Category Archives: Miscellaneous

2014: Exploring the Myths of I/O Psychology a Month at a Time

For those that may not be aware, the ‘Science of Science’ is in disarray. Everything is currently under the microscope as to what constitutes good science, what is indeed scientific and the objectivity and impartiality of science. This is impacting many areas of science and has even led to a Noble Prize winner boycotting the most prestigious journals in his field.

Nobel winner declares boycott of top science journals: Randy Schekman says his lab will no longer send papers to Nature, Cell and Science as they distort scientific process.

This pervading problem in the field of science is perhaps best covered in the highly cited Economistarticle ’How Science Goes Wrong’

This questioning of science is perhaps no more apparent than in our discipline of I/O Psychology. Through various forums, and academic and non-academic press, I have been made increasingly aware of the barrage of critical thinking that is going on in our field. The result: much of what we have taken to be true as I/O psychs is nothing more than fable and wishful thinking.

Over this year I want to explore one myth each month with readers of our blog. They will be myths about the very heart of I/O Psychology that are often simply taken as a given.

The idea of attacking myths has long been central to OPRA’s philosophy:

 And there are many myth busting blogs in this forum:

To kick off this new series I wish to start with the current state of play in the field. In particular, the fundamental problem that questionable research practices often arise when there is an incentive for getting a certain outcome.

John, L.K., Loewenstein, G., & Prelec, D. (2012) Measuring the prevalence of questionable research practices with incentives for truth telling. Psychological Science OnlineFirst.  A description of the study with comments at: http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.co.nz/2011/12/questionable-research-practices-are.html

This results in a well-known fact to all in the publish or perish game that your best chance of getting published is not necessarily the quality of the research but rather is correlated with a null hypothesis not being supported (i.e. you have a ‘eureka’ moment, however arbitrary).

Fanelli, D. (2010) “Positive” results increase down the hierarchy of the sciences. http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0010068

Gerber, A.S., & Malhotra, N. (2008) Publication bias in empirical sociological research: Do arbitrary significance levels distort published results? Sociological Methods & Research, 37, 1, 3-30.

The output is that the bulk of the research in our area is trivial in nature, is not replicated and simply does not support the claims that are being made. This is especially the case in psychology where the claims often go from exaggerated to the absurd.

Francis, G. (2013). Replication, statistical consistency, and publication bias. Journal of Mathematical Psychology (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jmp.2013.02.003 ), Earlyview, , 1-17.

Scientific methods of investigation offer systematic ways to gather information about the world; and in the field of psychology application of such methods should lead to a better understanding of human behavior. Instead, recent reports in psychological science have used apparently scientific methods to report strong evidence for unbelievable claims such as precognition. To try to resolve the apparent conflict between unbelievable claims and the scientific method many researchers turn to empirical replication to reveal the truth. Such an approach relies on the belief that true phenomena can be successfully demonstrated in well-designed experiments, and the ability to reliably reproduce an experimental outcome is widely considered the gold standard of scientific investigations. Unfortunately, this view is incorrect; and misunderstandings about replication contribute to the conflicts in psychological science. …… Overall, the methods are extremely conservative about reporting inconsistency when experiments are run properly and reported fully.

The paucity of quality scientific research is leading to more and more calls for fundamental change in how what qualifies as good science and research in our field.

Miguel, E., Camerer, C., Casey, K., Cohen, J., Esterling, K., Gerber, A., Glennerster, R.,Green, D., Humphreys, M., Imbens, G., Laitin, D., Madon, T., Nelson, L., Nosek, B.A., …, Simonsohn, U., & Van der Laan, M. (2014). Promoting transparency in social science research. Science, 343, 6166, 30-31.

“There is growing appreciation for the advantages of experimentation in the social sciences. Policy-relevant claims that in the past were backed by theoretical arguments and inconclusive correlations are now being investigated using more credible methods. ….Accompanying these changes, however, is a growing sense that the incentives, norms, and institutions under which social science operates undermine gains from improved research design. Commentators point to a dysfunctional reward structure in which statistically significant, novel, and theoretically tidy results are published more easily than null, replication, or perplexing results”.

D.C., Levine, J.M., Mackie, D.M., Morf, C.C., Vazire, S., & West, S.G. (2013). Improving the dependability of research in personality and social psychology: Recommendations for research and educational practice. Personality and Social Psychology Review, EarlyView, , 1-10.

