Post-SIOP 2016 Reflection

SIOP16 badges

I had almost forgotten to write my post SIOP 2016 thoughts until I came across this recent set  of pictures from the  2016 conference . SIOP 2016 still feels like a whirlwind and while I made it to many sessions, I did not attend as many as I would have liked.  Here are my thoughts after experiencing IO psychology’s biggest annual conference:

  • Data science– Data science was one of the prominent themes at this year’s SIOP conference. I attended a number of sessions about machine learning, big data, deep learning and related topics. There seemed to be much concern among session attendees that IO psychology was falling behind in the area of statistics and data science. However, as David Morgan from Facebook stated it will take data scientists much longer to learn psychology then it will for IO psychologists to learn data science. Ultimately, big data and machine learning are newer techniques that IO psychology practitioners and academics are in a unique position to take advantage of.  IO practitioners are poised to take the lead in workplace research. We just need to learn how to leverage these new tools and techniques to generate new insights.
  • Translators– Many of the sessions I attended and many of the conversations that I had with friends, colleagues, and students were around the increased attention on our field. Whether that attention has come from the work of Lazlo Bock, Adam Grant, or the Re:Work initiative. This increased interest in our field means that we have a unique opportunity to effectively communicate the fundamental ideas of IO psychology to our students, clients, and stakeholders. Whether it was a panel on survey design, situational judgement tests, or data analytics, speakers focused on the importance of IO psychology practitioners’ ability to communicate to those outside of our field. There was great excitement about new journals such as Bowling Green’s Personnel Assessment and Decisions. This journal’s primary objective is to bridge the gap between science, practitioners, and business stakeholders. The message from SIOP 2016 was clearer than ever: we must all advocate for evidence-based management.

phd comics presentation

  • Technology– There were many panels on technological innovations that were shaping the way we have done traditional IO work. mobile pulse surveys, web-based simulations or e-learning we are finding new ways of using our methods and assessments. You couldn’t walk around the SIOP exhibition hall without seeing new and exciting tools for simulations or assessment centers. This is an exciting time to be in the field because we are able to collect data using these technologies which will ultimately help us develop even more robust tools and statistical techniques.
  • ‘Classic’ Methodology– Even though we are seeing innovations in the amount of data, technology, and demand for IO services there was a sense at this year’s SIOP that we have to stay true to ourselves. That we need to remain true to what we know about selection, training, performance management, and organizational development. None of the technological innovations are changing what constitutes good science. Nor does it change our goals as IO psychology practitioners but the technology does expand our tool box and may help us become more efficient.

avengers assemble

  • Teaming up– If it’s good enough for the Avengers then its good enough for SIOP! It was wonderful to see that SHRM was a sponsor of this year’s conference. It was also exciting to hear about the many wonderful local IO groups that have been recently formed around the country. My local IO group, Metro, had a strong presence at the conference this year and I learned from some of my co-panelists about local IO groups in Dallas, DC, and Minnesota. These partnerships and organizations (at the local and national level) will only help to strengthen the field of IO psychology and help us make an even greater impact in the workplace. It’s great to see SIOP take such a leading role at recognizing the benefits of partnership and collaboration.

im on the map

  • The expanding scope of IO Psychology– When I first started studying IO psychology in 2007 I initially felt that our science’s only application could be found in corporate America. Over the years, I have learned otherwise. IO psychology’s principles of methodological rigor paired with evidence-based decision making can be found in the worlds of market research, program evaluation, and healthcare (just to name a few applications). One of the most exciting areas is the work of the Global Organization for Humanitarian Work Psychology. The GOHWP is a coalition of individuals from low- to high-income countries devoted to the field of humanitarian work psychology “whose purpose is to further the synthesis of organizational, industrial, work, and other areas of psychology with deliberate and organized efforts to enhance human welfare”. The GOHWP provides our field an opportunity to extend our science into unforeseen areas of practice. IO psychology has much to offer non-profit and governmental organizations. The work of the GOHWP includes expanding research into areas involving different samples (i.e. Nicaraguan garment workers) working in varied organizations (businesses, governments, and non-governmental organizations) and using research science to tackle real-world issues (i.e. employability, poverty). Talent Metrics proudly offers its services to local non-profit organizations in NY and Florida. GOHWP is a wonderful endeavor and it continues to grow year after year. Ashlee Hoffman, Dr. Stuart Carr, and Laura Sywulak of GOHWP lead a lively discussion at the GOHWP SIOP party. There are exciting Humanitarian Work Psychology initiatives happening at organizations like the  UN (and other non-profit organizations) that will allow IO practitioners to expand their skillset. If you are a student looking for an opportunity to practice what you learned in class, a practitioner looking to try your hand at a new challenge, or an academic looking to conduct research in an exciting new area, humanitarian work psychology may have something to offer to you. Reach out to GOHPW on Twitter or at their website  to get involved!

