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Top Ten I-O Workplace Trends for 2016

2016 January 6

Top Ten Workplace TrendsThe Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) has once again released its top ten list of anticipated top workplace trends for 2016 based upon a vote of the current SIOP membership. Here they are, with a little commentary and comparisons to both the 2015 and 2014 lists:

  1. Using Social Media to Make Employment-Related Decisions. Technology is always all over this list, in one way or another. Last year, it was mobile assessment – this year, social media. Personally, I think it’s interesting that it falls at #10 when I’d say what’s driving its reemergence on this list is the #1 trend – Big Data has made the information contained within social media much more interesting.
  2. Building Healthy, Diverse Workforces (down from #8). Steady interest, year over year. Organizational focus continues to be on finding value in diversity rather than diversity for diversity’s sake. Token hires do not signify a healthy organization. What you want is an organization that identifies and integrates how diverse viewpoints, histories, and perspectives can improve employee’s work lives.
  3. Work-life Balance Across Generations (down from #3). Work-life balance has dropped down the top ten list a bit. Perhaps that means we’ve solved it? Nah. But the additional wrinkle this year is the “across generations” bit. Older workers are increasingly being asked to be constantly connected, and younger works like being constantly connected but not necessarily to work.
  4. Increased Focus on Business Agility and Flexibility in Work and Business Processes. That model of the steadfast, concrete organization that knows exactly what it does and does that thing effectively, increasing its accuracy and precision over the year? Basically dead. Organizations these days need to react. The market changes, customers are fickle, and a cautious degree of risk-taking are what keep your business alive these days.  That’s a lot of change, and not everyone is ready.
  5. Increasing Focus on Health and Wellness in the Workplace. As occupational health research takes a firmer and firmer foothold in people’s minds, we’re increasingly realizing that a healthy, happy workplace is a productive workplace. It’s not enough to stick a foosball table in the breakroom.
  6. Employee Engagement. Engagement is one of those workplace buzzwords that we just can’t seem to escape. Is it motivation? Is it something new? Who knows, but clients want their employees to have it.
  7. Changing Nature of Performance Management and Development. Something I’ve been saying for years – annual performance appraisals represent a broken system, possibly more harmful than helpful to many organizations. As all other parts of organizations have sped up, the slow and inefficient nature of appraisal has become all the more obvious. Effective performance management should be an on-going, continuous process. Don’t wait a year to tell your employees that they did something harmful, and don’t tell them in the context of a high-pressure meeting that could result in them either getting a raise or getting fired. There are better ways.
  8. Managing Virtual Teams. As an academic, it’s easy for me to forget that many organizations don’t have extensive telework systems incorporating virtual teams. I only see the research team I supervise once a week, but we still get quite a lot done. The reason is the Internet. We can coordinate, communicate, and work together without physically being in the same space. It’s not that hard these days from a technical perspective, but it does require you trust your team, and that’s where I/Os can help.
  9. Trends in Technology Are Changing the Way Work Is Done (up from #4). There’s my lab’s work again, at the top of this top ten list. Technology is fundamentally changing how people work, and it’s unclear how much of our research and how many of our standard practices still apply in this brave new world. But at least now people are recognizing the problem.
  10. Leveraging and Maximizing Big Data and Applying Correct Analytics to Make Better Business Decisions (up from #2). Nothing is as trendy right now as big data. In fact, it’s so trendy that many I-Os want to claim big data as their invention. To be clear, pretty much any I-O that says that doesn’t know what big data is. If you’ve never needed to worry about real-time curation and interpretation of datasets, or datasets with billions of cases, or iterative approaches to data analysis, or interactive visualizations, you’re nowhere close to big data. Big data is inherently interdisciplinary; it combines the social science that I-Os know so well with computer science that most I-Os don’t know at all. That can change, but we’re a long way from it now.