In this article, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) Task Force on Publication and Research Practices offers a brief statistical primer and recommendations for improving the dependability of research. Recommendations for research practice include (a) describing and addressing the choice of N (sample size) and consequent issues of statistical power, (b) reporting effect sizes and 95% confidence intervals (CIs), (c) avoiding “questionable research practices” that can inflate the probability of Type I error, (d) making available research materials necessary to replicate reported results, (e) adhering to SPSP’s data sharing policy, (f) encouraging publication of high-quality replication studies, and (g) maintaining flexibility and openness to alternative standards and methods. Recommendations for educational practice include (a) encouraging a culture of “getting it right,” (b) teaching and encouraging transparency of data reporting, (c) improving methodological instruction, and (d) modeling sound science and supporting junior researchers who seek to “get it right.”

Cumming, G. (2013). The New Statistics: Why and how. Psychological Science, EarlyView, , 1-23.

We need to make substantial changes to how we conduct research. First, in response to heightened concern that our published research literature is incomplete and untrustworthy, we need new requirements to ensure research integrity. These include pre-specification of studies whenever possible, avoidance of selection and other inappropriate data-analytic practices, complete reporting, and encouragement of replication. Second, in response to renewed recognition of the severe flaws of null-hypothesis significance testing (NHST), we need to shift from reliance on NHST to estimation and other preferred techniques. The new statistics refers to recommended practices, including estimation based on effect sizes, confidence intervals, and meta-analysis. The techniques are not new, but adopting them widely would be new for many researchers, as well as highly beneficial. This article explains why the new statistics are important and offers guidance for their use. It describes an eight-step new-statistics strategy for research with integrity, which starts with formulation of research questions in estimation terms, has no place for NHST, and is aimed at building a cumulative quantitative discipline.

But it is not all doom and gloom. There are simple steps that the Scientist/Practitioner can take to make sure that sense and sensibility is more pervasive in the field.  In this regard I offer 3 key simple principles:

  1. Try your best to keep up to date with the literature: OPRA will do their best to publish relevant pieces that come to their attention via this blog!
  2. Don’t make exaggerated claims: Remember that no one has ‘magic beans’ as ‘magic beans’ do not exist. Dealing with human problems invariably involves complexity and levels of prediction that are far from perfect.
  3. Accept our discipline is a craft not a science: I/O Psychology involves good theory, good science, and sensible qualitative and quantitative evidence but is often applied in a unique manner, as would a craftsman (or craftsperson – if such a word exists). Accepting this fact will liberate the I/O Psychologist to use science, statistics and logic to produce the solutions that the industry, and more specifically, their clients require.

Keep an eye on our blog this coming year for exploring myths and other relevant information or products related to our field. Let us know if something is of interest to you and we can blog about it or send you more information directly.

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You Take The Effectiveness of Your Communication For Granted

Perhaps I should instead phrase that as a question?  Let me try that again:  

Do you take the effectiveness of your communication for granted?

People, by their very nature, are notoriously naïve when it comes to believing they have a good understanding and awareness of their communication style.  Stake my word on it, there will be shared opinions on how you communicate which will differ vastly from how you see yourself.  While you may see yourself as Martin Luther King Jr., others might not.   There are good psychological reasons for this “above-average” effect.  One is your in-built mental defence mechanism. Psychologists call this ‘self-serving bias’ which (amongst other similar biases) is the tendency to attribute any perceived criticisms to external factors (AKA, the “it’s them, not me” effect, or the “oh yeah, but that’s probably because of [insert extenuating circumstances here]” effect—both equally as common).

By far in large this unconscious bias plays a crucial part in your effective functioning and is fantastic at protecting and enhancing self-esteem.  However, when it comes to the fundamental business skill of increasing self-awareness and improving your communication ability, the self-serving bias may act as a road block to success.  It is these self-serving mechanisms which may be hurting your ability to communicate effectively with your team wider organisation.  All is not lost, however, if you know your ABC’s.

The ABC model is a framework for addressing these concerns:  what level of awareness do you have around being able to consciously choose your communication style.  To what degree can you consciously choose and deliver a behaviour that will result in the best possible interpersonal outcome?  Finally, how much awareness do you have around the consequences of your communicative actions?  If you —like nearly everyone—are positive you are great on all of these, probability tells us that you have just fallen victim to one of our many self-serving biases.  Not all great communicators are born naturals—active self-development plays a vital role in strengthening your ABC’s, and thus your communication ability.