GOHWP pin

These are my takeaways from SIOP, but I would love to hear yours! The time period right after the conference is when I’m most energized and excited about the field. Please post them in the comments below or send me a message on Twitter at @IOSyIslam

SIOP 16 TM

This blog post has been cross-posted to the Talent Metrics blog

Are you maximizing the use of your data?

Like Lucy in the clip above maybe you’ve been overwhelmed by data or met someone who has.

Perhaps one of these situations is familiar to you.

Situation 1

Client: “We just completed this training program and I’m glad you’ve collected all this data using different multiple choice and open-ended questions but it’s overwhelming. I just want overall numbers that I can show my bosses.”

Situation 2

Client: “We need to do a training evaluation but I want something as simple as possible. Just use a smile sheet. We just need to know if the trainees liked the training enough to continue this program.”

Situation 3

Client: “I’m really concerned about the training program and I’d love to look at the qualitative and quantitative data we collected but I don’t know how to make sense of it. I’m not sure what to do with it or if I even its useable.”

These are some situations that I have encountered when dealing with clients (i.e. HR directors, business owners, line managers). I hope I have captured some element of the post-intervention (in these examples a training program) challenges that many consultants face when dealing with evaluation.

One of the most frequent challenges of post-training data analysis is that you might collect an enormous amount of data and then not be sure what to do with it. The data you have start to look like vacuum cleaner attachments. Sometimes you look at your data and all you see are extra attachments for a device that you are not sure how to use.

Can we use all of these attachments? Of course!

Do we always use them? No!

We’re not certain what the attachments are for. All we know is that we have them. 

serious vacuum

In many situations, I find that HR managers, generalists, training managers, directors etc. often have the same reaction when faced with the survey data they collected from trainees. They feel overwhelmed. This is especially true if the clients did not participate in developing the evaluation process. Clients are a necessary component to any evaluation because they know what they are looking for out their training program.

star trek tribble

One of the most common sources of overlooked data are qualitative comments from trainees. In many cases, this data is not overlooked because the clients feel that the data is not valuable. In general, my clients have found the qualitative comments invaluable. However, there is typically hesitation about how to analyze the comments made by trainees and how to use the comments to develop next steps.

           internet comments tropic thunder

A recent study by Harman, Ellington, Surface, and Thompson (2015) illustrates the importance of comments to an evaluation of training program effectiveness. The researchers conducted three field studies in a series of simultaneous training classes. In each study they assessed the commenting behavior of these classes. I strongly recommend that any learning, HR, OD, or IO practitioner to read the entire study. However, I wanted to highlight some of my major takeaways.

1)      Classroom experiences affected the likelihood of commenting. As individuals who have experienced training in a variety of contexts, we intuitively know this. However, it’s great to know that the comments you receive in your training evaluations will reflect real differences in classroom experience. Pay attention to the comments because they will tell you what happened in these training programs.

2)      As class-level learning decreased commenting increased. In other words, there was a negative correlation between learning and commenting. This is a very powerful finding as it relates to the first big takeaway. If trainees do not feel like they are learning in the classroom they will say something about it. That kind of data is important to pay attention to.

3)   Trainee reactions are multidimensional. Many times we want to reduce the data to a single number or a single value i.e. “What percent of the trainees liked the program? 60%.” However there’s a lot more going on in any training program than just what the trainees felt about it overall. Trainee reactions can lead us to understand many changes that are important to be made in subsequent training classes. If we look deeper at the data we can learn about components of the training program, the trainer, the class environment, and the relevance of the material.

4)    If there is no expectation of change, you will receive no comments. In other words, if your employees feel that your organization won’t change anything based on what they have to say, they won’t say anything at all. If you are conducting a training evaluation (or any evaluation) your organization needs to be committed to making the necessary changes and that should be communicated to your employees. You depend on data from your employees and by communicating your commitment to making changes you will elicit comments from those who have experienced your training program.

