A CykoMetrix Spotlight Production

Every week, the Spotlight shines on an amazing professional with a story to tell and lessons to teach. Welcome to the CykoMetrix Spotlight.

The following is an adapted transcript of the exchange between Sylvainn Rochon, CMO at CykoMetrix as host, and Dr. Shaneka Parham, Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. www.linkedin.com/in/shaneka-parham-ph-d-99788a106

Sylvainn Rochon: Welcome to CykoMetrix Spotlight. My name is Sylvain Rochon. I am the Chief Marketing Officer at CykoMetrix, a leading edge combinatorial psychometric and human data analytics company that brings the employee assessment industry to the cloud, with instant assessments, in depth analysis, trait measurements and team-based reporting features that simplify informed decision making around recruiting, training, and managing today’s modern workplace.

I am here today with an excellent individual, and you guessed it, Dr. Shaneka Parham. She is an industrial and organizational psychologist. She taught me what that meant recently, which is great. She is in Baltimore, Maryland. She has over 10 years of experience in the field, working primarily in pre-employment assessments. Her passion is in helping to ensure person-to-organization fit by use of procedures rooted in and backed by science. I really like that. Being a scientist, I really like when there’s scientific backing. Thank you so much for being on the Spotlight, Shaneka.

Dr Shaneka Parham: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Sylvain: Excellent. Now we’re going to jump into a topic that I find very interesting, and it’s very topical, which is about fairness in the workplace. In Canada, at the very least, it is very important for government workers. I live in a government town, the capital Ottawa. There are all sorts of rules in the public sector surrounding what is fair and how do you hire to be fair.  There are all sorts of rules. But in the private sector, fairness also is a real thing. So, there’s a whole bunch of ideas about what are the proper employment practices in the private sector and public sector to make sure there is such a thing as fairness in the workplace.

So why don’t you tell us a bit about what you think that is, and how you insert yourself to support that demand of figuring it out and establishing good practices.

Shaneka: Sure. To start off, I want to talk a little bit about what IO psychologists do; to kind of preface the conversation. In general, IO psychologists take the principles of psychology and apply it to the workplace. So that means we use science to help organizations resolve problems or even develop strategies and policies as it relates to the workforce or as it relates to members of their organization. So, as you can imagine, fairness is one of our top priorities. We’re all about making sure that individuals have opportunities as people spend so much of their time at work. My passion is making sure that they end up where they would like to be, somewhere that they are going to be satisfied, somewhere they can identify with the mission and vision of the company. Fairness is of the utmost importance to industrial organizational psychologists. So, as it relates to how companies do their recruiting, as it relates to how they work their job postings, and more importantly, how they carry out their pre-employment and employment policies and procedures.

I’m sure we’ll get into those topics and subtopics as we go along with the conversation, but at a high level, those are the things that come to mind when thinking about fairness.

Sylvain: Right. So, the idea of fairness can be defined in multiple ways, depending on who you ask. In some countries, there are rules surrounding equity or fairness, using some of those terms, and those are established and defined very precisely. In other jurisdictions, they’re not. So the employer and the employee may have a different ideas of what that means; what is fair, what is equitable.

How does it work? I mean, I assume you work primarily in the US?

Shaneka: Mm-hmm.

Sylvain: You may also work in other jurisdictions. How is that perceived or defined from your experience?

Shaneka: That’s a very good question, and I’m glad you asked it. In terms of psychological factors, when we think about fairness, we’re mostly thinking about job relatedness, which is a term that basically means that when you’re doing things like conducting interviews, and when you’re doing things like developing assessments, you only want to include those variables that are actually related to what that person is going to be doing on the job. For instance, if you have a construct on an assessment that is measuring mathematical principles, and the person is not going to end up doing math on the job, then maybe that’s a cognitive area that you should stay away from.

A lot of organizations get assessments that are off-the-shelf, kind of cookie cutter, that have already been established, but they haven’t necessarily done a thorough job analysis to determine what is actually required of that person on the job, what are the knowledge, the skills, the other abilities and characteristics that are actually required for the job. Those are the things that they should be paying attention to and focusing on when designing assessments.

Sylvain: It sounds like what you’re saying is that, often, people… Let’s pick on HR because, they are often on the front lines to hire, or transition somebody from one team to another, or promotions. Sometimes they’ll just pick out an assessment or a tool without really considering how it may impact the process of doing whatever they need to do, and that particular assessment or tool may have within it elements that make things unfair.

Shaneka: Right.

Sylvain: How do you help organizations avoid these pitfalls?