If you are looking at an effective communication program, make sure that the following areas are addressed:

  • Increase self-awareness of one’s own preferred communication style, communication strengths and biases;
  • Develop  an understanding of how one’s preferred communication style can impact on others;
  • Develop an ability to consciously choose an appropriate communication style and behaviour in anticipation of desired outcomes;
  • Learn to use communication as a tool to build co-operative alliances and maintain team performance in difficult situations;
  • Enhance conflict resolution skills and learn win-win communication techniques.

Or if you would like further information on effective communication, or how such an initiative could be effectively implemented into your team please get in touch with one of our psychologists/consultants.

Being Present During Feedback

During my career in the HR and L&D space, I could not put a figure on how many times I have given 360 degree feedback to managers, often as part of a leadership development programme. The 360 degree process is certainly not a new one. We know the demand for 360 degree surveys is growing and that this process is increasingly a part of our roles as HR and L&D professionals and leaders in business.

Despite my experience to date though, I am always amazed how much I continually learn about myself in these feedback situations. I know I am an extravert and I operate very intuitively. Whilst these are my strengths in giving feedback, they can also be my downfall. I need to always be mindful of how I am in a 360 degree feedback scenario, and adjust my style for the person receiving the feedback.

The top ten golden rules of feedback are always in our minds. Use specific examples, do not judge, choose the environment etc. However it is useful to remind ourselves of those other rules of behaviour that are obvious, yet sometimes easy to overlook. We must not forget that how you say things and how you phrase your message carries more weight than you think. You cannot escape your personality—but you can temper it.

I recently read some ideas around how to ‘BE’ in a debrief:

  • Be present and maintain self-awareness
  • Avoid value laden language, tone, body language and facial expressions
  • Avoid making interpretations
  • Avoid the use of closed and leading questions
  • Use open and probing questions to facilitate discussion of the results
  • Draw on the individuals context
  • Offer suggestions for improvement when invited to do so and you have them to offer
  • Call any mistakes you make and apologise

(Ref: Dr Ben Palmer, Director, Genos International)

These behaviours sound straightforward right? Yet it is not easy to always be this way when immersed in a feedback relationship with an individual. Our role, the purpose of the 360 degree feedback, the emotional response from the individual can all pull and lean us in directions we should not really go. The first point is the key: Be present. If we stick to that then the rest should fall into place.

Why Bother with Employment Branding?

If you were to ask a child which organisation they would most like to work for when they “grow-up” chances are you would get an answer along the lines of “Coke” or “McDonald’s”. However, it’s unlikely that they are cognisant of what has influenced their choice.  As we go through our working lives, it’s not surprising that when we are looking at a potential employer or ask someone what their ideal organisation is, they may still not be fully aware about what has influenced their choice. We will often make a decision based upon an organisation’s reputation, a role/organisation which matches our personal characteristics and organisational values. Ever-increasingly decisions are influenced by an organisation’s employment brand.

Recently I read an article that proposed when an organisation incorporates Sustainable Human Resource Management (Sustainable HRM) with their employment brand, they can differentiate themselves from their competitors and enhance their attractiveness to employees.

Sustainable HRM is described as “the pattern of planned or emerging human resource strategies and practices intended to enable organisational goal achievement while simultaneously reproducing the HR base over a long-lasting calendar time”.   

Now admittedly research around employment branding and Sustainable HRM is relatively new, and at this stage fairly limited.  Nevertheless it made for interesting reading and had some points which resonated with me.

Traditionally an organisation’s employment brand has been a combination of their corporate brand (based upon values and culture) and corporate social responsibility policies.  Many organisations have an employment brand to attract potential employees and then assist the organisation in remaining attractive to, and thereby retaining, current employees.

In order to tie in an organisation’s current employment brand to Sustainable HRM the authors have looked back at existing theory:

  • Signalling theory suggests all communications with an organisation during the recruitment process send out signals, by which a candidate uses to form their opinions of an organisation.  They have suggested that by incorporating Sustainable HRM within the employment brand this sends a positive signal of preparedness to invest in the candidate/employee and an understanding of the employment relationship.
  • Social identity theory suggests that an individual’s self-concept depends on their membership in different social organisations and that an individual’s self-concept is strongly influenced by the reputation of an organisation.  They have proposed that by integrating Sustainable HRM within the employment brand this enhances the self-concept of current employees and candidates.
  • Person-organisation fit suggests that job seekers match their personal characteristics and values with the organisation’s culture and identity. The article has suggested that the perceived fit between employee’s and candidate’s values and Sustainable HRM moderates the relationship between Sustainable HRM and organisation attractiveness i.e. higher fit may mean a stronger positive impact of the Sustainable HRM.

