[IPAC-List] The lights finally go on

Mark Hammer Mark.Hammer at psc-cfp.gc.ca
Tue Aug 17 11:16:09 EDT 2010

Many thanks for that, Herman.

You'll forgive me for posting before reading (it's being chugged out by
the printer at this very moment), and you and Wayne may well have
emphasized this in the chapter, but I suspect that one of the chief
obstacles to overcome before we leap too headlong into selecting "for
the organization" is the challenge of good measures of organizational

There is an explicit assumption in the field that KSAs -> job
performance, and a sort of implicit assumption that the "O" in KSAO ->
organizational performance (which could be at the team, division, or
broader level). As with KSAs, O faces the very same criterion problem:
what do we think we're gaining with "more" of it, and how would we
measure that?

In the case of staffing strategies intended to increase
representativeness within an organization, the two principal purposes
are a) making sure all constituencies are at the policy table and any
policy emerging authentically captures everyone's needs and
circumstances, and b) fostering public trust in that institution and its
practices. Fair enough. How would we measure that and validate that
aiming for a representative workforce was producing those outcomes?

The almost-harder question linked to that is the matter of what sort of
time frame we should expect to see those outcomes in. With KSAs, the
link between what is selected for and performance on the job, can be
almost instantaneous; get somebody who knows how to weld, and they start
welding professionally as soon as someone shows them where the equipment
is. Staffing in terms of more encompassing and broader objectives, such
as trying to enhance public trust and engagement, is not the sort of
thing you might expect to see the fruits of for 6 months, 5 years, a
decade, or more (depends what sort of trust deficit you're starting
from). And of course, between the point where the practice of staffing
in that way is introduced, and the 4-8 changes of senior leadership and
organizational restructurings later, there are any number of ways for
the organization to screw up, compromise public trust (like the incident
that initiated this thread), and put you back to square one; a kind of
trust "snakes and ladders".

That's a rather cynical view on my part, but the point is that the
relationship between staffing practices/strategies/policies that are
"the right thing to do", and the institutional outcomes they are aimed
at, is going to be tough slogging from a measurement perspective in a
great many contexts. It may well be easier in the private sector
context, but I'll keep my musings to the sector I know. Either way,
upper management has to have a clear sense of what they expect to see,
and how they intend to know they're seeing it. And in my experience,
THAT's a tall order.

I look forward to reading the chapter, and to whatever replies pop up
here. Thanks again.


>>> "Aguinis, Herman" <haguinis at indiana.edu> 2010/08/16 7:46 PM >>>


The issue you mentioned in your posting about considering performance
within a specific context was discussed in detail in the following
article (available online at http://mypage.iu.edu/~haguinis --click on
the "refereed journal articles" link):

Cascio, W. F, & Aguinis, H. (2008). Staffing twenty-first-century
organizations. Academy of Management Annals, 2, 133-165.

Specifically, this article defines in situ performance as "the
specification of the broad range of effects-situational, contextual,
strategic, and environmental-that may affect individual, team, or
organizational performance" (p. 146). The article's Abstract is below.
Let me know if you think this article is addressing the phenomenon you
described in your posting.

All the best,



Herman Aguinis, Ph.D.

Dean's Research Professor and

Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources

Director, Institute for Global Organizational Effectiveness

Department of Management and Entrepreneurship

Kelley School of Business, Indiana University




We highlight important differences between 21st-century organizations
as compared to those of the previous century, and offer a critical
review of the basic principles, typical applications, general
effectiveness, and limitations of the current staffing model. That model
focuses on identifying and measuring job-related individual
characteristics to predict individual-level job performance. We conclude
that the current staffing model has reached a ceiling or plateau in
terms of its ability to make accurate predictions about future
performance. Evidence accumulated over more than 80 years of staffing
research suggests that general mental abilities and other traditional
staffing tools do a modest job of predicting performance across settings
and jobs considering that, even when combined and corrected for
methodological and statistical artifacts, they rarely predict more than
50% of the variance in performance. Accordingly, we argue for a change
in direction in staffing research
and propose an expanded view of the staffing process, including the
introduction of a new construct, in situ performance, and an expanded
view of staffing tools to be used to predict future in situ performance
that take into account time and context. Our critical review offers a
novel perspective and research agenda with the goal of guiding future
research that will result in more useful, applicable, relevant, and
effective knowledge for practitioners to use in organizational