Shaneka: A lot of organizations are now understanding the importance of having an IO psychologist on their team. For the most part, Industrial Organizational psychologists develop the policies and procedures that HR generally follows. If they didn’t develop them, the policies and procedures were generally sought out for consultations, to serve in that capacity to kind of guide them to what they should be doing. For example, if I’m hired as a consultant for an organization to work alongside their HR department, I’ll kind of walk them through what needs to be done in order to try to avoid those… I mean, you can’t always avoid it. Sometimes there are biases kind of built into certain procedures that are underlying; we may not even know about it. But yeah, generally were sought out for assistance, working alongside HR to try to figure out what exactly needs to be done to try to avoid those pitfalls?

Sylvain: How easy are legislative measures, laws, and regulations in different states or even federally… Me being in Canada, you being in the US… completely different systems. How are they supporting or enforcing the idea of fairness for companies? Is there real support there from a legal perspective? Or is it more loosey goosey, and the companies can decide how fair can they be in their processes? How is that dynamic going?

Shaneka: That’s a good question as well. Employment Law is something that we really, really have to be mindful of. There are obviously laws and regulations that IO psychologists have to be aware of that we have to kind of work into our day-to-day business. The Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology or Psychologists, known as SIOP, puts out governing documents that we have to follow as it relates to how we do selection, which is hiring individuals for particular jobs, how things like assessments are carried out. So, it’s definitely something that we have to be mindful of and that HR has to be mindful of as well.

There are also questions about… there are things that may be legal but just may not be smart for a company to do. There is also the factor that once a company gets to a certain number of employees, they now have to follow certain laws as well. Don’t quote me if I’m incorrect. I know a while back, it was if you had less than 15 employees, you were not really subject to having to follow certain laws and regulations. But yeah, it’s definitely something we have to be mindful of.

Sylvain: In the States, are these laws per state or is that federal?

Shaneka: There are both federal and state laws, and obviously the state laws vary depending on where you are,

Sylvain: Okay. One of the big things for me is bias because human beings are inherently biased whether we’d like it or not.

So, as an implanted psychologist inside an organization, how do you manage the implicit and explicit biases that you observe to try to keep things flowing as fair as possible inside these processes, pre-employment, employment, and also perhaps even post?

Shaneka: I think the number one thing is self awareness. You have to acknowledge that it’s there. A lot of people look at bias as a negative thing. It’s not always a negative thing. Biases are just things that make us who we are. They come from our lived experiences. For example, one area where you wouldn’t necessarily want your biases to leak through is if you are developing interview questions, right? You want the interview questions to be as universal as possible. You don’t want anything in that interview question that someone from another culture may not understand, so that they’re not negatively impacted by the results of that interview. So, I think it’s just a matter of being aware of it and making sure that it doesn’t leak through whatever processes you’re involving yourself in so that it doesn’t negatively impact the person on the other side of it.

Sylvain: Good. Can you tell me about the willingness of organizations, big and small, to create healthy, fair workplaces? Are you seeing patterns? Are you seeing improvements and changes in that perspective?

Shaneka: I think that with the climate right now with a lot of what is going on in the world, a lot of organizations are paying a lot more attention to it than they did before, at least from my perspective. Organizations are, to me, working really hard to try to make sure that they have diversity initiatives and that they’re being more ethical in their recruiting policies or their hiring policies. So, I definitely do think we’re going in the right direction.

Sylvain: Do you think there’s like a specific event? Because we’re seeing something similar here; here being Canada. Is it caused by specific events? Or is it more kind of the mood of the times of the generation, you think?

Shaneka: I think it’s a little bit of both. Sometimes there are events that take place, and sometimes it’s just generational. I think it’s a combination of both.

Sylvain: Interesting. Shaneka, if someone wants to hire you or another IO psychologist to help out, how do we go about it?

Shaneka: That’s a good question as well. The first thing that comes to mind is going on LinkedIn and doing a quick search on Industrial Organizational Psychologists. Also, if I remember correctly, there is a portion in the SIOP website, it’s www.siop.org, where you can view a list of Industrial Organizational psychologists based on the area you’re in, the geographic area. So yeah, I think LinkedIn is a really good source and then also siop.org.

Sylvain: Are you available to help people directly?

Shaneka: I am. If someone wants to reach out to me directly, I do provide consulting services.

Sylvain: We’ll put your LinkedIn information in the description of the video and the blog, so people can reach out to you directly. I did not know before I started doing this series that IO psychologist existed. I’ve never worked in a big organization. I’ve always started businesses very small. But I find your work very important.

