NZ Health and Safety Legislation; Fostering Wellbeing and Resilience

With the recent changes to Health and Safety (H&S) legislation, New Zealand employers need to ensure that they are taking all practicable steps to ensure both the mental and physical well-being of their employees is being protected within the workplace. This includes adopting proactive and developmental approaches that foster wellbeing and resilience; which is not only an obligation under law, but is also instrumental in facilitating higher levels of performance. Continue reading

Why HR Doesn’t Count – The Touchy Feely Side of Human Resources

A hallmark feature of high performing businesses is the commercial value that the Human Resources department contributes to the organisation. In such organisations, HR has a seat at the boardroom table and even junior HR personnel are highly attuned to the commercial drivers of the business.

For example they can quote staff attrition rates and the return on investment (ROI) ratios for the most recent leadership development program. In short, they know how their role contributes to saving or making money for their organisation. In most organisations however, HR is perceived as a cost centre and serves little more than an administration function and these HR personnel struggle to communicate how they make a difference to an organisation. Which type are you? Continue reading

Usefulness Trumps Validity

Validity is perhaps one of the most misunderstood concepts in HR analytics and psychometrics in particular. This is a topic that I have previously written about on this blog but the message has yet to fully resonate with the HR community. The most common question that OPRA gets asked in relation to any solution we sell, be it an assessment, survey or intervention, continues to be “What is the validity?”

On the face of it this is a perfectly reasonable question. However when probed further, it becomes clear that there remains a gap in understanding what validity translates to in terms of business outcomes. The answer to this question is invariably a validity coefficient rolled off the tongue that then suffices some checkbox prescribed for decision making. Continue reading

The 360 Story – Introduction to 360s

360-Degree surveying is a popular way for organisations to evaluate performance, assist employee development, and support talent management processed. By one estimate, multi-source feedback such as a 360 surveying is used in 90% of Fortune 1000 organisations, and this trend is reflected across a broad range of organisational industries and sizes.

Although a 360 can be seen as a one-stop-shop, the process must be handled with care to ensure the outcomes are positive and meaningful. To help ensure sustained developmental change among participants there are some key points to keep in mind. Continue reading

Leaving Value – Exit Interviewing as a Strategic Intervention

Despite their reputation, exit interviews are not a waste of time. But there’s a catch.

A common complaint from organisations is that exit interviews are a waste of time, effort, and money. The reason for this is that they are simply done as part of the checklist for any exiting employee. Box ticked. Job done. But therein lays the problem. Exit interviews are only as useful as the information gained, but this is just one part of the puzzle. Simply getting information achieves very little. Real value comes from the information being applied.  While the old adage says knowledge is power, it would be more apt to say, knowledge applied is invaluable. If this is the case with exit interviews, two key questions need to be answered: how can organisations ensure that they are getting accurate insights from exiting employees and how can the information gained be used more strategically? Continue reading

Ethics in our profession – Finding more questions than answers

In my profession, I have often advocated practicing within the limits of my competencies and urged others to do the same. I preached, with near religious fervour that “competent professionals will what they don’t know; incompetent ones will be eager to impress you with how much they do.”

I often reflect on this position that I take, priding myself as operating within the boundaries set by my professional code of ethics. At the same time I also question if this was merely a clever ruse to hide my own incompetence and inadequacies. I have not found that answer to date. I suspect that many professionals, in psychology or otherwise, struggle with the same question in the lifespan of their careers. Continue reading

Data is an ingredient not the meal: 5 key things to think about to begin turning data into information

Unless you have been shut off from the outside world in recent times you are probably aware that big data is one of the current flavours of the month in business. As an I/O psychologist I’m particularly interested how this concept of big data is impacting thinking about people problems in companies. Indeed, a common request for information that is made to OPRA, whether that is Australia, New Zealand or Singapore, is for help with supposedly big data projects. The irony is that many of these requests are neither primarily about data nor involving big data sets.  Rather what has happened is that the proliferation of talk on big data has made companies realise that they need to start incorporating data into their people decision.

Big data itself is nothing new. OPRA were involved in what could be described, in a New Zealand context, a big data project in the 1990’s attempting to predict future unemployment from, among other variables, psychological data to help in formulating policy on government assistance.   What is new is the technology that has made this type of study far more accessible, the requirement for evidenced based HR decisions, and the natural evolution of people analytics to being a core-part of HR. Continue reading

In Defence of the Scientific Method

I recently listened to a podcast interview with Dr Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist and Director of the Gazzaley Lab at UC San Francisco.  While the work of Dr Gazzaley is both interesting and practical, the real take away for me from the podcast was to reconfirm my commitment to the scientific method. This is not to be mistaken for a belief in science, which throughout recent years I have become more and more disillusioned with. Rather, it is to avoid any notion of chucking the baby out with the bathwater and make clear the distinction between the flawed practice of science and the body of techniques that comprise the scientific method.