> In a message dated 8/16/2010 11:05:37 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,

> Mark.Hammer at psc-cfp.gc.ca writes:


> A recent incident here in Ottawa*** has reignited a kerfuffle over

> hiring of minorities. While we have never actually HAD any

> "affirmative

> action" program in the Canadian federal public sector, the

> distinction

> between affirmative action, employment equity, and diversity, as

> historically connected but different approaches to recruitment and

> hiring is lost on a great many, including, sad to say, the cabinet

> minister who technically oversees the public service. Since he was

> only

> a couple of weeks into the job when he made his rather


> public pronouncements, I'll cut him some slack.


> But that's not the nature of my post.


> Last Friday, I entered into a series of e-mail exchanges with a

> columnist of a somewhat grumpy right-wing bent concerning his

> pronouncements about our "affirmative action" programs. I tried to

> differentiate the various approaches for him, and explain that

> fostering

> a workforce representative of the citizenry it serves was not the

> same

> thing as making restitution for historical wrongs. He asserted

> staunchly that it was ALL "affirmative action" that ignored merit.


> I

> asked him what he thought "merit" was, and he replied with one word

> "qualifications".


> It was during my reply that things finally clicked for me.


> For a couple of years now, we have been asking hiring managers, and

> candidates, in two separate-but-parallel surveys, what they felt


> important in making the selection decision. We give them a bunch


> different things to rate, like abilities, training, work


> general knowledge, potential for development to higher positions,

> etc.,

> and "personal suitability or match to the work team". Both hiring

> managers and candidates give the strongest ratings to abilities,


> where candidates tend to place their work experience, training and

> general knowledge just behind that, and often well ahead of "match


> the work team", managers place match to the work team just ever so

> slightly behind abilities, and well ahead of the candidate's

> training,

> prior work experience and general knowledge.


> Candidates tend to think about their merit in isolation, and

> generally

> quite apart from the context they are applying to. Makes sense.

> They

> often have little information about the particulars

> of the context,

> so

> they focus on only those things they know about: themselves.

> Managers,

> on the other hand, ARE privy to information about the context, and

> when

> they ponder whether this candidate is going to "work out", they

> factor

> in things that go well beyond mere "qualifications", like

> personality,

> the diversity of their work team, how the candidate might fill on

> knowledge gaps, and so on. Indeed, our revised definition of


> in

> the current Public Service Employment Act treats membership in one


> the designated employment equity groups as a potential component in

> an

> expanded definition of merit that the manager can consider as an

> aspects

> of "organizational needs".


> So, for the candidate, like this irritated columnist, one's merit


> "qualifications", while for the hiring manager, "merit" goes well

> beyond

> mere qualifications and takes the organization into account. The

> columnist I was debating with considers that "preferential hiring"

> and

> contrary to merit. And the perpetual conflict occurs because THE


> MANAGERS, each of whom have different perspectives, and can't HELP

> but

> have different perspectives. Of course the columnist who cynically

> told

> me I had been "well-trained" and "spun things nicely" does no


> himself. He sees things exclusively from the candidate's

> perspective,

> as do all the folks who complain to him about non-existent

> "affirmative

> action" policies.


> So what's my punch line? There is work to be done in terms of

> educating the broader applicant pool about the FACT of their

> different

> reality, how managers make picks, and why that matters, and

> especially

> why they need to understand that employment law and policy is


> always going to reflect the needs of hiring managers more than the

> wishes and perspective of applicants.


> Some of you are probably saying "Well, DUH!", but maybe others are

> muttering, like me, "Come to think of it, that really IS the basis


> the conflict, isn't it?".


> Happy Monday. Hope your summer is going well.


> Mark Hammer

> Ottawa


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