Shaneka: It is very important. It’s actually one of the fastest growing fields that there is, and a lot of people don’t know what it is. I get introduced to some of my parents’ friends, and they will say, “Oh, she’s an IO psychologist.” Their response is typically, “Oh, I bet you’re diagnosing me right now.” They just think I’m a clinical psychologist. So we’re working to get the word out there so that people are more informed about what we do and how important the work really is.

Sylvain: Yeah, because it’s all about a healthy work environment, basically, trying to generate that. People are complex.

Shaneka: Yes, they are. People are complex, organizations are complex, the groups and departments within organizations are complex. It’s just a huge system of different complex parts.

Sylvain: Here’s a last question. I’m a bit of a futurist. I publish articles and whatnot, so I always think about the future of work.  It’s been a trending term over the last few years, the pandemic and also what’s going on. Maybe you’ve already had some conversations about automation in the workplace, and people feeling like they’re being displaced unfairly regarding work, that you may not do anymore, because all these automated systems and perhaps even straight-out AI, are coming into space. Are there any murmurs or discussions and consultations with you regarding the additional brain power and support that comes from these automated software that are infringing into the space that would normally be attributed to human workers? How’s that discussion going?

Shaneka: That’s a good one, too. You know, technology is a gift and a curse. I think people realize that now more than ever with the way that things are being developed and implemented and made available. So, I think that people like that face-to-face, right? There’s only so much a robot can do. And we know that robots are developed and created by humans. So, I don’t think it’s going to have as much of a negative effect that we think it’s going to. We can, of course, appreciate the advantages that technological advancements have in our lives, and continue to work with those advancements and the innovation that comes along with it.

Sylvain: Excellent. Thank you so much for your perspective.

Shaneka: Sure.

Sylvain: Well, that’s going to be it for now. I’ve really appreciated your input on this very important topic. We need more psychologists and psychology in the workplace to deal with these issues. Like we just said, people are complicated, it’s a matrix, biases are always going to be there. You have to be able to play with them, not try to snuff them out of there. They’re there.

Shaneka: Right.

Sylvain: So I encourage everybody that’s watching this or reading this to check out Shaneka and her link. Contact her, ask about what IO psychologists can do, or straight up have her as a consultant to help your company out, figuring all this stuff out.  Maybe you have products like workshops that you can deploy, things like that. Tell me a little bit about that before we close.

Shaneka: Sure, absolutely. Just a little bit about what IO psychologists do and what I may be able to help with. Sometimes companies reach out to us because they want to know a little bit more about employee motivation or job design or job redesign, things like compensation and reward systems, recruitment, selection, training, staffing, even things like succession planning and organizational development. All of those types of things are generally things that IO psychologists can help out with. So yes, absolutely. Feel free to reach out.

Sylvain: There you go. There you have it, folks. Thank you so much for contributing, Shaneka.

Shaneka: All right. Thank you again for having me.

About Dr. Shaneka Parham www.linkedin.com/in/shaneka-parham-ph-d-99788a106

Dr. Shaneka Parham is an Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychologist with over 10 years of experience in the field. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, her undergraduate studies were completed at Virginia Union University, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Her Master’s degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology was completed at the University of Baltimore. She completed her PhD in I/O Psychology the The Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Washington, DC. 

Dr. Parham’s passion is in helping to ensure person-to-organization fit by the use of processes rooted in and backed by science. She has primarily worked in assessment, selection and classification for various industries (i.e., medical, military, real estate, electric, technology). She has helped to meet the employment needs of organizations by developing and maintaining rigorously validated employment tests. She works to provide the most effective pre-employment selection solutions possible by performing various tasks (i.e., item analyses, adverse impact analyses, test development consulting and assessment validation). She also has experience in survey development, Job Analyses, Standard Setting, and a host of other I/O related tasks. 

In addition to working in the field as an I/O Psychologist, Dr. Parham also works as an adjunct professor, teaching I/O Psychology courses in Business Psychology (I/O track and Organizational Leadership) and International Psychology PhD programs. As a member of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) as well as Personnel Testing Council of Metropolitan Washington DC (PTCMW), she is committed to staying abreast of changes in the field and the various ways to contribute to its growth and sustainability. 

About CykoMetrix – www.CykoMetrix.com

CykoMetrix is a leading edge combinatorial psychometric and human data analytics company that brings the employee assessment industry to the cloud, with instant assessments, in-depth analysis, trait measurements, and team-based reporting features that simplify informed decision-making around recruiting, training, and managing today’s modern workplace.

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