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Volume 55     Number 4    Spring 2018      Editor: Tara Behrend

Meredith Turner
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President's Message

Fred Oswald

This fourth and final President’s Message is dedicated to two major issues that SIOP and the profession of I-O psychology squarely face today and in our future. Let me elaborate on them here and hope they stimulate our continued thinking, discussion, and strategic actions as a society.

The first issue pertains to very notable and noticeable changes in our profession and membership within SIOP. Although these changes have been documented in the recent past (e.g., see Rob Silzer & Chad Parson, TIP, July 2015), they need to be reassessed more broadly and more often. To focus on one important example that is already impacting our future: Current trends reveal rapid growth in the number of terminal master’s I-O programs, along with the high volume of I-O psychologists coming out of them and working in an increasingly wider range of professional settings. Concurrent with this trend, or perhaps because of it, many PhD I-O programs are beginning to incorporate terminal master’s programs, both on-campus and online. Ideally, terminal master’s programs can provide important support for I-O psychology PhD programs of the future—and not simply because deans like money (although this cannot be denied). Terminal master’s programs can serve as a stepping stone for undergraduates who attend the I-O PhD-granting university; they can connect practice to science more closely within PhD programs; they can increase the community and visibility of I-O psychology within the university; they can identify students who might transition a PhD program; and they can create and expand the ecosystem of local applied and research opportunities. However, this does not happen magically; it requires very strong institutional commitment to appropriate resources and incentives for their sustainability. Many PhD-granting institutions have resisted implementing terminal master’s I-O programs for lack of these two major requirements.

All of this growth in I-O psychology training sounds good, on the face of it. At the very least, the growth is consistent with US labor-market data indicating the value and demand for I-O psychology in the workforce (e.g., see https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193032.htm#top). In this context, our I-O psychology education and training efforts have become more essential than ever—and fortunately, you might remember that SIOP has recently updated its Education and Training (E&T) guidelines that inform the nature and quality of our I-O educational programs. If you haven’t done so yet, check out SIOP’s 2016 competency-driven guidelines for I-O master’s and doctoral programs at http://www.siop.org/ETguidelines.aspx (with thanks to Whitney Morgan, Joe Allen, and the Education and Training Committee).

These SIOP E&T guidelines are intentionally flexible. All I-O psychology programs tend to cover “core” competencies (broad psychological training, statistical and research methods, ethical issues); however, greater flexibility is accommodated when covering substantive I-O topic areas (e.g., organizational development, groups and teams, performance appraisal/management, training).  I-O programs thus reflect natural variation that capitalizes on faculty expertise at local institutions. They are quasi-experimental settings that could be examined more closely.  Although SIOP already gathers information on I-O programs, more detailed tracking of the number, nature, quality, and timing of topics covered by I-O PhD and master’s programs will allow our guidelines and programs to inform one another better over time.

SIOP is also tracking developments in I-O related fields (OB, LIR, organizational science), and it is clear we are improving in this direction as well. The newly established Future Scanning Ad-Hoc Committee (FSC; Alexis Fink, chair) has set up a cross-functional structure that connects to the External Affairs Officer (Janet Barnes-Farrell, Chair; Madhura Chakrabarti, FSC liaison), Membership Services Officer (Mo Wang, Chair; Evan Sinar, FSC liaison), Instructional and Educational Officer (Milt Hakel, Chair; Kurt Kraiger, FSC liaison), and related SIOP committees to ensure that our radar is highly attuned to the educational and professional landscape relevant to I-O psychology.

The second issue deals with how we can better frame and communicate our activities as I-O psychologists to a range of others (e.g., managers, university administrators, granting agency program officers, high school students). This issue arose most recently in a lunch I had with Incoming SIOP President Talya Bauer and Joel Quintela (Quintela Group) to discuss the nature and future of our profession. We didn’t solve the world’s problems over lunch! Instead, Joel, Talya and I focused on one topic: the problem of how I-O psychologists, and I-O psychology, can be better recognized by organizational decision makers. We discussed how Team SIOP (my vision this year) was about framing our work in terms of problems and impact (Steve Kozlowski’s presidential vision) so that people from all walks of life can understand how I-O psychology benefits the future of the workplace (Mort McPhail’s presidential vision). Joel emphasized the need for not using $20 GRE words in communicating that message. (How perspicacious of him!)

Talya and I relayed to Joel how SIOP is becoming much more problem focused and issue focused in its current advocacy and communications efforts to promote I-O psychology. SIOP understands why it is critical that we continue in this direction; for instance, we recently held a meeting involving SIOP members concerned with veterans affairs issues (Nathan Ainspan chairing a subcommittee within GREAT; coordinating with Jesse Poon and Bill Ruch at Lewis-Burke). This is one example out of many, where SIOP is becoming increasingly engaged in more problem- and issue-focused communication strategies. My presidential involvement has been in providing broad-based input and support to relevant SIOP Committees and the Administrative Office in communications-related tasks such as (a) revamping the content and format of the siop.org website (stay tuned); (b) reconsidering the content, format, timing, and audiences for SIOP messaging across multiple media; (c) advancing our science and practice advocacy efforts with Lewis-Burke; and (d) extending our white papers into other informational documents and materials to serve a variety of audiences.

Hopefully in this reinvigorated process of translating our work and connecting to others, SIOP will provide our constituencies an interesting, useful, and accessible entry into our “science for a smarter workplace”—and maybe we’ll only spend $40 worth of $20 GRE words! Three notable translation efforts of this nature (and there are others) are already underway. First is the new Oxford Translational Science Series edited by former SIOP president and current Research and Science Officer, Steve Kozlowski, where I hope we will find shared practice innovations influencing the relevance of our research, at least as much as research stands to impact practice. Another translation effort comes in The Bridge, a series of excellent TIP columns dedicated to the science-practice interface (there is a Bridge article in this edition; with thanks to column editors Mark Poteet and Linda Zugec). The third form of translation is one that I participated in, a planned eight-part TIP series called Lost in Translation (by Andrew Collmus and Michael Litano). Check these out if you haven’t, as they cover translational issues such as communicating the value of I-O psychology (October 2016), overcoming critics in applied research (January 2017), and how I-O should talk with policymakers and funding agencies (July 2017). There are related videos as well, on our SIOP YouTube channel.

This “translation movement” is something of a paradigm shift for SIOP. As I-O psychologists, we place great importance and even pride in the general phenomena and robust findings that come out of our work—as we should. We talk happily at the level of constructs and meta-analyses, and because of our sophisticated statistical training, we also thrill to the discussion of correlations, reliability coefficients, and structural equation models (currently my own heart is racing). However, employees, employers, and organizations are problem focused, and they critically require specific examples. They may enjoy benefit from scientific generalities but in a way that is not general but rather in a way that might give them some form of particular advantage in the workplace. 

Food for thought. We are always working together as Team SIOP, and so please continue to reach out to me (foswald@rice.edu) or to Incoming President Talya Bauer (cetb@pdx.edu) if you have any further ideas, questions, or expertise along these two fronts that I have covered here.

It has been an incredible privilege to serve you in all its forms: for example, supporting and working with such amazingly talented, knowledgeable, and dedicated SIOP members and the Administrative Office (too many of us to single out here); collaborating and taking on various forms of the complexities that I-O psychology faces (and will always face) as an evolving field of study and evolving profession; and harnessing and promoting our expertise, so that we have a seat at the table in taking on a wide array of issues important to society (e.g., ensuring healthy and productive employees and workplaces; developing and improving diversity and inclusion efforts; cultivating leaders, careers, and organizations…the list goes on, as you know).

SIOP keeps getting better because of you!

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