Author Archive

Book Review: Technology Choices: Why Occupations Differ in Their Embrace of New Technology

July 29, 2016

Technology ChoicesDiane E. Bailey, Paul M. Leonardi : Technology Choices: Why Occupations Differ in Their Embrace of New Technology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015. 288 pp.$32.00/£22.95, cloth.

Asaf Darr of University of Haifa recently reviewed Technology Choices: Why Occupations Differ in Their Embrace of New Technology in Administrative Science Quarterly. An excerpt from the book review:

Bailey and Leonardi are leading ethnographers of work who acquired their reputations through meticulous fieldwork, comparative research designs, and insightful use of general themes emerging from the data to develop middle-range theory. All these qualities are demonstrated in this book, which summarizes a decade of research into the engineering profession, with an emphasis on product design work. The book compares the work of automotive design engineers, software engineers, and structural engineers; the technologies they choose to employ in their daily work; Current Issue Coverand the division of labor that structures their work.

The book contributes to organizational literature in at least three meaningful ways. First, it provides an important description of design engineering work, highlighting its heterogeneity. Second, it identifies key factors that shape the choices engineering specialists make regarding their work tools. Third, it lays the grounds for a theory that can explain and even predict why and how occupations make decisions about the technologies they will use in their daily work. This theory is grounded in core elements of occupations, such as distinct skills and local divisions of labor, as well as in the surrounding environment, where variables such as market forces and institutional factors influence technological choice.

You can read the rest of the book review from Administrative Science Quarterly by clicking here. Want to stay up to date on all of the latest content published by Administrative Science QuarterlyClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

Creative Problem Solving Training: What Works?

July 28, 2016

4769744435_1985998a32_z (3)[We’re pleased to welcome David Vernon of Cantebury Christ Church University. David recently published an article in Human Resource Development Review entitled “An Evidence-Based Review of Creative Problem Solving Tools: A Practitioner’s Resource” with co-authors Ian Hocking and Tresoi C. Tyler.]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

My colleague, Dr Ian Hocking, and I were interested in the nature of creative problem solving and how, if at all, this could be facilitated or improved by using a structured thinking tool. With the help of Tresoi Tyler we began a systematic search of the literature to explore and identify the various tools that have been used to enhance some aspect of creative problem solving. We then focused our search to examine precisely which tools have some/any evidence to support their use. In essence, we wanted to know which tools have been shown to work.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

Yes. I think the aspect of our work that surprised us all was the mismatch between the Current Issue Covernumber, availability and use of creative problem solving tools and their empirical basis. This gave rise to what we referred to as ‘the plethora and the paucity’ – which simply meant that the plethora of available tools was matched only by the paucity of research showing that they had any real benefit.

  • How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

In terms of practice we hope this will have two effects. First, our review will provide practitioners with a clear understanding of which tools have been shown to benefit a particular stage of creative problem solving. In this sense, we hope that it will serve as a useful resource. Second, we hope that this encourages practitioners to ask what we consider to be an essential question when faced with using any creative problem solving tool: ‘What is the evidence that this works?’

In terms of future research, again there are two directions we think our work can have some impact. First, we have provided in the review an outline of which tools seem to work at the various stages within creative problem solving. However, this work needs to be continued to ascertain the broader benefits of using such tools. For instance, such tools can be explored using a variety of different problem types and levels of training, as well as looking at long-term benefits and transfer effects. Second, many tools have little or no empirical support. This doesn’t mean they don’t work, of course. It may reflect the fact that no one has looked. Moving forward, we would hope that our review stimulates researchers to examine the possible benefits these tools.

The abstract for the paper:

Creative problem solving (CPS) requires solutions to be useful and original. Typically, its operations span problem finding, idea generation, and critical evaluation. The benefits of training CPS have been extolled in education, industry, and government with evidence showing it can enhance performance. However, although such training schemes work, less is known about the specific tools used. Knowing whether a particular tool works or not would provide practitioners with a valuable resource, leading to more effective training schemes, and a better understanding of the processes involved. A comprehensive review was undertaken examining the empirical support of tools used within CPS. Despite the surprising lack of research focusing on the use and success of specific tools, some evidence exists to support the effectiveness of a small set. Such findings present practitioners with a potential resource that could be used in a stand-alone setting or possibly be combined to create more effective training programs.

