Observations, trends and updates from 2019 EAWOP Congress

June 21, 2019 Alina Siemsen

Feedback from EAWOP Congress

The EAWOP Congress this year saw I/O professionals IO psychologists from across the world meet in Turin to explore new areas and to share and discuss the latest research studies.

Whilst the impact of the digital workplace and the application of AI has dominated other conferences and congresses, the content at the EAWOP Congress focused more on the skills and competencies needed to support the newer ways of working and how best to support job design and career progression. Here are some of my favorite learnings. 

Agile Teams – and New Ways of Working

Team agility has become increasingly important in many organizations as they seek to adapt to changing demands and a faster-paced decision-making world. A poster presentation by Sándor-Dobos & Faragó attempted to identify the factors of a successful agile team. They suggest that team autonomy and the preference to work together as a team had a positive impact on greater resilience. This is particularly important given that resilience is accepted as being one of the major success factors of agile teams.

A further poster presentation by Wallemann & Bronner focused on developing a personal development program for scrum masters. The role of scrum master is still in its infancy but for those organizations moving away from the traditional project manager, developing the skills and competencies for this role is critical. Based on literature research and interviews, the team has designed and developed a competency model for scrum masters. The most critical competencies? Being methodical and having the social competencies necessary to protect and challenge the team. The team suggest that a scrum master should be supported by coaching or mentoring, as well as cross-organization learning activities to maximize their role.

Seeking Out Innovation and Creativity

Organizations continue to strive for innovation and to identify those who can ‘think outside of the box’ and ‘be creative’ in solution finding. Interesting research by Mascareno, Wisse & Rietschel of the University of Groningen propose that creativity and innovation should be seen as two quite distinct steps; in order to achieve innovation, creativity needs to first take place. Their presentation argued that the creativity stage involves specifying the problem and then researching and generating new ideas. The innovation stage involves the implementation of whatever came up in the creativity phase. As such, there can be no innovation without creativity.

The research team also looked at how the behaviors of leaders impacts each of these phases. Their study showed that those leaders utilizing the Ambidextrous Leadership model were successful in supporting both stages. The ‘opening behaviors’ (that is, giving freedom and autonomy to the team) help facilitate the creativity process while the ‘closing’ behaviors (providing rules and limitations) facilitate the innovation process by narrowing down the options and taking action accordingly. 

The Trajectory of Performance and its Link to Promotion

Cortina, Sheng, Alessandri & Borgogni argued that, as I/O psychologists and talent professionals, we need to look more closely at the trajectory of all employee’s performance and to understand who is most likely to succeed once promoted. That is, we need to consider how the performance of an individual has evolved over time.

Those employees with a positive trajectory (i.e. starting off with relatively weak performance but developing well) are seen as being more proactive, curious and dedicated than those with a stagnating (or declining performance) even though the latter may be, on an absolute scale, still better performers than the late developers. The three characteristics of Proactivity, Curiosity and Dedication correlate with promotion and progression. This research has contributed to us gaining a better understanding as to why some people get promoted whilst others do not.

As ever, EAWOP prepared an interesting program of presentations and discussion and I look forward to meeting up again in two years’ time. Finally, Turin really is such a beautiful city – and with probably the best espresso I’ve found at any conference!

About the Author

Alina Siemsen

Alina Siemsen is a product development consultant in the research team at Aon's Assessment Solutions. Alina completed her Master's degree in Business Psychology at the Nordakademie in Hamburg. She is interested in how gaming elements can be applied to assessments. Aon's Assessment Solutions undertake 30 million assessments each year in 90 countries and 40 languages.

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