 

The message is clear from these research findings. Your employees want great training programs and want your programs to improve. It’s up to us to leverage the comments made in addition to the quantitative ratings to get the most benefit from the metrics we employ.

If you do feel like you’re missing out on some data or you have training evaluation data that you feel like you don’t know what to do with, what are your options? Here are some suggestions:

1)      Reach out to colleagues and discuss your options. Some of my best ideas have come from discussions at ATD meetings or at Metro Applied Psychology meetings. As IO practitioners, we live for this discussion.

2)      Talk to your vendor. If you are using a vendor, ask them about options they offer for data analysis. Much like the vacuum cleaner, they probably have options you have not fully investigated.

3) Reach out to a consultant. If you are truly lost in the evaluation process, reach out to a consultant that specializes in training evaluation who can guide you through using this data.

 

Can you think of other situations where you may be missing out on this hidden data? Is there data that you collect that you feel you do not get the most out of? Feel free to list these in the comments below. I would love to hear your thoughts. Make sure to read the full article. The reference is below!

 

References

Harman, R. P., Ellington, J. K., Surface, E. A., & Thompson, L. F. (2015). Exploring qualitative training reactions: Individual and contextual influences on trainee commenting. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100(3), 894.

This post has been cross-posted to Talent Metrics at http://www.talentmetrics.io/blog/

May the Fourth of Networking Be With You

Last week the Star Wars fan community celebrated May the 4th which is Star Wars Day  As a long time Star Wars fan I am very excited about the upcoming Star Wars sequels. However, this past Star Wars Day revealed a situation in Hollywood that I found fascinating in light of diversity issues.

Josh Trank (director of Chronicle and the upcoming Fantastic Four) recently left the production of a Boba Fett (YES!) Star Wars prequel. Over at Birth.Movies.Death  there was a suggestion made by Devin Faraci that the next director of the film should be a woman.

While there’s some data suggesting that female directors get short shrift in Hollywood and a lawsuit filed by the ACLU about the lack of female directors in Hollywood I’m not interested in lobbying for a particular director for a Boba Fett prequel (Michelle McLaren!) I’m more interested in something else that Faraci highlights in his piece. Specifically how people get jobs as a director on a particular film through networking and referrals. Faraci’s example comes from the tweet embedded below where director Brad Bird (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) recommended director Colin Trevorrow for the film Jurassic World.

The diagram below indicates how most people think of the hiring process:

Basic-Hiring-Process

However, there’s an entire networking process that can occur even before someone submits their application. The Brad Bird-Colin Trevorrow anecdotes seems to indicate that  directors that are similar on some demographic characteristics tend to network with one another and eventually recruit others into actual jobs.  Research (Howard & Ferris, 1996) indicates that interviewer-interviewee similarity has an impact on hiring in the interview process. This ‘similar to me’ effect has also been studied in the work of Forrett & Dougherty (2004). Their research indicated that women were shut out of some networking opportunities that men had. In other words perhaps there was an “old boys club” that networked and produced opportunities for those who were part of the club (in this case men). They also discovered that there was a negative relationship between networking activities and compensation for women. Which seemed to indicate that women weren’t reaping the benefits of networking behavior. Perhaps there are hidden costs or limitations for women who attempt to access established job networks.

In a recent study by van den Brink and Benschop (2014) we might have a solution. Their study focused on the role of gatekeepers in the networking process. These researchers looked at networking behavior and the role of gatekeepers in academia. Academia is as far from Hollywood as we might imagine unless you’re talking about Annie Hall  however both industries have a gatekeeper issue. Van den Brink & Benschop highlighted the fact that even though hiring of women might be favored the networking process excluded women from that procedure. Overall, the study highlights a dismal lack of access to gatekeepers in academia.

These quantitative results and qualitative evidence of networking seem to highlight the importance of rules such as the Rooney Rule. The Rooney Rule requires that NFL teams interview at least one minority candidate before making a final decision. The Rooney Rule introduced black head coaching candidates to white owners. In other words it created an opportunity where these individuals could network effectively as well as interview for these positions.  Diversity initiatives need more than just statements of support for minority candidates. These types of initiatives need to give minority candidates real access to gatekeepers. The Rooney Rule is a case study in success that could be replicated in other industries. When minority candidates receive access to networking as well as interviewing opportunities, they can develop the confidence necessary to move forward through the hiring process. Minority candidates get the opportunity to meet and impress gatekeepers in their industry and those who are part of the established network gain an increased awareness of minority talent.

