Author: Scott Davies
Friends, colleagues, and fellow professionals, I was honored when asked to write a blog for PTCMW that followed my May 2021 meeting presentation about Job Fit and Job Potential with Drs. Austin and Zickar. These are critical topics of great importance to our research and applied work, and I set about writing this follow-up blog to emphasize the points made in our webinar.
Then I began getting feedback on the May meeting webinar; feedback that was positive regarding our work on the main topics of the presentation (i.e., job fit and potential), but mostly focused on my opening statements about how it is our duty - a social imperative as IO psychologists, HR professionals, and psychometricians - to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in organizations for the good of people, businesses, and the communities they serve. Those who provided feedback emphasized that the most important message within our presentation was not about the more narrowly defined topics from our presentation title, it was about how there is a great and pressing need and opportunity for us all to pitch in and help with recovery from the catastrophes of social injustice that were clearly brought into focus by the COVID19 pandemic.
The challenge for our field to provide useful assistance in solving the current issues is that we are a scientific, data driven, quantitative discipline - that is why our audiences trust what we provide - but the issues of fairness, diversity, and inclusion are more than the numbers, rules, and laws that we tend to rely upon for guidance and evaluation. Not that numbers, rules, and laws are bad, but we must be willing to look beyond these to the zeitgeist of the issues. For most of us, therein lies the difficult part of providing assistance to current social issues, and I believe that is why we have struggled with changing DEI for most of our 125 year history as a discipline.
Focusing on numbers, rules and laws often gives us escape routes from doing what is “right” in the larger sense of the word. For example, the 4/5th’s rule is a standard that can be achieved without meaningfully improving diversity and/or inclusion. If this were not true, I would have no reason to write this blog – the 4/5th’s rule has been followed by most employers for over 40 years and if it worked as intended, there would not be a problem with DEI in this country. Likewise, correcting significant levels of Differential Item Functioning (DIF) can be avoided without actually using fair and unbiased items – if and when the user decides that they are not interested in avoiding DIF, but basically hiding it behind complex scoring and scaling algorithms. In other words, for every rule that is given, there are multiple paths around actually meeting the spirit in which that rule was written.
If we allow ourselves to go there, we see this every day in (nearly?) all of the organizations with which we do business. When was the last time that you did business with a firm of any sort, viewed their marketing, or read about their financial or other outcomes, and felt positive that they were honestly improving DEI? Do we see any organizations making decisions at individual, group, and organizational levels that are actually fair and considerate to their diversity of members and stakeholders?
According to Sarah Todd in a 2020 Quartz article presenting results from the Center for Talent Innovation, the majority of white, straight, cisgender men with white-collar jobs in the US who participated in their survey say they care about DEI, but lack the time to do anything about it. To members of this majority group who have no time for DEI, but still hold most of the decision making power in US businesses and communities, I propose:
1. Improving diversity, inclusion, fairness, and equity is as practical of a matter, and as core to your business, as is improving execution and target financial outcomes.
2. DEI does not take extra time and effort for employees/leaders if built into the talent management, career pathing, and HR technology infrastructure.
3. Achieving points 1 and 2 is made possible through the use of modern, research-based talent management / talent marketplace systems designed to involve diverse subject matter experts, provide fair and unbiased psychometric measures, and align talent functions to predictive models that guide evaluation and continuous improvement of DEI from entry level through the C-suite while improving business execution and outcomes, without devoting additional time and resources above those typically required by talent solutions.
Issue of Job Fit and Job Potential
At a fairly micro level - which is often where we find ourselves focusing - job fit and job potential, the differences between them, how they are measured, predicted, utilized and evaluated, are important. We have found that potential is a more robust lever to changing long-term DEI than is job fit. Measuring and predicting job fit tends to be a way to perpetuate status quo, while measuring and predicting job potential allows for change, but certainly doesn’t ensure change any more than will another 4/5th’s rule or new approach to DIF. My point here is that as psychologists, we need to be cautious, because we can easily fool our audiences into believing we have uncovered a silver bullet for improving DEI when what we have actually done is a relabeling task.
As IO psychologists and HR professionals, we are in the unique position of helping fix the wrongs of the past several hundred years regarding DEI. We have the knowledge, power, and audiences necessary to cause positive changes for people, businesses, and communities. I hope this post helps inspire those within our ranks to either lead, follow, or get out of the way of these changes for good at this time in which they are possible.
Dr. Scott Davies is CEO of PointLeader Predictive Analytics, Inc., and architect/Chief Scientist behind the PointLeader Talent Management System, which is used by many organizations across industries to increase DEI and improve business execution and outcomes, without devoting additional time and resources. Connect with Scott on LinkedIn and learn more about his work at pointleader.us.