ABP Reflections 2017 Abigail Clayton

Abigail Clayton - October 2017

It was my first experience as a delegate at the Association for Business Psychology conference this year in Brentford Lock 12th & 13th of October. Two days of exploring advancements and insights into the latest research and technology within business psychology all framed with a focus on the exploration of the psychology of the dark side. The event provided a great opportunity to listen, review and take stock of our current tools and practices whilst looking ahead to future developments. With great key note speakers, workshops and presentations there were lots of good learning points. My main takeaways were:

Technology is not a game changer it's an enabler.

Technology is constantly delivering new ways of delivering assessments through gamification, virtual reality and different delivery methods for collecting data on individuals. We reviewed a number of these at the ABP conference including Cut-e's ChatAssess; Capp's & Cos advancements in Virtual Reality assessment; SSE's online assessment of Smart Meter installers and Boot's assessment of beauty technicians. It was interesting to see that across all of the tools we reviewed fundamentally the key underlying principles of assessment remain at the core: Reliability (the extent it is free from error), validity, standardisation (compared to what) and equivalence (is it biased?).

Many of these additional methods are great at reaching new audiences but are still typically used alongside the more traditional methods which maintain their levels of validity and reliably for assessing specific abilities or attributes. With all new methods it is even more important to review any adverse impact of the new technology and approaches on different groups, our discussion around the table would suggest that age is one of the key areas we need to be mindful of to ensure accessibility for all.

I have the feeling that there has been some reigning in of the technical extremes to ensure a level playing field for all whilst utilising the massive advancements in accessibility and technology the fundamental principles of reliability and validity remain at the core of all we do within our profession.

Harnessing the power of the dark side.

Robert Hogan talked about the impact of personality on leadership and his experiences with the dark side. His conviction is that personality dictates leadership with too much dark side leading to derailment and too little leading to obscurity "Narcissists and psychopaths excel during job interviews".

Dark Side Implications

Hogan talked about filtered and unfiltered behaviour - what happens when you are not paying attention and the impact this can have on leadership and those you lead. "Who you are determines how you lead."

In looking at our assessment approach for senior leaders this highlighted the importance to me of continuing to assess the fit of an individual both to a role and an organisation and the role that personality and particularly unfiltered personality plays in this. Hogan talked about a study in 2002 where it showed that personality links to leadership performance was a stronger correlation to that of the success of Viagra. We talked a lot over the two days on dark side traits and not just their assessment but individual's self-awareness and management of their potential derailers. It reinforced my confidence in our approach to assessment and development and the importance of the impact of personality and derailers in leadership and business performance.

Technology is not for everyone

"Owning a drone does not a make you a pilot."

Have you ever tried to fly a model helicopter or drone? If so you will know the feeling. I have. I thought I would be able to - but very quickly realised I couldn't.

Owning a drone doesn't make you a pilot

This is how one of my fellow delegates described being given access to technology to enable the tools they were developing. In seeing the complexity of the tools, question types, scoring and reporting options available in some self-authoring platforms it made me appreciate the work of the Getfeedback design and development team for the tools that we hold and help our clients develop. With the wealth of experience in the psychological development of tools within the ABP and new concepts - adaptive testing, item banking, workflows etc. It made me realise the different pools of expertise within the conference and how the skill of the Getfeedback technical team is essential in the work that we do.

We have recently bought online a number of bespoke client tools ranging from Emotional Intelligence to Collaboration all with different technical requirements, scoring and outputs.

Sample Report

They all work, and work well - I would not be so confident if we were to release our system to the self-creation of these tools. I would suggest we need to ensure that we apply the same rigour, validity and testing in the technical upload and tool creation in design. Some may be able to fly that drone solo and do it well, for those who can't (like me) I am very pleased to be able to call on the support of the Getfeedback team for our exciting bespoke client projects.

Career inequality is still a current issue - we are heading in the right direction but still have a long way to go

There were a number of excellent speakers addressing the topic of women in leadership. All highlighted the stark statistics from the World Economic Forum in 2015 which established that despite making up half of the population women's constitute less than 5% of CEOs and 20% of corporate board members.

Professor Fiona Patterson drew on large scale, meta-analytic research in her key note speech and highlighted the persistence of gender stereotyping biases in leadership roles. Highlighting the backlash against some women for behaving outside of their expected gender roles. There has been some progress with increasing focus on removing the gender biases from job design and challenging organisational and individual perceptions of leadership qualities but further shifts are required to tackle remaining prejudices.

Fiona Patterson addressing the conference

Specific interventions and programmes like the Credit Suisse's Real Returns programme which Helena Fernandes described are just one way of removing potential barriers to women taking senior positions. The programme which was first launched in 2014 is specifically designed to help individuals who have taken a career break return to roles where their skills and experience can be utilised. Helena talked about the benefits of this group of individuals and providing them with the right support, connections, development and mentoring they can prove a very valuable asset to the organisation and increase the number of women holding senior positions.

Natasha Abajian from Deloitte talked about her research as part of City University London in which she famously challenged the idea of the end to the glass ceiling as she looked at the multitude of factors influencing career progression. It was great to debate the end to the glass ceiling and the existence of a glass labyrinth as an explanation for the lack of career progression for women in senior roles and what can be done about it.

From our own perspective it is great to be supporting a number of senior women leaders both individually or within wider initiatives and the discussion and talks of the last two days has certainly focused my awareness of ensuring the removal of biases in all we do.

The two days were a great time to reflect on what we do and how we do it. I am pleased that we continue to play to our development and assessment strengths but always keen to analyse the best way of doing things. I'll be back next year.