While I doubt that the Hollywood director hiring process could sustain a Rooney Rule, most industries could create more opportunities for minority candidates to access the interview process and the hidden networks in their respective industries. This type of access could create real change in numerous industries from the tech industry to the manufacturing industry. Finding ways to give people the opportunity to meet with gatekeepers can change the perceptions of gatekeepers, give salient experience to applicants, and ultimately create a more level playing field for applicants.

Do you, dear reader, have any suggestions for how to improve access to gatekeepers for minority candidates? Is networking the problem or are there other diversity initiatives that we should be paying attention to? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. I’ll be interested to see how the ACLU lawsuit plays out and whether that actually results in more female directors in Hollywood.

Thanks for reading everyone and as always……

may the force be with you

SIOP 2015

I’ll be attending the SIOP conference starting on Friday. For those of you who aren’t aware, SIOP is the Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology, the professional organization for all IO professors and practitioners. The conference is one of the highlights for any one in the I/O field.

It’s too bad that I’ll be missing Thursday, but it’s unavoidable. I’ve got a Psi Chi induction ceremony to attend on campus at Farmingdale State College. As an academic and educator if you don’t support your students, then what’s the point? I’m always so excited and so proud to see our psychology students be inducted into the Psi Chi family.

At SIOP, I’ll be live tweeting the sessions that I attend, so please feel free to follow me on Twitter at @IOSyIslam Feel free to say hello if you see me at the conference, I promise I won’t bite😉

I may write a recap piece about my impressions and experiences at SIOP. I’ve got another piece on the Farmingdale State College Teaching of Psychology Conference that I’ll be posting sometime next week.

See you in Philly!

This airline employee is a hero for saving a helpless passenger

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Sometimes we talk about customer service and going above and beyond. Or sometimes we talk about organizational citizenship behavior. This is a terrific example of going WAY above and beyond. I don’t think every employee should be expected to pay for the flight of the customer of another passenger but this is the type of story that can take hold in our social media age.

Fortune

An Alaska Airlines employee is getting big accolades for helping a Delta passenger make it home.

The employee in question dipped into her own pocket to pay for Miriam Thomas to get home after Delta canceled her ticket just as she was about to get on a plane to return home after a business trip, local news station News1130 reported:

“I went back through security, back to the customer service desk and that’s when it started to get crazy. The Alaska Airlines people were trying to figure out why Delta had cancelled my flight, Delta was trying to figure out what had happened. I was just standing at the desk with my bags seriously hoping I can get on some flight that day.”

She says after an hour of standing at the desk, she found out what happened. “When they had the mechanical maintenance and we ended up in…

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Parks and Recreation: A Workplace Sitcom for your IO, OB, or HR class

NBC should be giving me kickbacks because I’m writing about one of their programs  again. My favorite current sitcom Parks and Recreation ended this week.  Despite a ton of critical acclaim (especially from one of my favorite TV bloggers Alan Sepinwall) Parks and Recreation only has a small (yet incredibly loyal) fanbase that I’m a  happy member of. The show is beautiful and hilarious. I feel really good after I watch an episode. Most importantly it’s a terrific workplace sitcom in the tradition of Taxi, Cheers,  Newsradio, and Just Shoot Me! (there are many others that I haven’t seen, feel free to leave suggestions in the comments below). As a spin-off of the Office it makes sense that Parks and Recreation has this strong workplace component. If you want a quick overview of the characters check out this thank you note written by the Indiana Office of Tourism and Development.

I came up with an idea about 48 hours ago to put together a short list of Parks and Rec video links that a professor could use in an I/O Psych, Org. Behavior, or HR class. Maybe this’ll even make it into the SIOP Teaching wiki (do I dare to dream?)I hope these clips add a little flava to your classroom (you can also achieve flava by wearing a giant clock to class). However, this piece has ballooned way beyond my original intentions and will not only be a list of teaching resources but will also serve as a memorial to one of my favorite sitcoms. After the finale last night it ranks number 2 behind the Golden Era of the Simpsons on my favorite sitcoms list.

Women as Leaders and Mentors

The first aspect of Parks and Recreation that sets it apart from many other sitcoms is the strength of its female characters. I just don’t see a lot of great examples of female leaders in media. I’ve had a hard time finding great examples of female leaders to use in my classes during discussions of leadership. The two speeches  below are amazing examples of Parks and Recreation’s main character, Leslie Knope and her ability to show real leadership in the form of two campaign speeches.

