December 12, 2016

2016 Lessons Learned: A Year in Review, an I/O Perspective

It’s started. My favorite Philadelphia radio station is playing Christmas music. I am not a Scrooge by any means but hearing Christmas music for the first time is a bittersweet reminder that the end of the year is upon us.

Personally, this was a great year. I achieved my goal of reading a dozen books (Peak by Anders Ericsson was my favorite), I got to visit a few states I had never been to in my quest to visit all 50 (both North AND South Dakota) and knocked off a bucket list item of meeting Bruce Springsteen (potentially the most New Jersey statement ever).

Above all these great experiences, nothing tops the amazing people I have met while working with fantastic clients and candidates. Pairing all of this with the major events that have taken place this year, here is my 2016 lessons learned, a year in review from the perspective of one industrial / organizational psychologist:

Predictability Is Not Boring

This year, a musical based on the life of America’s founding fathers took the country by storm winning 11 Tony Awards. How could a story with such a predictable ending make such a splash? Anybody who remembers their American History classes in high school or the ‘Got Milk’ advertisements from the 1990’s  knew the play would end with a duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.

Predictability does not take excitement out of the equation. Whether building competency models or executing job analysis, I am continually running into areas of under-performance due to simple ambiguity. When managers continually move targets and don’t provide role clarity, it leads to frustrated employees. Do your best Lin Manuel Miranda impression and don’t hide anything from your audience.

Incremental Change, Radical Results

In a historic World Series, we saw two forward thinking managers duke it out for the championship. Terry Francona, manager of the Cleveland Indians, threw away the old school mentality by using his relief pitchers based on need and not pre-defined roles. The new most popular man in Chicago, Joe Maddon, used information on opponents to optimize defense. While both managers did nothing considerably different, their results led them to great success.

Most of our clients initially think they can either do things the same old way or need to make drastic changes. In reality, simple adjustments have shown to have unbelievable results. Adding a personality assessment to help understand a candidate prior to selection, succession planning based on future needs instead of past performance and, private equity clients performing due diligence on people translated minimal investment into maximum benefit.

Analytics Work…When Used Correctly

I do not think a year in review would be complete without some mention of our Presidential election. Many people were befuddled this November when Donald Trump was the victor when the final NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed Clinton up by 4%. Leading up to the election, polls like this were flashed across television screens showing where each candidate stood with the popular vote. Weeks later we have been endlessly reminded our President is elected via the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote.

More times than my clients would like to admit, organizations are tracking the wrong metrics, looking at items which do not drive behavior nor affect the businesses bottom line. For example, one client was using a metric based around collaboration for a mostly independent role. Using metrics can help management make decisions and drive results… as long as they are the correct metrics.

Sure, 2016 had some ups and some downs but there was a lot to learn. We had a Broadway musical dominate the digital world, Donald Trump got elected President, and the Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years. If this does not make you feel anything is possible for 2017, I am not sure what can. 

Read the full blog on The Huffington Post here.

Tags: consulting & assessment, I/O psych

Marc Prine PhD

Marc is a Director in the Consulting & Assessment practice at Taylor Strategy Partners where he works with clients on improving their performance by using data to better select and develop their people. Dr. Prine earned his Ph.D. in Business Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, M.A. from West Chester University of Pennsylvania, and undergraduate degree from Temple University. He is an adjunct professor in statistics and his work has been published in Forbes and FastCompany. In his spare time, Marc can be found looking for golf balls in tall grass, yelling as if the players on his fantasy team can hear him through the television or doing his best Andrew Zimmer impression and trying the most interesting thing on a menu.



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