You can read “An Evidence-Based Review of Creative Problem Solving Tools: A Practitioner’s Resource” from Human Resource Development Review free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to stay current on all of the latest research from Human Resource Development ReviewClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Image attributed to Reilly Butler (CC)

Overcoming Obstacles to Establish the Largest Voluntary Employees’ Beneficiary Association

July 27, 2016

16687016354_ca450d18ec_z[We’re pleased to welcome Frank Giancola, HR researcher and retired practitioner for companies like Ford Motor Company, Eastern Michigan University, and the US Air Force. Frank recently published an article in Compensation Benefits Review entitled “The Turbulent History of the Nation’s Largest Voluntary Employees’ Beneficiary Association.”]

I decided to write an article about the U.S. auto workers’ healthcare VEBA for several reasons. First, I thought that the VEBA concept was not well-known in the benefits profession and that additional coverage was warranted. Second, the history of the auto workers’ VEBA tracks the timeline of the recent decline, bankruptcies, and Current Issue Coverrevival of the auto companies, one of the nation’s most important industries that directly and indirectly is responsible for millions of American jobs. Legacy health care costs were an important factor driving the bankruptcies. Third, I had the good fortune to work for one of the involved companies, Ford Motor Company, as a benefits professional, so I had first-hand knowledge of the issues and how the companies work with the hourly employees’ union, the United Auto Workers, to establish innovative employee benefit programs.

The union proposed the VEBA to the companies, as a means to protect the health care benefits of its retired members. Because of its commitment to its members, and the companies’ responsibility to its retirees and need to mitigate huge legacy costs, the parties were able to overcome monumental challenges that threatened the existence of the VEBA. The success of the VEBA demonstrates the ability of the collective bargaining process to deal effectively with a major issue in our country.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the VEBA was able to provide medical benefits to over 500,000 retirees without encountering significant start-up difficulties, and that supplemental plan funding was obtained from reductions in the pay of active employees.

It is my hope that readers will find this history to be interesting and informative, so that when faced with the rising costs of providing health care benefits to retirees, they will have another option to consider to meet the challenge.

The abstract for the paper:

The Detroit automakers’ Retiree Medical Benefits Trust is the nation’s largest Voluntary Employees’ Beneficiary Association (VEBA). It is an independent trust with assets of $60 billion that is responsible for providing medical, prescription drug, dental and vision benefits to 720,000 hourly retirees, surviving spouses and dependents of General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler. It was established in 2007 through the joint efforts of the Big Three Detroit automakers and the United Automobile Workers Union primarily to protect the health care benefits of hourly retirees and to provide the companies with financial relief from the burdens of legacy costs that eventually contributed to their bankruptcies. Although it is now viewed as a success, there were times in its history when its inception and future were seriously in doubt. A review of its history will inform HR professionals of the problems and solutions they may encounter in establishing a VEBA.

You can read “The Turbulent History of the Nation’s Largest Voluntary Employees’ Beneficiary Association” from Compensation Benefits Review free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to stay current on all of the latest research from Compensation Benefits Review? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Image attributed to Pictures of Money (CC)

ILR Review Special Issue: Work and Employment Relations in Health Care

July 25, 2016

8639003804_2bd2b5f140_zThe August special issue of ILR Review is now available and open to access for the next 30 days! Included in the special issue on Work and Employment Relations in Health Care are papers that discuss the relationship between nurse unions and patient outcomes, the effect of electronic health record adoption on physician productivity, and the impact nurse staffing strategies have on patient satisfaction. In the introductory editorial essay, Ariel C. Avgar, Adrienne E. Eaton, Rebecca Kolins Givan, and Adam Seth Litwin outline the problems inherent in US health care, most notably the fact that despite outspending other countries on health care costs per capita, the US demonstrates above-average rates of medical errors and below-average life expectancies. As the health care system moves toward reform, the authors argue for careful consideration of how workplace dynamics impact the outcomes for everyone involved in health care. The editorial thus highlights the importance of research on work and employment relations in the health care industry:

