Tag Archives: Research methods

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.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method). 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

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Welcome Onboard. Tips for Staff Recruitment by Dr. Sarah Burke

I estimate there will be a lot of ‘first days’ for staff in January 2014, if the volume of assessment testing for recruitment that we did leading up to Christmas is anything to go by.  But consider these facts:

•       Half of all senior external hires fail within 18 months in a new position;

•       Almost 1/3 of all new hires employed for less than 6 months are already job searching;

•       According to the US Dept of Labour, a total of 25% of the working population undergoes a career transition each year.

This level of churn comes at a cost. Estimates of direct and indirect costs for a failed executive-level hire can be as high as $2.7 million (Watkins, 2003).  And for each employee who moves on, there is many others in the extended network – peers, bosses, and direct reports whose performance is also influenced.  One of the important ways that HR can positively impact on this level of churn is through the strategic use of a process known as onboarding.

What is Onboarding?

Employee onboarding is the process of getting new hires positively adjusted to the role, social, and cultural aspects of their new jobs as quickly and smoothly as possible. It is a process through which new hires learn the knowledge, skills, and behaviours required to function effectively within an organisation. The bottom line is that the sooner we can bring people up to speed in their roles and wider organisation, the more expediently they will contribute.

Conventional wisdom is that a new hire will take approximately 6 months before they can meaningfully contribute (Watkins, 2003).  I suspect that for most organisations, a 6 month lag time before seeing a return on a new hire is untenable, particularly in the NZ economy when 97.2% of us employ less than 20 staff (MBIE Fact Sheet, 2013).  One of the important ways that HR can accelerate the adjustment process for new hires is by having an onboarding programme that is given a profile inside the business, and supported by key staff.

While the specifics of an onboarding programme can vary organisation to organisation, the below is offered as a guide for HR managers to proactively manage their onboarding efforts.  Please review my presentation Welcome Onboard for more direction in terms of supporting staff in the initial days, weeks, and months of their employment.

 Top Tips for Supporting Staff Onboarding:

  • Make good use of the pre-start to get the workspace organised, to schedule key meetings, and for sharing useful organisational and team information (i.e., team bio’s, blogs, key organisational reading).
  • Give your onboarding programme a brand/logo/tagline that communicates the experience and gives it importance/profile.
  • Customise your onboarding programme to reflect individual need; onboarding is not a one-size fits all.
  • Personalise the first day, including a formal announcement of entry
  • Create an onboarding plan detailing key projects, firsts, objectives, and deliverables that are expected by your new hire.
  • Monitor progress over time using milestones; 30 – 60 – 90 – 120 days up to 1 year post-entry.
  • Identify 2-3 quick wins that your new hire can take responsibility for in order to build credibility and establish momentum (note: a quick win must be a meaningful win, not necessarily a big win).
  • Involve your new hire in projects that will require working cross-functionally.
  • Include organisational role models as mentors and coaches.  Remember a relatively small set of connections is far better than a lot of superficial acquaintances.
  • Be prepared to provide initial structure and direction to your new hire.  Remember, most people if thrown in the deep end to ‘sink or swim’ will sink.
  • Use technology to facilitate the onboarding process, including the flow of information.

Organizational Research Methods

Theory development is a high priority in organisational and management research. However, it is often equated with building new theory, a practice that is rewarded in the publication process and encouraged by norms that pervade the field. This practice has produced a proliferation of theories, most of which are not exposed to rigorous empirical research that probes core propositions and puts theories at risk. In the interest of theory development, management and organisational research would make better progress if we:

Devote more attention to theoretical refinement

  • Conduct research that identifies the boundaries and limitations of theories
  • Stage competitive tests between rival theories
  • Increase the precision of theories so they yield strong predictions that can be falsified

These issues are addressed by the articles that constitute this feature topic with the goal of enhancing theoretical progress in management and organisational research. In summary, this body of work indicates many of the problems inherent in our discipline:

Our discipline does not necessarily lend itself to quantitative methodologies.

  1. Quantification has often been pursued without any depth of understanding of its appropriateness to solve a particular problem.
  2. Advanced maths has over ridden quality theory building to the detriment of the discipline.
  3. Many of the ‘rules’ of I/O psychology are followed blindly and are nothing more than arbitrary misapplied standards.
  4. Good theory building is iterative and many of the theories that are put forth in our discipline are not tested.

Our discipline is in its infancy and promises much to the world of work. For it to deliver on this promise it requires that it step aside from the shackles of the past and embrace the reality of solving the issues of the industry.