From here they have suggested that integrating Sustainable HRM practices into the employee value proposition enables an organisation to address employees and candidates in different life and career stages.  Additionally the different needs and expectations of its workforce are addressed without compromising its consistent employment brand.

 An organisation’s employment brand and how it’s created varies vastly from organisation to organisation. What is your organisation’s employment brand?

App, S., Merk, J., Büttgen, M. (2012) Employer Branding: Sustainable HRM as a Competitive Advantage in the Market for High-Quality.  Management Revue, 23(3), 262-278

The Online Job Market

It would be hard to deny that the internet has forever changed how we live our lives, how we do business, and not surprisingly how we look for jobs and recruit staff. A recent global report showed that 26% of job seekers found their latest job through online job sites*. Interestingly, another 22% of jobs were found based on word of mouth, 17% through recruitment agencies, 17% from a direct approach by an employer, 10% by other methods, and only 7% through print media. At the lowest level were social media sites, with a mere 1%. However, roughly a quarter of people across the globe reported using social networking sites to look for work, so surely the number of people finding their jobs through these sites is bound to increase.

The fact that almost a quarter of job seekers are still finding their positions through word of mouth indicates to me that online tools have by no means taken over the job market yet. In fact, with almost 40% of jobs being found through networking and direct approaches, the importance of networking and face to face contact is clearly apparent. However, surely the role that the internet plays in this networking will only continue to increase with time, and thus online job sites and social media will start to play a bigger role in recruitment. So, what does this mean for individuals and organisations?

Online job sites offer individuals the ability to passively keep an eye on the job market without committing to the selection process. It also allows them to keep an eye on companies or individuals they would like to work with in case vacancies do come up. For organisations, the internet must lead to a wider talent pool than would have traditionally been available. It also means that organisations can keep an eye on potential employees. So, are there any disadvantages to the use of online job sites and social media in the job market?

Honestly I’m struggling to think of any. I can certainly see that for individuals the internet probably makes it harder to pick and chose what potential employers can find out about you.  From an employer’s perspective, the ease of use of such sites could potentially lead to a significant increase in the number of poor or non-relevant job applications. Also, organisations will need to think about how they can respond to this shift, and whether they need to get their own processes up to date. But mostly I would say that the benefits would far outweigh the disadvantages. What are your thoughts?

*2011 Kelly Global Workforce Index

Take-home Technology: Is it the Scapegoat for Reduced Work-Life Balance?

It may be obvious for those reading this blog from a laptop/Blackberry in front of the TV or in the airport departure lounge, but using work technology out of office hours (take-home technology) can impact work-life balance.  A recent study by Park, Fritz and Jex (2011) suggests that using take-home technology impacts an individual’s ability to detach from work and consequently their wellbeing. Countless studies and anecdotal evidence also indicate a relationship between low work-life balance and fatigue, less positive work experiences, and lower overall life satisfaction. Does this mean we should be banning take-home technology to improve our work-life balance?

Not just yet say Park et al. (2011). Take-home technology appears to be just one contributor to the increasing lack of work-life balance. Other contributing factors like work-home segmentation preference and workplace segmentation culture may actually have a bigger impact on work-life balance.  Work-home segmentation is the degree to which people prefer their work and home lives to operate separately. Some people have a strong need/motivation for this, while others may be comfortable blurring the boundaries between work and home life. Workplace segmentation culture is the expectation (implicit or explicit) set in place by the organisation around acceptable work-life balance. These norms convey how expected or appropriate it is to work from home, attend evening functions or to call colleagues at home or work weekends.

Park et al. (2011) expected take-home technology to be a major factor in lack of work-life balance. However, work-home segmentation and workplace segmentation culture had the greatest impact on detachment from work, with take-home technology just exacerbating this relationship. For those who prefer to separate work and home life and/or those who feel they are expected to work from home, technology may make their existing feelings of low work detachment appear more prominent.

So, if banning technology isn’t the answer to work-life balance, what is? Park et al. (2011) suggest that identifying and addressing an individual’s work preferences may be part of the puzzle. Identifying those who prefer to keep work and home separate and helping them to physically and mentally detach from work may be valuable. This could include making changes to role design and workload. Addressing an individual’s ability to deal with ruminating thoughts, develop end of the day rituals, establish boundaries and take an action-focused approach to problems may also help.