And there you have it – the top ten hottest topics for I/O in the coming year. Once again, technology plays a major role across the list, and I bet it will continue to do so for years to come. But as gamification appeared and disappeared from the list, and then mobile assessments the year after that, will big data vanish in 2017?

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4 Responses leave one →
  1. Sophia G. permalink
    January 31, 2016

    Hello Professor Landers,

    I have read some of your blog post in regards to a career in I/O psychology and first wanted to respond with two thumbs up on your advice and wisdom. I am new to the psychology field, I recently have been in a toss up on what I wanted to receive my doctorate degree in and I met with a psychologist my husband introduced me to and she advised me to do I/O.

    I have a few questions in regards to graduate admissions based off of experience. I have an undergrad degree from a brick and mortar UNC system in English. As soon as I completed my undergrad I took a position as a career specialist working in higher education (for profit school), I loved it. So I continued along the path of working in Career Services and now I have a Masters in Higher Education and I am a Director of Career & Professional Development at a small liberal arts college. I am at a point in my career after being in this field, I love it, but I want to move forward and I feel stagnate because I don’t see myself working as a VP/President of an institution. Nor do I want to stay in the same position for 10+ years like some of my colleagues. When I discovered the I/O program it instantly clicked for me and I knew it was where I belonged. My concerns are that I did not receive any of my degrees in psychology so will I be able to move into PhD program starting within the Master’s level first? And because I did go to school online it did not require for me to take the GRE, so could the experience in the field that is somewhat related would count so that it could possibly be waived. The recommendation letters from faculty would be really impossible because I didnt go to a brick and mortar school for my Masters but I can receive recommendations from my superiors. Could this count for my recommendations?

    Any advice that you have I am all ears, I am trying to do whatever it takes to make sure I get into one of the best programs. I am 30 soon to be 31 and my gift to myself for the next couple of birthdays is getting my PhD without having to take out any loans. So if you also have any advice on who has a program that helps with cost for an out of state student, (from NC).

    Thank you,
    Sophia G.

    • February 1, 2016

      You could still get into a PhD program directly if: 1) you have strong GRE scores and 2) you have some sort of direct experience in human resource management, e.g., managing personnel in your department. But it would be tricky given the lack of direct psychology research exposure. Another approach, given your position, would be to work with some faculty in your college’s psychology department to get some research published – doesn’t even particularly matter in what specific area, although IO-adjacent would be nice – which would be a good way to demonstrate you know what psych research is all about.

      When you say “experience”, it’s important that only I/O-relevant experience is stressed in your application, because it is just about the only thing the people reading your application will pay attention to. That means science-based selection system design, implementation of formalized performance appraisal systems, leadership development, employe attitude survey deployment and statistical analysis, etc. Anything with statistical analysis would be important to note,

      You will not be able to avoid the GRE if you want to enter any sort of program that would get you a job. The programs that don’t require the GRE are unlikely to result in employment.

      All PhD programs that you would want to attend will grant you a tuition waiver and provide you a stipend in exchange for working as a graduate teaching assistant or graduate research assistant. PhD programs should be free. If they aren’t free, I would recommend you don’t go there.

      I wrote another article here on career transitions to IO – I’d recommend you take a close look at it.

  2. Sophia permalink
    February 1, 2016

    Thanks Dr. Landers, your advice has definitely been taken into consideration into my process of preparing for my PhD. I did read your article on career transition, very helpful. I will definitely start seeking research opportunities now and even possible publications as well. I am buying my GRE prep so that I can take the test by end of summer. One more question, do you have any programs you could recommend for me to look into. I have read some of your previous articles and I have put together a spread sheet of my top 10 and I wanted to make sure I am taking some of the best schools in my consideration.

    • February 2, 2016

      The best program for any particular person is going to be different, so I don’t really have any particular programs to recommend. I can only tell you what sort of programs to avoid – programs that don’t fund their students, programs that won’t give you straight answers about their curriculum, graduate rate, number of students, and faculty identities, programs with many students who speak badly of their experience there, etc.

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