary content area on the entire SIOP 2017 program (84 sessions) but never paired with technology (notably, though, there are several STEM-related sections on the program; likely not linked to technology because they cover additional fields as well). Given the growth of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) programs and employee resource groups (ERGs) being established to ensure companies are diversifying their talent, we believe there are more research questions we need to be asking, including:
- What technologies are in use to facilitate the incorporation of diverse backgrounds and perspectives into business decisions?
- What hiring technologies and measurement mechanics are being leveraged to ensure diverse candidate pools or promotion tracks?
- What type of virtual groups or interactions are being established in companies to support employee resource groups and minorities?
- Counterproductive Behavior/Workplace Deviance: This primary content area included 41 sessions total but, again, never paired with technology. Given the extent of resources being put into place at organizations to raise warning flags for and avoid these damaging behaviors, potential research questions to extend the discussion include:
- How is technology reshaping the market of electronic performance monitoring and tracking workplace deviance? Will these technologies redefine the measurement space for CWB and deviance constructs?
- What are the implications of and organizational responses to new forms of technology-aided deviance, such as hacking, cyberbullying, and cyberloafing?
- How do technology-related security risks and associated stigmas fit within or extend the concepts of CWB and deviance (for example, being the person in the office whose carelessness led to a virus unleashed to the corporate network)?
- Leadership: The second most-frequent primary content area overall (68 sessions) was only paired once with technology as a secondary content area: the session “Science-Practice Exchange: Ready or Not… Technology’s Implications for Leadership Development” (alternative session type) submitted by Nathan Wiita. With the new technologies and efforts to uplevel leadership, our questions on links between technology and leadership include:
- What are the new skills required for leaders in a technology-centric business environment? How do these span personal digital literacy for leaders and their capability in leveraging technology to manage employees?
- Is there a need for leaders to become aware and take on ownership of data gathered about and from their employees via Internet of Things devices?
- What are the usage, impact, and measurement properties of the vast array of technologies promoted to enhance leadership (e.g., apps and social media sites)?
- Occupational Health/Safety/Stress & Strain/Aging - With a very small number of such sessions linked to technology (the only exception: “Pressure to Remain Available to Work: Implications for Psychological Detachment” (poster), submitted by Rachel Omansky), additional research questions include:
- What is the strain of technology use and its effects on health?
- What is technology’s role in tracking and enhancing employee safety?
- How are organizations across industries balancing the influx of technology with an aging and multigenerational workforce?
- Job Attitudes/Engagement - This content area had 38 sessions accepted, with one listing technology as a secondary content area: “Examining the Relationship Between Engagement and Technology-Assisted Supplemental Work” (poster), submitted by Archana Manapragada. Given continued organizational investment in employee engagement, potential research questions include:
- How should employee reactions to/attitudes about technology in the workplace be captured in satisfaction/commitment/engagement measures?
- What are the benefits and risks of technology-enabled “pulse survey” approaches to measuring employee attitudes?
- How reliable are “digital breadcrumb” indices of employee attitudes (for example, derived from intranet/social media activity?
Overall, although not all I-O research areas should and will be linked to technology, we believe there are significant opportunities to expand the number and diversity of studies on workplace technology. We recommend that researchers “mash up” content areas to derive unique interconnections involving technology. We would expect that even unexpected connections between technology and other content areas will be at best slightly ahead of their actual appearance in the workplace, such is the omnipresent influence of technology. Additionally, as technology serves more and more as an enabler of standard processes, so where is the evidence for the incremental impact stemming from its use, in comparison to traditional approaches? Last, how do we close (and keep closed) our own knowledge gaps about the various intersections between technology and human behavior?
Recommended SIOP 2017 Technology Sessions
Although there are many sessions with a formal technology mapping today, we expect the trend line to continue for more technology-linked sessions overall. In particular, we anticipate more instances of technology as a primary content area, indicative of its use not just as a delivery modality but as an integral component of workplace practices and employee experiences. But for SIOP 2017, where to start?
Below we propose a set of sessions we view as representative of and building on the trends above. Although our orientation as authors of a technology-focused column is to advocate for attendance at any and all technology sessions at the conference, we overlay an additional consideration for the subset of sessions listed below. These sessions appear (based on currently available information as represented in the SIOP conference program) to provide broadly applicable summative advice and sense-making structures to notably advance discussions about new and rapidly changing workplace technologies.
- “Creating Three-Dimensional Task–Technology Fit Scales” (poster), submitted by Matt Howard
- “From the Outside, In: Technology’s Influence on I-O Psychology” (alternative session type), submitted by Aarti Shyamsunder
- “I-O Psychology in an IT World” (panel discussion), submitted by Kelley Krokos
- “Opportunities and Challenges in Electronic Human Resource Management” (alternative session type), submitted by Stanley Gully
- “Panel + Breakout Combo Session: Sense Making of Wearable Sensors” (alternative session type), submitted by Scott Tonidandel
- “Personality, Responsiveness, and Performance in Technology-Enabled Work Environments” (poster), submitted by
- “Science-Practice Exchange: Ready or Not… Technology’s Implications for Leadership Development” (alternative session type), submitted by Nathan Wiita
- “Workplace Automation and the Future of I-O Psychology” (panel discussion), submitted by Jenna Shapiro
What sessions are you attending at SIOP 2017? Be sure to tweet during the conference the hashtags #SIOP17 and #IOPsych.
Questions to Ask Presenters/Panelists to Advance the Technology Dialogue
Based on the findings and considerations above, we propose a few questions to ask presenters as you attend technology-related sessions at SIOP 2017:
- How can I-O psychologists gain and maintain up-to-date knowledge of the technologies discussed in your session?
- What types of organizations are better (or worse) testing grounds for the technologies you used?
- What do you see as the most underresearched areas of workplace technology?
- Who are the key partners, and what are the key skills, that I-O psychologists must have to successfully conduct technology research?
- Are technology-based workplace tools subject to different—either higher or lower—expectations compared to more traditional methods, for example, usability, impact, sustainability?
- What theories and taxonomies have you found most useful—or most lacking—in researching and sense-making for technology at work?
- How can I-O psychologists enhance the visibility and influence of their work on technology topics, to maximize use within organizations?
Also, be sure to keep an eye out for our next column. Whereas this edition is a look ahead, our next will be a look back; a review of a curated set of the technology topics—and summary insights—from this year’s conference. We’ll review useful takeaways from technology sessions at the Orlando conference, and we’ll be seeking and sharing input from presenters at several key technology sessions such as those above.
We look forward to seeing you in Orlando!
Contact us on LinkedIn: Tiffany Poeppelman & Evan Sinar
Contact us on Twitter: @TRPoeppelman, & @EvanSinar
Blacksmith, N., & Poeppelman, T. (2015). A year in review: #SIOP15 technology & social media highlights! The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 53(1), 74-82.