One of my good friends from graduate school did her dissertation on mentorship, a topic I had little interest in. As I’ve read more on the topic I have started to see the value of mentorship and its role in diversity and the workplace. Its rare that you get to see a clip like the ones below where two professional women (Leslie Knope and political consultant Jen Barkley in the first clip, April and Leslie in the second) discussing their careers and supporting one another. These scenes are why  Parks and Recreation passes the Bechdel test! And check out this supercut to see one of the most well-developed female friendships in all of television.

In addition to women supporting one another the clip below, shows Leslie Knope’s husband, Ben declaring his support for his wife as a leader and as an independent woman without diminishing his own masculinity. As an educator, this is the kind of message I want to send to students. That’s what makes this clip so powerful. Men and women can make choices and support one another in both family and career. If you have other examples of female leaders in media please leave them in the comments below.

What happens when you don’t use selection batteries 

Oh Jean-Ralphio, what will I do without you? (I’ll probably get run over by a Lexus)This clip is a perfect example of an applicant (in this case the zany Jean-Ralphio) lying on his resume and getting a job he’s not qualified for. If you want to show your students why selection batteries (i.e. a test on Quick Books) are important this clip is for you. This is a great way to show how a poor selection system can lead to both terrible workplace behaviors (i.e. Jean-Ralphio’s sexual harassment) and a quick exit for the low-performing employee.

Innovation

Innovation and creativity are topics I usually discuss in my Organizational Behavior class. It’s always fun to get students’ views on these topics. It might be fun to start your discussion of innovation and creativity by using these two silly cuts of Tom Haverford discussing his names for food (Zerts anyone?!) and his incredible list of bad business ideas.

How to have fun at work (AKA Organizational Citizenship Behaviors) 

Sometimes organizational citizenship behaviors are more than just helping sometimes they are embodied by Amy Poehler rapping some of the Fresh Prince’s best rhymes!

If those rhymes don’t make your workplace more enjoyable I don’t know what will. Perhaps a sing-a-long to “Time After Time” with April Ludgate, Ann Perkins, and Donna Meagle! Both of these clips show co-workers who truly get along doing things that are only tangentially related to work.

However, fans of the show know that April excels at counterproductive work behavior. As evidenced by this clip when she stops a potential meeting for her boss.

Self Concept

In my Psyc 101 courses I have a lot of fun talking about people’s different selves and self concept. We don’t get to talk a lot about this in I/O but I have discussed this topic in Organizational Behavior and it seems to strike a chord. What better way to show this than to show clips of Ron Effin Swanson as his alter-ego Duke Silver. You’re not the same person at work as you are at home and you don’t have to be.

Workplace Illness

Arguably, the greatest episode of Parks and Rec is one entitled “Flu Season” where the entire Parks department gets sick. These clips are great indicators of why you might not want to show up to work when you’re under the weather. These clips are great when talking about absenteeism and presentism at work. The first clip is a terrific example of why people come into work when they’re sick and includes a terrific line reading from Chris Pratt (aka Star Lord)

This next clip is all about taking advantage of your health insurance. If you’re not feeling well, you may need to depend on your co-workers and it might make even simple work tasks very difficult for you. My favorite part of the clip below? Watching Ron try to eat a hamburger with a hernia.

 The food poisoning example below is ridiculous and amazing. Once again how much harder are everyday tasks if you’re feeling too sick to even move?

While this last clip is one I’ll never end up using in the classroom it’s one of the most oft-quoted lines in P&R history.

Self Care

Since we’ve discussed illnesses we should also talk about self care. Who better to do that then the team of Donna and Tom who created Treat Yo’ Self? Maybe the best way to handle stress is through retail therapy!

Sometimes we need someone to tell us to go eat a banana. Instructors can use the clip below to illustrate the importance of employee wellness programs. In this specific situation, Ann Perkins (resident nurse) orders Ron Swanson to eat a banana. If laughter is the best medicine watching Nick Offerman try to eat a banana could probably cure you of a hernia.

Workplace Bullying

Poor Jerry/Garry/Terry no one at the Parks department can ever remember his name. Here’s some examples of Jerry getting bullied at work. The first scene is when we realize that Jerry isn’t his real name and that his co-workers have been calling him the wrong name for YEARS.

