A clear fact in a murky situation: safety was not a concern

  On January 13, 2012, the Costa Concordia luxury cruise liner passed approximately 150 meters off the island of Giglio, striking rocks that would tear a 50 meter gash in its hull. According to the ship’s operator, Costa Cruises, the captain of the ship, Francesco Schettino, made an unauthorized and unapproved maneuver, veering off his pre-approved route and bringing the ship dangerously close to shore. In his defense, Schettino says Costa Cruises ordered him to conduct such a maneuver and it was a common practice used to attract publicity and make passengers happy. Read More »

Driving Engagement in the 80%

In a recent blog for the Harvard Business Review, Ambiga Dhiraj, Head of Talent Management for Chicago-based Mu Sigma, a decision science and analytics services firm, made an interesting observation about her company’s talent management process:

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In Times of Crisis, Be Careful Who You Follow

A group of young hikers, anxious to explore the treacherous mountain ranges of Alaska, interviewed a number of guides at a remote outpost. "Yep, I'm the best there is," bragged an older, very weathered looking man; "I know every mountain and valley in Alaska – been hiking them for over 50 years.“

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Can you see what I see?

When people ask me what I do for a living, and I tell them that I am a business psychologist, it is not unusual for me to hear “Gosh, we could really do with a psychologist at work.” Colourful stories concerning people, events and relationships usually follow, almost always describing how someone (a colleague, a boss, a team even) is responsible for making working life impossible.

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Why Do We Give?

Why is it that we give to others around the holiday season? Do we instinctively feel an innate desire (at the same time every year) to do something nice for them? Are we succumbing to marketing forces and great sales during the season of giving? Do we fear what would happen if we did not give gifts each December? (Tongue-in-cheek, this may be the case for some individuals.) Like a good scientist (Santa, I hope you are listening), I need to see what stories the data tell.

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Back in My Day

I recently celebrated my 31st birthday, which, in today’s world, qualifies me to begin sentences with the phrase “back in my day.” I admit this begrudgingly; back in my day, it seemed that statement was reserved for an individual well out of his or her 30s. Still, from time to time, I do find myself sounding a bit curmudgeonly. No, I never claim to walk uphill both ways, barefoot in the snow to school, but I do sometimes struggle to grasp the rate at which technology has changed life since I was in school.Over the past decade, technology exploded, and although the changes affected countless areas of our lives, they all had the same common thread: the sharing of information. We are a society saturated with data; individuals are in constant connection with one another, and details on virtually any topic can be obtained in a matter of seconds.Why does that have to do with business? These connections have evolved from innocuous social interaction to business-relevant posting capable of promoting or destroying an organization’s reputation in a matter of minutes. The trend is the wave of the future. In the informed, well-connected prosumer, it has created what can either be a strong ally or an unstoppable adversary. Fortunately, as technology increases, so does its usability. Gone are the days when “I don’t know how” was a viable excuse; the response now will be “well, you’d better Google it.”There are some steps we old folks can take to keep current, and they are steps that will build a foundation on which your organization can effectively evolve:

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The Problem with Interviewing

Jerry Seinfeld once remarked that “the only difference between a job interview and a blind date is that there is a slightly higher chance you'll be naked at the end of the date – otherwise, they're not that much different." Indeed, both share a lot in common; two strangers meeting for the first time, trying to figure each other out, trying to see beyond the facade and evaluate the person.One of my Hogan colleagues just shared an interesting survey of nearly 7,000 organizations in Canada concerning their use of various selection practices. Of the organizations surveyed, 79% use interviews, 10% use a job knowledge test, and only 9% use a personality assessment.Yet, the traditional job interview is tainted by a number of factors:•    Questions Used – logically, the nature of the questions asked is critical to the reliability and validity of the interview (using job-related, structured interview questions doubles validity).•    Applicant Characteristics – the effect of the interviewer’s personal liking of the applicant has consistently been found to be related to interviewers’ evaluations. ("Wow, he reminds me of Uncle Billy.") Again, it has been shown that this similar-to-me effect is much less pronounced when the interview is structured and job requirements are clear. •    Nonverbal Behaviors – most studies have concluded that nonverbal cues are, in fact, related to evaluations. Eye contact, head movement, smiling, hand movement, and general body posture (rigidity versus movement) are cues that are related to favorable interview decisions.•    Verbal Facility – articulate and verbally-capable individuals can create strong positive impressions, leading to what communications experts call the “halo effect.” Poor or inconsistent articulation can lead to negative summations; just witness the latest debate gaffes, flubs, and lapses of memory from our current crop of presidential wannabes.  •    Weighting Information – it has been found that more weight is given to negative information over positive information in the interviewer’s decision, even for experienced interviewers.One of the big disadvantages of using a typical employment interview is that the interviewees are not given the chance to demonstrate the job-related skills he or she may possess. There is a glaring exception; if the interview context places the interviewee in a situation that mimics the job-related setting, then it is possible to evaluate the interviewee’s ability to handle this kind of job. This can give the interviewer a better idea of whether or not the applicant can truly perform the job.Up until 1945, National League baseball played with an ugly, unwritten rule of membership: no Black baseball players allowed. That was until Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, interviewed the great Jackie Robinson for the opportunity to be the first baseball player to break the color barrier in baseball. Rickey closely scrutinized Robinson during their first interview and solemnly warned him of the abuse, ridicule, and scorn he would receive from fans, sportswriters, and even fellow players. If he were not able to take the abuse and insults by not fighting back, then he would fail and set integration of baseball back twenty years.Robinson listened calmly and pondered Rickey's verbal picture of what life would be like for this pioneering role. Then for five minutes Robinson sat absolutely silent; Robinson thought while Rickey waited. He finally responded that he had full confidence in his ability to play in the National League without incident. Rickey hired him. Rickey was very impressed with Robinson's silent control, his obvious ability in demonstrating he would not be provoked.So whether you’re preparing for a job interview or blind date, you might heed some advice from Henry Kissinger, who once opened a press conference with this famous line, “I hope you have questions for the answers that I’ve prepared today!”