Exploring the culture operating within a workplace may help gauge how appropriate it is for employees to detach from work. By understanding the organisation’s philosophy around take-home technology and asking the following questions, the value of a segmentation culture can be ascertained.

1)      Is this expectation of work-life balance required of everyone?

2)      What message is this level of work-life balance sending?  To current employees? To future employees?

3)      Is it contributing to business effectiveness (remembering that lack of work-life balance can impact on engagement and satisfaction as well as hard costs like turnover and absenteeism)

4)      Can we strike a balance between effectiveness and wellbeing for those who need to use take-home technology?

Improving work-life balance isn’t as simple as putting take-home technology on a “black list”. It involves exploring each individual’s workplace needs, understanding organisational culture and developing targeted solutions to enable people to “switch off” from work. However, “switching off” from technology from time to time may not be a bad thing either!

Meetings – Are They Our Enemy?

I recently read a book written by two successful IT entrepreneurs. “Rework” is their advice on the simple and best ways to be successful in business. It covers a long list of topics including how to deal with competitors, how to promote your business, how to hire, organisational culture and productivity.  The one 2-page chapter that I found particularly interesting however, was titled “Meetings are toxic”.

Could it be that meetings are an enemy of productivity? But hasn’t the business trend been towards collaboration and bringing a team together?  Aren’t meetings a crucial part of this?  Fried and Heinemeier Hansson site a number of reasons for why they believe meetings are toxic and a key enemy to productivity.  Some of their points include:

  • Meetings are usually about abstract concepts, not real things
  • They convey very small amounts of information per minute. Efficiency isn’t their friend
  • They tend to go off subject easily
  • They require preparation time that most productive people don’t have time for
  • Meetings procreate – one leads to another and another.

They also discuss the fact that meetings seem to take more time than they necessarily need to.  Unfortunately, Outlook doesn’t allow us to schedule 10 minute meetings, so inevitably we end up blocking out half an hour.  And what is the true cost to a business?  A one hour meeting involving a team of 13 people is costing a business a fortune! That is no longer a one-hour meeting; as Fried and Heinemeier Hansson point out, it is a 13 hour meeting.  To have that meeting the business has traded 13 hours of productive time for one hour of meeting time.

This led me to ask myself some questions:  Are the meetings we have each week necessary? If they pull 5 people away from their work for an hour, are they delivering back 5-hours worth of productivity? Fried and Heinemeier Hansson end with a couple of pieces of advice which I believe would make all meetings more effective; 1) Set a timer.  When the meeting is over, it’s over; 2) Invite as few people as possible; 3) Have a clear agenda.  I don’t think it is a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water, but perhaps it’s worth considering next time whether that meeting is really necessary before you leap in and suck up hours of potentially productive time.

Fried, J., & Heinemeier Hansson, D. (2010). Rework.  Change the way you work forever. London: Random House.

Measuring Candidates’ Perceptions of The Hiring Process

I’ve heard people say many times that ultimately you should run your selection process so that even those applicants who are unsuccessful still want to work for you. To me this makes complete sense – while among the unsuccessful applicants there are likely to be individuals you wouldn’t want to hire into the company at all, there are also likely to be a number of individuals who would be great employees in different roles, different teams or just at a different time. It is essential that these individuals go away with a positive impression of the company not only so that they will apply next time, but also because they will pass their impression of your company on to other potential applicants. Even for those individuals you won’t ever hire, their perceptions of your organisation are still important, as they will go on to discuss their experiences with others – thus marketing their own image of your company to possible clients. Studies have found that applicants who view the selection process in a positive light are also more likely to view the organisation positively.  In addition, they are more likely to want to accept job offers and recommend the employer to other individuals (Hausknecht, J.P., Day, D.V. & Thomas, S.C., 2004).

So, it’s not surprising that the majority of HR practitioners regularly state that candidates’ impressions of the recruitment process are important to them.  So why is it then that so few organisations actually measure candidates’ reactions to the selection process?

While it may be easy to assume that you know how candidates feel about your selection process, it is unlikely that any assumptions we make are realistic. Mostly, we gain candidates’ perceptions of the selection process through discussions with successful applicants. Needless to say, these individuals may not be completely honest about how they found the selection process, given the fact that you’ve just hired them. Furthermore they probably have a different view of the selection process from those who were unsuccessful, or those who opted out. So how can we accurately measure the full range of candidates’ perceptions?