This special issue of the ILR Review is designed to showcase the central role that work organization and employment relations play in shaping important outcomes such as the quality of care and organizational performance. Each of the articles included in this special issue makes an important contribution to our understanding of the large and rapidly changing health care sector. Specifically, these articles provide novel Current Issue Coverempirical evidence about the relationship between organizations, institutions, and work practices and a wide array of central outcomes across different levels of analysis. This breadth is especially important because the health care literature has largely neglected employment-related factors in explaining organizational and worker outcomes in this industry. Individually, these articles shed new light on the role that health information technologies play in affecting patient care and productivity (see Hitt and Tambe; Meyerhoefer et al.); the relationship between work practices and organizational reliability (Vogus and Iacobucci); staffing practices, processes, and outcomes (Kramer and Son; Hockenberry and Becker; Kossek et al.); health care unions’ effects on the quality of patient care (Arindrajit, Kaplan, and Thompson); and the relationship between the quality of jobs and the quality of care (Burns, Hyde, and Killet). Below, we position the articles in this special issue against the backdrop of the pressures and challenges facing the industry and the organizations operating within it. We highlight the implications that organizational responses to industry pressures have had for organizations, the patients they care for, and the employees who deliver this care.

You can read the special issue of ILR Review free for the next 30 days by clicking here. Want to stay current on all of the latest research published by ILR Review? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Nurse image attributed to COD Newsroom (CC)

An Argument for Compassionate Research Methods

July 22, 2016

9505520762_1ec974cdf1_z[We are pleased to welcome Hans Hansen of Texas Tech University. Hans recently published an article in Organizational Research Methods, entitled “This is Going to Hurt: Compassionate Research Methods” with co-author Christine Quinn Trank of Vanderbilt University.]

Compassionate research hopes to make the world a better place by reducing suffering, but it can also provide our field with new theories, which we desperately need. When you look at the world with a new lens, you see new things, things that other lenses could not reveal. We hope that a compassionate approach can not only reveal new aspects of existing phenomena, but entirely new phenomena as well, and lead to entirely new theories of organizing.

Current Issue Cover

The topic of compassion is making an impact in organizational studies, and interest continues to increase, so our aim was to provide a methodology for this burgeoning field. In addition to moving us in new directions, we also hope to increase compassionate research by clearing outlining a distinct method.

We hope to give the field a push, and just as grounded theory provided a clear method for inductive research, we hope compassionate methods become the guide for compassionate research, and be generative in providing new insights and theories.

The abstract for the paper:

As compassion has become established in the organizational literature as an important area of study, calls for increased compassion in our own work and research have increased. Compassion can take many forms in academic work, but in this article we propose a framework for compassionate research methods. Not only driven by caring for others and a desire for improving their lot, compassionate research methods actually immerse the researcher in compassionate work. We propose that compassionate research methods include three important elements: ethnography, aesthetics, and emotionality. Together, these provide opportunities for emergent theoretical experimentation that can lead to both the alleviation of suffering in the immediate research context and new theoretical insights. To show the possibilities of this method, we use empirical data from a unique setting—the first U.S. permanent death penalty defense team.

You can read “This is Going to Hurt: Compassionate Research Methods” from Organizational Research Methods free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to keep current on all of the latest research from Organizational Research MethodsClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Conversation image attributed to Andreas Bloch (CC)

Introducing Journal of Management Inquiry’s New Section: Generative Curiosity!

