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Advancing the Field of I/O Psychology Through Collaboration

November 13, 2019

Advancing the Field of I/O Psychology Through Collaboration

A well-designed employee assessment, whether for selection, promotion, or development, can have a significant impact on organizational effectiveness. It can make the hiring process more efficient, improve employee productivity, reduce safety incidents, and help develop better leaders. However, an amazing assessment program does your organization absolutely no good if recruiters and hiring managers fail to use it correctly. This is where I/O psychologists, psychometricians, and I/O consultants come into play. Scientist-practitioners deploy scientific research to inform practice, and the discipline of I/O psychology uses the application of procedures and systems to inform directions for future research. This collaboration between the academic and applied communities is the critical process ensuring that we are advancing the field, anticipating needs, and meeting the demands of the business environment.

Read more: Three Things You Need to Know About I/O Psychology 

In an effort to bring academic institutions and PSI closer together, we have launched a new initiative to offer our tools to faculty and students interested in conducting research with or learning more about our wide variety of assessments. The program has three components that can work independently or together with overarching goals to:

  • Gain valuable data and insights on our tools
  • Support on going work at colleges and universities
  • Build strong partnerships among PSI professionals and the research/teaching communities in the US and across the globe

Here are details on our three focal areas in the partnership:

1. Use of our tools in the classroom for educational purposes

After 40 years on the Penn State faculty, I know how valuable practical experiences in the classroom can be to help students really understand how well-designed assessments can add value to individual insights for development and to organizational programs for selection and promotion. Too often faculty members lack the funds to provide in-class experiences with state-of-the-art tools, so students hear about what is available, but do not get first-hand experience with the process of taking the assessment and interpreting results. In the 2018-2019 academic year, we launched programs at three different institutions of higher learning.

During the 2019 spring and summer semesters, three academic institutions joined this part of our partnership. Two focused on assessments for developing leadership using the PSI 16pf®, and the other was more broad-based, exposing students to a variety of PSI instruments. In the words of the faculty sponsor,

“I reached out to PSI about allowing the use of a few of their assessments for my Methods of Assessment course at UMBC. This is the main 'I' side core course offered in our Masters of I/O program. As part of the class, I believe it is important for students to get a sense of how commercially available measures have been developed and how tests are used in practice. I have each student complete measures of emotional intelligence, personality, critical thinking, and cognitive ability (i.e., EJI, PSI 16pf, Watson-Glaser, and EAS). After they take the self-assessments, they review their reports and evaluate the results using white papers and published research. This is organized into a report which is submitted as part of the course requirements. There is not only experiential value to having used the assessments, but the students also have meaningful data on themselves relative to these constructs. We are appreciative of PSI for this ongoing relationship which benefits our program.”

The Academic Research Partnership was very effective at a program sponsored by the US Air Force Academy. 

“We used the PSI 16pf for 21 master's students enrolled in the 'Characteristics of the Effective Leader' course at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs this past summer. In this class, students studied how individual differences relate to leadership development and effectiveness. We used the PSI 16pf in combination with other feedback tools to help students gain accurate perspectives of themselves, their leadership talents, and how they are viewed by others in the workplace. At the end of the semester, students produced personalized leader development plans that were based on their developmental needs. The PSI 16pf was essential to student success. In short, thank you for PSI’s support of these students and their personal development.”

2. Use of our tools for academic research

Again, from my own experiences, my students and colleagues often want to use assessment tools in their research but lack funding to buy them commercially. With our PSI True Talent™ platform, it becomes a simple process to deliver assessments to research participants and provide results directly to investigators. Given the wide range of assessment tools in our catalog, we can facilitate a variety of research initiatives.

Currently we have three research programs looking at the predictive validity of the PSI 16pf® for a variety of job titles including law enforcement officer, college counselor, and sales associate. While many studies of predictive validity for the PSI 16pf exist, this part of our partnership program is important because it allows young scholars to use commercially available tools at no cost and it allows us to better understand the utility of the PSI 16pf as a selection tool by providing updated data. We welcome other research initiatives with the PSI 16pf or any of the other tools in our catalog.

3. Collaborative research with scholars at various colleges and universities as well as other research-oriented organizations

We are working on getting the word out to colleagues regarding our desire to partner in research. As some of our talented colleagues in the field may wish to conduct research, we can help or research what we see as valuable and could benefit from a talented partner or two in the field. Further, we have data that can be creatively used to answer questions of interest. Making our tools, data, and talent available to colleagues and colleges can help promote collaboration, gather important data, and, most importantly, create knowledge to guide future scientific inquiry as well as practice. We are engaged in discussions with several faculty, zeroing in on new projects. During the past two months we have made progress on projects ranging from investigating the roots of adverse impact in cognitive tests to how situational judgement tests operate across diverse populations.

We are currently providing data we have collected as well as the expertise of our scientists in an effort to understand the role of item quality on group differences in cognitive ability assessments. Our focus is on reducing adverse impact by identifying problematic items. Actual test items along with large data sets compiled by PSI have provided a massive data set (over 40,000 candidates) to a world class academic researcher in Texas. It is our hope that this work will inform us and others on item writing strategies that can minimize the consistent group differences we see in cognitive ability tests. Other opportunities exist to work with scholars all over the world using the assessments in our catalog, the data we have collected, and the knowledge of our talented group of PSI scientists to move our understanding of assessment forward.

We are especially interested in any research initiatives that address the following list of topics, and are happy to introduce others:

  • Game Based Assessment/Gamification
  • Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning in HR Decision Making
  • Faking, Response Distortions, and Socially Desirable Responding
  • Competency Models and Their Validation
  • Assessment of Cultural Competence
  • Adverse Impact – Measurement and Reduction
  • Personality and Prediction of Performance
  • Team Member Selection
  • Assessments of Team Functioning
  • SJTs in Assessment and Decision Making
  • Assessment Centers, Including Online Applications
  • Factors Enhancing and Detracting from Candidate Experience

As an organization looking to use these powerful tools in your hiring and development goals, it is important to remember that implementing an assessment in your hiring process is not a “set it and forget it” activity. Once you have worked with I/O experts and have the tools in place, it requires constant monitoring, education, and training. Pre-hire assessments are new and novel to some recruiters and hiring managers. Helping them to better understand what assessments are along with their benefits and limitations is important to the long-term effectiveness of an assessment program. Training users on how to read and interpret assessment results and helping them see how that information can assist in making better hiring decisions will pay off in terms of individual and organizational performance.

Are you an academic institution interested in joining us? Please drop me a note: rjacobs@psionline.com

Watch this space for updates on ARP projects.

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Rick Jacobs, Ph.D. Rick Jacobs, Ph.D. is Senior Vice President of Advisory Services for PSI Talent Management and Education. Rick Jacobs is also professor of psychology at Penn State University. At PSI, he serves as a senior scientist and consultant, developing selection programs that are valid and consistent with legal guidelines. He has extensive experience in assessment centers, individual assessment methodologies, and has developed numerous executive assessment programs. Rick holds a bachelor’s degree from UCLA, a master’s degree from San Diego State University, and a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. He is the author of over 60 research articles and book chapters, and a fellow in the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, the American Psychological Association and the American Psychological Society.