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Dr. Krauss Goes to Atlanta: Reflections From the 25th Annual SIOP Conference

Our science team recently attended the annual conference for the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) and had the opportunity to  present about a dozen sessions on a diverse set of topics such as employee selection, on-boarding, scheduling, statistics, and compliance issues.  This year was also the 25th annual conference and with almost 4,000 attendees, there was a great mix of academicians, researchers, and practitioners present.  Following are Dr. Autumn Krauss’ reflections on the key themes and content:

It seems that you can get a pulse of the discipline by reviewing the quantity and quality of sessions by topic along with attendance at the sessions themselves (attendees either spilling into the hall or a cavernous empty room).  There are over 300 sessions and the topics covered within the conference are as diverse as the discipline of I/O psychology.  The proposal process is competitive and the standards for acceptance are high, so you can definitely get a sense from the conference program of what I/O psychologists are thinking about and hopefully this aligns with what issues are of current interest and importance in organizations.  So, here are some themes I saw running through the conference this year:

  • People Analytics – I attended a pre-conference practitioner workshop entitled Using HR Data to Make Smarter Organizational Decisions. There were also several sessions on topics like Workforce Analytics and People Analytics. Overall, there is a large push within human resources to first integrate data coming from multiple sources and at multiple levels of analysis and to second use the data to make informed organizational decisions.  Very few workshop participants indicated their organizations were “best in class” with respect to the integration and use of data.  A couple of success stories from Google, which was represented as a co-presenter of the workshop, left me more inspired than overwhelmed by showing how small steps towards data integration and science-based decision-making can still translate into big wins with improved organizational processes and greater respect for the human resources function.
  • The Impact of the Economy – Several sessions focused on how job-seekers, employees, human resource professionals, and organizations navigate the economic turmoil that we’ve seen the past few years.  Session titles included Building Organizational Resilience during Financial Crisis, Talent Management in the Turbulent Economy, and Managing Human Capital during the Economic Downturn.
  • Social Networking – Researchers and practitioners alike seemed to understand at this conference that the power of social networking should be harnessed to facilitate talent management functions and quite a few sessions focused on this issue.  That being said, I saw a lot more panels on this topic (people offering ideas about what can and should be done) rather than research presentations where people are already doing it.  The research that seemed to be the furthest along was descriptive in nature – for instance, surveys describing the frequency that recruiters access applicants’ social networking profiles when evaluating them as candidates.  Hopefully next year as a discipline we’ll be a little further along in understanding how social networking can be leveraged in more tangible ways for areas like employee selection and performance management.
  • Sustainability – Several sessions focused on the role of sustainability and associated topics such as corporate social responsibility within organizations.  These sessions looked at this topic at a macro level (what benefits do organizations achieve such as improved employment brand if they are viewed as socially responsible) to the micro level (what environmentally responsible behaviors do individual employees engage in and what motivates them to do so).
  • Legal Issues – Organizations are seeing increased activity from government agencies such as the EEOC and OFCCP.  Several sessions discussed this trend with participants offering ideas about what organizations should do to be prepared for this increased scrutiny.  Also within the legal realm, a handful of sessions focused specifically on the implications of the Supreme Court decision in the Ricci case for employee selection practices.
  • Hourly Workers – Every year our team keeps an eye out for sessions focused on hourly workers.  They are always few and far between and often out-numbered by sessions on executive assessment and development.  We presented two research studies focused on hourly workers this year and reiterated the importance during our sessions on studying this unique population that has not gotten the attention it deserves as a focus of research.  All in all, I was disappointed in the scarcity of sessions focused on hourly workers this year again.

You can learn more about the conference at siop.org/conferences/default.aspx and see some commentary and photos from the conference at SIOP’s blog here  siopexchange.typepad.com/the_siop_exchange/2010/04/siop-25th-anniversary-conference-a-success.html For those of you who attended the conference, I look forward to hearing any insights you might have gained as well.