This second clip is Jerry getting chased by the ghost of DJ Roomba. What worse form of bullying can there be than getting chased by a robot’s ghost through the hallways of your workplace?

Of course all of this bullying leads to the ultimate indignity.

Functional Turnover

If you want to show your class a situation where turnover is necessary, you need to call Harris and Brett, Animal Control! They are arguably the worst employees in the history of Parks and Recreation and their marijuana influenced antics are a perfect way of a discussing drug testing and the need for the occasional firing.

Career Development

Unlike many sitcoms, Parks and Recreation is able to illustrate the concept of career development. Rarely has a sitcom had its characters go through as many career transitions as this one has. Most sitcoms try to maintain a status quo but P&R let its characters grow, change, suceed, and fail. Whether its Tom Haverford going from government employee to slick businessman, Andy Dwyer going from rock star to shoe shine boy to potential policeman to TV host Jonathan Karate

Each and every character on the show experiences a variety of career transitions.These transitions are one of the most amazing parts of the show, people change jobs and they’re always chasing a new dream. There’s a new horizon for everyone in Pawnee, Indiana.  This is a terrific message to communicate to students. I hope all my students have as many careers as they could ever desire. I hope they keep trying new things. I hope my students stay hungry, and stay foolish just like these characters.  Sometimes as students progress through their college careers, they get caught up in finding the one perfect job. Maybe there isn’t one perfect job and who knows what amazing adventures await students if they remain open to all of life’s possibilities?

Work Proximity Associates

work proximity associates

Perhaps my favorite part of Parks and Recreation are the work proximity associations (friendships) among the characters. We spend so much time at work and yet we often don’t think about the relationships we build there. Oftentimes, we forgot how much better life is if we find the right team to make the work feel good. But that’s not just reflected in the show. Watch the clip below and you’ll see true affection between actors Chris Pratt and Aubrey Plaza. The emotions that these two actors exhibit is real and is reflected on the show. The real camaraderie among the actors is what makes the show so damn good.

We can also see this emotion reflected in Aziz Ansari’s post about Harris Wittels who died last week. ( My condolences go out to Harris Wittels, his family, friends, and co-workers.) He died too young but left an indelible impression on his co-workers.  Aziz expresses his admiration for his friend and co-worker. We all hope to work with people we respect and highlighting these sorts of relationships in the workplace is a great message to give students. If we can change students’ attitudes about their future in the workplace we might improve their relationships on the job.

Sometimes our viewpoint of work is one of tedium but Parks and Recreation shows that the work we do and those we work with can fill our lives with happiness.  Parks and Recreation espouses that view and that’s why it ends with Leslie Knope referencing this Teddy Roosevelt quote:

work worth doing

I hope you find your work worth doing. If you need a reminder of what that special kind of work looks like, fire up your Netflix account and check out Parks and Recreation. I literally can’t wait for you to enjoy it the way that I have. Farewell, Parks and Recreation I’ll catch you in reruns!

EW p and r

Job Analysis of an SNL Host

I have been away from my blog for too long. There are several factors that have contributed to my absence. I’m trying to determine what I want to actually do with this blog. What’s the best way to use it? How do I communicate I/O psychology principles and ideas to the general public using this blog? I’m open to any ideas that you my humble reader might have. One thing I have decided is that I’ll be writing shorter posts. One of my early mistakes was treating these posts like mini-journal articles. I’ll try to keep future posts more conversational and fun. Another reason I haven’t written much for this blog is that I’ve been very busy writing papers for my original research and working with the Long Island Chapter of the Association for Talent Development. But I’m hoping to dedicate some time to this blog on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

eddie murphywill ferrell

For those of you who have been following this blog, you know that I’m a big fan of comedy. I like all kinds of jokes and I enjoy starting off every blog post with something that I find amusing or fun. I read a lot of nerd websites (in addition to the requisite I/O research journals and blogs). One of my favorite sites for commentary on pop culture is the AV Club. The site has a lot of terrific commentators from a variety of backgrounds. The AV Club covers pop culture in all its forms: TV, film, books, music, and comics.

gilda radner

It’s rare that comedy and I/O psychology ever intersect, but a recent piece in the AV Club allowed me to consider the possibilities. Upon the arrival of the 40th anniversary of Saturday Night Live, Noel Murray (not to be confused with Bill) asks a question that has puzzled many SNL fans: What makes a good SNL host? Murray comes to the conclusion that there are three unique skills that a good SNL host needs to have. I wonder if he ever took a course in I/O psychology, because what Murray attempts to do in his piece is a job analysis.A job analysis is defined as “procedures to identify the content of a job in terms of activities involved and attributes or job requirements needed to perform the activities” Essentially he’s trying to determine the necessary Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, and Other characteristics (KSAOs) needed to be a good SNL host. Let’s take a look at what KSAOs Murray identifies.