Giving Thanks and Giving Back

If you couldn’t already tell by overt advertising and buzz around Black Friday deals, it appears the holiday season is upon us. My favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, is this week, and I couldn’t be more excited. The three F’s – food, family, and football – will consume my four-day weekend. I’ll undoubtedly gain five pounds in those few short days, but it’s so worth it. This is my favorite time of the year for a variety of reasons. However, I enjoy the spirit of the holidays around Thanksgiving the most. The sense of gratitude, being thanked, and having a reason to thank others seems to charge me up. This shouldn’t surprise me. I scored a 100 on the MVPI Altruistic scale. Like others who score high on the Altruistic scale, I’m driven to do right by others through volunteering, and I also tend to motivate others to share my sense of social responsibility. People on the opposite end of the Altruistic scale also tend to give back, just in a different way. Most likely, it’s through monetary donations. I’ve started to notice others around me demonstrate altruistic tendencies more so during the holidays. Whether this is by giving time through volunteering or donating money to a charitable cause, I always enjoy the jump in giving back during the holidays. According to an article in Psychology Today, showing and receiving gratitude “both exemplify the positive in human behavior and provide us with a positive charge that boosts our emotional balance.” The happiness many of us feel after giving back can actually be very rewarding emotionally. In work environments that emphasize altruism, this can be very rewarding professionally as well. What am I thankful for? Hogan and its community focus. I am able to feed my altruistic tendencies at the workplace, as Hogan offers its employees a variety of ways to give back throughout the year. Obviously, I can’t grow a moustache for Movember, but I’ll donate money to support my male colleagues who are raising awareness with their facial hair art. Our community food bank donation boxes are full. There’s talk of adopting an Angel this Christmas. The opportunities are endless. For those who are motivated and driven by the chance to give back, working in an environment that provides these opportunities can be very rewarding and motivating emotionally and professionally. My desire to volunteer my time and having a chance to give back to others increases during this wonderful time of the year, and I have many options to participate, volunteer, or give back because of Hogan. So, this is me giving thanks to Hogan for the opportunity to give back. It’s an endless cycle of thanks. Don’t forget to give thanks this holiday season, even if it has nothing to do with helping others (warning: an emotional boost may result). Happy Thanksgiving! Oh, and go Cowboys! 

High Stakes Hiring

Like many people, my coworker is afraid of flying. We encourage him to take sleeping pills and try to distract him with entertaining stories during takeoff, but despite our best efforts, he usually remains anxious throughout the flight.

Because of his fear, my coworker is drawn to news stories about plane crashes and equipment malfunctions, and shares them with us as proof that his fear is legitimate. And there have been many headlines about pilot error leading to tragedy; in early 2009, a commuter plane crashed into a New York house after the pilots were mindlessly chatting and then panicked when they realized the aircraft was in trouble. More recently, a Russian passenger airplane missed the runway and crashed because the navigator was drunk.

Given all of the doom and gloom in the headlines, it’s refreshing to hear about pilots who do things right. For example, in 2009, US Airways flight 1549 famously crash-landed into the Hudson River after striking a flock of geese during takeoff. The pilot, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, was described as “cool, calm and collected” as he maneuvered the plane into a safe landing position. Because of Sully’s focus and composure, a tragic accident was averted and all 155 people onboard survived.

Earlier this month, pilot Tadeusz Wrona safely crash-landed a passenger plane in Warsaw’s main airport after the landing gear failed to deploy. Luckily, all 230 passengers and crew members survived the belly-landing. Wrona and his crew remained vigilant and focused during the flight, immediately taking notice when the landing gear failed to open on the second attempt. After identifying the problem, the crew began to review belly-landing training guidelines while flight attendants explained emergency landing procedures to passengers. The flight crew remained calm and steady during the perilous situation, preventing hysteria from breaking out in the cabin.

When reading news stories like these, you realize the importance of the pilot’s training, skills, and personality when you board any airplane. From unsuccessful crash-landings to heroic ones, pilots’ behavior greatly affects passengers, crew members, the airline industry, and the general public (not to mention my co-worker). As such, organizations must take great care when hiring for jobs like pilots where the consequences of an unsafe decision can mean life or death.