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4 Trending Workplace Topics from SIOP 2018

by Mengqiao Liu, Ph.D., and Don Lustenberger

4 Trending Workplace Topics from SIOP 2018Industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology is the study of working and workplace issues facing individuals, teams, and organizations. Each year, organizational practitioners and researchers gather at the Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology (SIOP) Annual Conference to share the latest advances in science and how they are applied in the workplace. This year’s conference, held April 19-21 in Chicago, welcomed more than 5,000 attendees from around the world and included more than 1,000 presentations covering issues of critical relevance to individuals, businesses, and society.

The annual SIOP conference offers a tremendous opportunity to spot trends and identify the topics gaining the most attention in the industry. This year’s gathering was no exception, providing answers to the question, what did we learn are the hottest topics in the workplace in 2018? As shown in the word cloud below, they range from AI and technology to diversity and employee experience.

Digging in deeper, here are what we saw as the hottest emerging topics presented:

1. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing lead the crowd.

With all the hype about artificial intelligence (AI) revolutionizing and automating the workplace, AI sessions were all the rage at SIOP 2018. With some presentations attracting 400-plus attendees, these sessions ranged from symposia on how AI technologies are applied in recruiting, hiring, customer service, performance management, and development; to panel discussions on ways to leverage non-traditional text and behavioral data for AI applications; to hands-on tutorials on machine learning and natural language processing techniques.

Also featured was a summary session on the very first SIOP Machine Learning Competition in which teams representing universities and organizations competed to build the best prediction model for employee turnover. We are happy to report that DDI won second place in this competition.

2. New applications of technology: the future is now.

Gamification, mobile-first, virtual reality: with technologies such as these having become more mature over the years, it is no longer a question as to whether we could apply these technologies in employee recruitment, selection, and training, but whether we should (And if so, how?). In the context of the broader technology revolution and how it impacts our everyday living and working, some of the key factors said to have the biggest impact on the success (or failure) of technology implementations include:

  • Demonstrating the relevance to business needs and the impact on bottom line/ROI.
  • Enhancing candidate/employee experience (see a dedicated session on employee experience below).
  • Considerations of sub-group differences and candidate/employee fairness.
  • Achieving a balance between validity and "coolness."

3. Employee experience (EX) Is the new way to drive culture change.

A few Fortune 500 companies known for being great places to work shared information about employee experience (EX), a new breed of organizational culture change initiative that puts employee satisfaction, engagement, health, and well-being at the forefront. These initiatives aim to account for all aspects of an employee’s experience in an organization (including interactions with their leaders, team members, facilities, internal technology & support, compensation & benefits, development opportunities, and perks) and optimize them to enhance company culture.

Instead of organizations asking what employees can do for their company, organizations are now asking what they can do to elicit greater engagement and performance from their employees, while leveraging HR analytics to validate which enhancements truly work. Because leaders are an integral part of an employee’s experience, it is critical to ensure that leaders are well-equipped to provide support, guidance, and coaching to maximize the experience and growth of individuals in their organizations.

4. Diversity and inclusion continue to be prominent.

It should come as no surprise that diversity and inclusion has been a trending topic the past few years at the SIOP conference. And this year was no exception. There were 80 presentations and posters falling under this category—the most popular topic, after leadership. Sessions on diversity training, women and leadership, allies, and implicit biases were among some of more prominent subtopics featured.

We’re proud to say that DDI was well-represented at the conference in this area, too. We were able to showcase the work we’ve doing with our Women in Leadership offerings, and our Men as Allies course garnered significant interest from conference attendees, as well.

A Few Takeaways

Some general reactions to this year’s SIOP conference and the topics identified above:

  • If you haven’t already, start thinking about how your organization can leverage AI. Begin by identifying the business cases for AI implementations and developing, outsourcing to, or hiring the right talent (they are hot in the market) to help you carve out the path.
  • Navigating the increasing complexity of modern technology can be challenging. But keep in mind that technology is a means to an end, not the end itself. Leverage strategies such as design thinking to focus on solving problems for the human (candidate, employee, leader, etc.) and use technologies where it makes sense to.
  • In the war for talent, employee experience is one of the new ways organizations are beginning to compete. Be ready to engage in conversations about these initiatives and explain how enhancing employee experience can play a critical role in contributing to your organization’s success.
  • Diversity and inclusion remains a popular area of focus within the field. It’s heartening that this remains a hot topic, as many organizations have a long way to go to do all they can to address it. As DDI’s CEO Tacy Byham discussed in her recent blog, even what appears to be progress, when it comes to leadership, can actually instead be an indicator of the larger problem.

Learn how DDI can help you unleash hidden potential in your organization.

Mengqiao (MQ) Liu, Ph.D. is a consultant in DDI’s Product Development group. MQ is responsible for developing testing and assessment solutions for DDI's worldwide deployment, and strives to identify and advance projects and research that combine content solutions with cutting-edge technology. Outside of work, MQ is a foodie, tango dancer, and classical music lover.

Don Lustenberger is a senior consultant and team leader with a background in Industrial–Organizational Psychology, specializing in construction and validation of tests, simulations, and assessments for hiring, onboarding, and professional development. He partners with clients to provide customized HR solutions in employee selection, development, and learning. He has additional experience executing job analysis, designing and deploying surveys, managing and manipulating large databases (including 360° survey response sets), leveraging analytics to demonstrate value of solutions to clientele, conducting advanced statistical analyses, and driving thought leadership.

Posted: 23 May, 2018,
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