Murray breaks down his factors for a high-quality SNL host into three broad categories:

1) The ability to read: Murray doesn’t mean that the host needs to be literate. Literacy is the knowledge necessary for this particular skill. The ability to read off a teleprompter while acting has become a core skill for performers on the show. This is really more about multi-tasking and performing in the moment than just the ability to recite words aloud.

wally_cue cards

2) Gameness: Murray also identifies what he calls gameness. Which he seems to define as a willingness to put oneself “out there”. In the world of  psychology, we might refer to this as openness to experience (I’m open to other suggestions but this seems to make the most sense to me). In order to succeed as a host you have to be willing to accept some embarrassment without shame. If you don’t know how to accept shame, let Rudy Guilliani teach you how.

Rudy in Drag!

3) Talent: Murray identifies his last characteristic as just talent. He defines it in terms of being an old school vaudevillian. The closest to that in the modern era is probably Joseph Gordon Levitt. His version of Make ’em laugh is a great vaudevillian turn that shows off his singing and dancing ability. Some of you might have voted for his Magic Joe monologue, but you’ll have to look that up for yourselves https://i0.wp.com/pdxgrafix.com/home/components/com_virtuemart/shop_image/product/adecf8306928e8f4b8ade10e752bacee.jpg This is a family blog.

http://kmr85.tumblr.com/post/3487472708/joseph-gordon-levitt-on-snl-make-em-laugh

phil hartman

In his analysis Murray does a few things that I/O psychologists tend to do in the process of job analysis. He touches upon some of the core activities that an SNL host has to do (monologue, be funny) and he tries to relate some individual differences (i.e. talent, ability to read) to those particular tasks. This is the classic model of job analysis. However, there is a crucial difference between what Murray does in this piece and what I/O practitioners do when conducting a job analysis. As a layman, Murray doesn’t draw a distinction between tasks, knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics. Just like many subject-matter experts with whom I’ve had to deal with in the process of conducting a job analysis,Murray doesn’t distinguish fully between tasks and KSAOs.  Now I don’t mean to criticize Noel Murray (I’m a big fan of his writing) but its important to draw the distinction between how a lay person might approach this process versus an I/O practitioner.

Tina-Fey-SNL

 

 

 

 

 

I/O practitioners never forget that the process of job analysis is a form of applied research and whether we decide to use functional job analysis, the Position Analysis Questionnaire, or another job analysis method, I/O practitioners try to develop an objective assessment of the job through rigorous research methodology.

What really fascinated me about what’s necessary for an SNL host to be effective is that the nature of the tasks and activities of an SNL host appear to be so amorphous. Even the idea of coming up with tasks and KSAOs for the job of actor, singer, musician seem a bit abstract. However, if we really worked at it, we could define the core tasks, and characteristics necessary to perform all of these jobs. Noel Murray takes a solid approach he starts to think about which hosts were successful (similar to the Job Elements Method) and which hosts were not. This is a great starting point. Identifying the characteristics of actors, singers, and musicians presents unique challenges but every job offers its own unique challenges when it comes to job analysis. Part of the fun of conducting a job analysis is figuring out how to discover something new and exciting about a job that you had not imagined before.

molly shannon

Thanks to the AV Club, I’ve conducted a mini-thought experiment that I would never have considered. Feel free to leave the tasks and KSAOs that you think are most important for a good SNL host in the comments below. Please let me know who your all-time favorite SNL host is.

As far as the original piece goes, good try Noel Murray, but if you really want to know what makes a good SNL host, you’re going to need more cowbell.

more cowbell

Special thanks to Andrew Martins, Michael Chetta, and Nayir Choudhury for providing me with some feedback before this post went live. If you need to blame anyone, blame them for not stopping me. https://i0.wp.com/pdxgrafix.com/home/components/com_virtuemart/shop_image/product/adecf8306928e8f4b8ade10e752bacee.jpgIn the meantime, i’m going back to my van down by the river.