The scientific method dates back to the 17th century and involves the systematic observation, measurement and experimentation, and the formulation, testing and modification of hypotheses (cf. While not wishing to go into the history of the development of the scientific method, the applications of these principles have since been the basis for societal development. The refinement of this thinking, by the likes of Karl Popper, together with a multi-disciplinary approach with the appropriate use of logic and mathematics, is central in our search for truth (using the term loosely). Continue reading

Is Competition good for Science?

I have been a strong supporter of Capitalism. I believe in free trade, unbridled competition, and the consumer’s right to make choices in their self-interest. Laissez-faire capitalism, and the competition that it breeds, I often see as key to well-functioning economies and competition is essential to good long-term solutions without exception.

As noted I have held this view for a long time, and without exception, but recently I have been deeply challenged as to whether this model is applicable to all pursuits. In particular I am questioning whether competition is truly good for science.  This is not a statement I make lightly and is made after much reflection on the discipline and the nature of the industry I work, both as lecturer and a practitioner of I/O psychology.

There is a growing uprising against what many perceive as the management takeover of universities. This open source article ‘The Academic Manifesto’ speaks of this view and its opening paragraph captures the essence of the article:

“… The Wolf has colonised academia with a mercenary army of professional administrators, armed with spreadsheets, output indicators and audit procedures, loudly accompanied by the Efficiency and Excellence March. Management has proclaimed academics the enemy within: academics cannot be trusted, and so have to be tested and monitored, under the permanent threat of reorganisation, termination and dismissal…”

While I can certainly see efficiencies that can be made in universities and that the need for accountability is high, I can’t help but agree with the writers that the current KPIs don’t meet the grade (no pun intended). The ‘publish or perish’ phenomena works counter to producing quality research that is developed over the long-term.

Competition also leads to a lack of valuable, but not newsworthy, research. This topic has also been discussed previously in this blog (the-problem-with-academia-as-a-medium-of-change-or-critique), but the key issue of replication that is at the heart of our science is sorely lacking (Earp BD and Trafimow D (2015) Replication, falsification, and the crisis of confidence in social psychology. Front. Psychol. 6:621).

We have created new terms such as HARKing that describe how we have moved away from hypothesis testing, which is central to science, and into defining hypotheses only after the results are in (Bosco, F. A., Aguinis, H., Field, J. G., Pierce, C. A., & Dalton, D. R. (in press). HARKing’s threat to organizational research: Evidence from primary and meta-analytic sources. Personnel Psychology.)

Likewise the increased growth in universities, and the competition between them, without a growth in jobs is being questioned in many countries. When a degree simply becomes a means to an end, does it provide the well-rounded educated population that is required to have a fully functioning progressive Society?

At a practitioner level, the folly of competition is perhaps most apparent in the likes of psychometric testing; an industry I’m acutely familiar with. Test publishers go to great lengths to differentiate themselves so as to carve a niche in the competitive landscape (are-tests-really-that-different) . This is despite the fact that construct validity, which is the centre piece of modern validity theory, in essence requires cross validation.  The result is a myriad of test providers sprouting the “mine is bigger than yours” rhetoric at the detriment of science.  Many times users are more concerned about the colour used in reports than about the science and validity of that test.

Contrast this with a non-competitive approach to science. The examples are numerous, but given the interest in psychology take, as an example, the Human Brain project. Here we have scientists collaborating around a common goal towards a target date of 2023. 112 partners in 24 countries and the driver is not competition but the objective itself of truly expanding our knowledge of the human brain.

We have the US equivalent which called the Brain Initiative and there is further collaboration to create the combined efforts of these two undertakings. With the advancements in physics that has given rise to brain scanning technology, we now understand more than ever about the processes of the mind. This simply would not be possible under the competitive model applied to science.

My experience as a practitioner selling assessment and consulting solutions, as a lecturer who has taught across multiple universities and as a general science buff, have led me to see the downside of competition for science. Competition still has a place in my heart, but perhaps like chardonnay and steak their value may not always be realised when combined.

learning agility

Learning agility: where wisdom meets courageous problem solving

The Iliad is the earliest piece of Western literature and illustrates the generally distinct characteristics of wisdom versus problem solving with risk and courage. King Nestor the wise might miss opportunities for gain due to his caution, but is renowned for eventually making great decisions based on his judgement, knowledge, and experience. While Odysseus has a great ability to courageously solve problems in circumstances of extreme risk, but more often than not gets himself into such situations due to his own lack of wisdom!

The title of this blog suggests that learning agility bridges this gap between Nestor’s wisdom and Odysseus’s courageous problem solving.  So what exactly do we mean by “learning agility”? While the ability to learn can be broadly defined by one’s ability and willingness to do so, learning agility concerns the speed with which people learn and the flexibility with which they apply that learning.  A hallmark of the agile learner is their ability to learn from previous experience and apply that learning in current situations, often in creative or unique ways.  Sounds wise right? Continue reading