I believe there are a number of potentially very simple solutions. The most obvious one would be to send a ‘short and sweet’ survey out to all applicants once the selection process is completed. It could include both quantitative and qualitative questions. Short enough so that some applicants will actually fill out it, and long enough to gather valuable information on how candidates view the process, and thus how your organisation is viewed by potential employees.  This information could be vital in informing how selection processes should be structured in order to improve favourable perceptions of your organisation, thereby increasing your chances of attracting good applicants and keeping good clients. Sounds easy right? Well, let’s get to it then!

Hausknecht, J.P., Day, D.V. & Thomas, S.C. (2004). Applicant Reactions to Selection Procedures: An Updated Model and Meta-Analysis. Personnel Psychology, 57(3), 639-683.

The Creative Outcomes of Positive Emotion

Employee creativity is generally recognised as a crucial component in achieving innovative success and more importantly, organisational sustainability.  This would come as little surprise to many; in fact it would be far more peculiar to find any large corporate organisations that didn’t occasionally emphasise the importance of creative performance outcomes.  Within-person studies that acknowledge creative performance as a dynamic outcome, which can change from day-to-day or even hour to hour, are very sparse as most look at the creative differences between people.  But why wouldn’t we look within the person?  We can probably all attest to the fact that some days we intuitively feel more creative that others

One recent diary-type investigation looked at 100 architect’s daily experience of creativity with the aim of asking “what makes a creative day?” The authors found that the better the architects felt in the morning upon getting to work, the far more creative they were the rest of the day.  The authors also looked at the relationship between job stressors and creativity.  Before I tell you what they found, take a moment to question yourself on what level of stress you think you are at your most creative: When you’ve kicked up your feet on the desk? Or, when you have 17 deadlines to meet before lunchtime? The architects’ diaries suggested an inverted U-shaped curve type relationship (a Yerkes-Dodson type curve) between daily time pressure and daily creativity, but only for those with a high level of job control.  That is, employees with a relatively high level of autonomy felt they were at their most creative when they were under a normal amount of time pressure.  Conversely, for those with lower levels of autonomy time pressure did not seem to have any effect on their level of creativity.

So what can we take away from this?  I think there are two major practical implications:

  1. If we need staff to have high levels of creative performance on any given day we need to foster positive affect, that is, positive emotional experience.  I’d suggest thinking what would better your employees’ moods in the morning.  How about surprising them with something nice?
  2. Lastly, the findings regarding time pressure and job control highlight the importance of effective work design.  Increasing job control and keeping time pressures at a normal level are seemingly crucial; well at least on days you need your staff to think outside that proverbial square.

Binnerwies, C. &Wornlein, S.C.  (2011).  What makes a creative day?  A diary study on the interplay between affect, job stressors, and job control. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 32, 589-607.

Good Faith vs. Privacy: Food For Thought

For those readers with the inclination to follow the recent Massey University employment court case ruling, I’d imagine you have had some interesting conversations concerning the implications of this ruling for I/O psychology practitioners.  That was certainly my experience, specifically around privacy issues!

In a nutshell, Massey’s 2009 restructure meant that in some areas, existing positions had been disestablished and current employees had to enter into a selection process to compete for a smaller number of new positions that had been created.  Internal applicants were provided with information such as a job description, interview topics, and selection criteria.  Summaries of results were subsequently given to unsuccessful applicants. Requests from internal applicants for additional information relevant to themselves and other applicants were declined by Massey on the grounds that this was considered to be “evaluative material provided in confidence”.  This decision was then challenged in court.

In a surprise move the Judge ruled that the internal applicants were entitled to all information and materials that influenced the selection decision. As this case concerned a selection process during an organisational restructure, it was decided that the Employment Relations Act (2000) effectively “trumps” the Privacy Act (1993). Under the duty of “good faith”, this means that internal applicants were entitled to all information relevant to the selection decision. This not only included all evaluative material supplied by the interview panel about the individuals themselves, but also information relating to other candidates!  This ruling raises some really thought-provoking considerations.  For example:

  • How might candidates perceive a selection process in which their notes and evaluation material are accessible to their competition? How would this impact on the quality/quantity of an applicant pool, or perceptions of justice within the organisation?
  • The rights and obligations that arise out of existing employment relationships differ to those where an external candidate is participating in a selection process. Would this mean that there would be differential treatment of internal over external candidates?
  • No psychometrics were used in this case, but if they had been, what would be the potential consequences of test results no longer being confidential? How would HR and I/O practitioners balance their ethical and legal responsibilities?

What are your thoughts on these and other considerations/implications?  Really looking forward to hearing what you think!