SIOP Week: Stephen Axelrad on I-O Psychology and Evaluation

My name is Stephen Axelrad.  I am a Human Capital consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton.  For almost a decade, in both my doctoral training and professional life, I have had one foot in the evaluation world and one foot in the industrial-organizational psychology (I-O) world.  Both disciplines use behavioral and social science research to solve real-world problems, improve organizational effectiveness, and enhance quality of life.  I am struck how little collaboration or even awareness the I-O and evaluation disciplines have with each other.  Both disciplines have so much to offer each other.

Hot Tip: Evaluating HR initiatives. If you want to make an HR practitioner squirm, ask them to demonstrate the merit or worth of their programs and services.  Sophisticated HR professionals could provide you dashboards and balanced scorecards linking their initiatives with bottom-line indicators relating to mission impact or profits. Most of the time, the only thing you see that resembles evaluation are training evaluations that follow the Kirkpatrick Level I-V framework.  Most I-O interventions lack a robust evaluation component to evaluate the effectiveness of implementing the intervention.  When, senior leaders ask “So what?” to justify the investments of time and resources, I-O professionals are not doing enough to help HR professionals answer that question.  Evaluators can play a key role in helping I-O professionals design and conduct independent practical, useful, and rigorous evaluations to accompany organizational change and improvement interventions.

Hot Tip: Making individual-level evaluation more robust. The evaluation field spends a lot of time at the organizational and programmatic level.  Many evaluations that assess the effectiveness of programs, policies, and initiatives at the individual level rely heavily on self-report, subjective measures (e.g., attitude surveys and focus groups).  Evaluators can expand their individual-level toolkits to include I-O psychological methods to obtain a more objective or comprehensive perspective as to how individual actions contribute to program and organizational effectiveness.  Competency models identify the underlying set of knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes that organizations can use to understand what makes an effective or talented employee.  Competencies are a missing element to many logic models.  Another missing piece in many evaluation efforts is having individual-level performance measures.  Many I-O professionals utilize performance feedback from supervisors, peers, direct reports, and customers/constituent to understand how employees are executing desired behaviors to key stakeholders within and outside of organizations.  Utilization of MSF in evaluations can provide evaluations with insights as to the quality of relationships that exist for members within a given organization or system and pinpoint some best and worst practices.

Rad Resource: I encourage you to read the book that got me started thinking about this topic.

Darlene Russ-Eft & Hallie Preskill.  Evaluation in organizations: a systematic approach to enhancing learning.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology (SIOP) Week with our SIOP colleagues. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our SIOP members and you may wish to consider subscribing to our weekly headlines and resources listwhere we’ll be highlighting SIOP resources. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice.

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