July 20, 2016

4601859272_4228421089_zWe are pleased to highlight the introduction of a new section in Journal of Management InquiryDedicated to ideas and curiosity, the new Generative Curiosity section will provide a platform for content that identifies new or ignored facts, phenomenons, patterns, events or other issues of interest. Richard W. Stackman and David R. Hannah elaborate in the latest Editor’s Introduction that the new section is meant to “(a) improve our understanding of how organizations work and how they can be made more effective (Ashforth, 2005); (b) develop and disseminate knowledge that matters to organizations and society (Alvesson & Sandberg, 2013); and (c) address the human condition (van Aken & Romme, 2009).”

Interested in submitting to the new Generative Curiosity section? Richard and David discuss what they’re looking for–

First, the submission should be novel. It may alert readers to something that has received little to no attention, or breathe new life into something seemingly tired or Current Issue Coveroutdated or insufficiently studied. The ideas therein should surprise and motivate readers to engage in sense making (Louis, 1980).

Second, the submission should be consequential, in the sense that it contains, explicitly or implicitly, a call to action to improve the human condition within organizations and society. To paraphrase Donald Hambrick’s 1993 Academy of Management Presidential address, these submissions should lead to work that actually matters (Hambrick, 1994) for the researcher and the practitioner.

Finally, submissions should be fertile. To use a musical metaphor, we are not looking for submissions that are “one-hit-wonders,” that people enjoy reading once, then forget. Instead, we are seeking ideas that birth other ideas, submissions that inspire later submissions. It is our sincere hope that Generative Curiosity submissions will become precursors to better theory and practice.

You can read the full editorial by clicking here, and you can find out more about submitting manuscripts to Journal of Management Inquiry by clicking here. Want to stay current on all of the latest research published by Journal of Management Inquiry? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Light bulb image attributed to Matt Wynn (CC) 

How Can Employers Support Mentally Ill Employees?

July 19, 2016

12178605035_786bf7b47f_mPeople with mental illness often find it daunting to find a job, much less keep one. It may be difficult for a person  with a mental illness, like depression or anxiety, to balance their psychological needs with the stress and demands of a job. The challenge of balancing work and mental health often acts as a barrier to mentally ill people trying to find employment. However, the structure, stability, social exposure, and meaning that employment can provide means working is vital for mentally ill individuals. In addition to the challenges presented by mental illness itself, a significant facet of the issue is that employers may be unwilling to hire and accommodate them. In a recent SAGE Open article, “Employers’ Perspectives on Hiring and Accommodating Workers With Mental Illness,” authors Janki Shankar, Lili Liu, David Nicholas, Sharon Warren, Daniel Lai, Shawn Tan, Jennifer Couture, and Alexandra Sears demonstrate just how urgent it is that employers help to improve the employment rate of the mentally ill. The abstract for the paper:

Many individuals with mental illness want to return to work and stay in employment. Yet, there is little research that has examined the perspectives of employers on hiring and accommodating these workers and the kinds of supports employers need to SAGE Openfacilitate their reintegration into the workforce. The aim of the current research was to explore the challenges employers face and the support they need to hire and accommodate workers with mental illness (WWMI). A qualitative research design guided by a grounded theory approach was used. In-depth interviews were conducted with 28 employers selected from a wide range of industries in and around Edmonton, Canada. The employers were a mix of frontline managers, disability consultants, and human resource managers who had direct experience with hiring and supervising WWMI. Data were analyzed using the principles of grounded theory. The findings highlight several challenges that employers face when dealing with mental health issues of workers in the workplace. These challenges can act as barriers to hiring and accommodating WWMI.

You can read “Employers’ Perspectives on Hiring and Accommodating Workers With Mental Illness”  for free from SAGE Open. You can also find more open access content from SAGE Open, including articles on subjects like management, communication, education and more, by clicking here.

*Mental illness image attributed to Alachua County (CC)

Do the Changing Characteristics of Jobs Impact Job Satisfaction?

July 18, 2016

15400504982_0b3fa842d1_zThe characteristics of jobs have evolved over the last handful of decades, but has the change in the nature of work impacted employee job satisfaction? A recent article published in Journal of Management, entitled “Placing Characteristics in Context: Cross-Temporal Meta-Analysis of Changes in Job Characteristics Since 1975,” seeks to answer this question. Authors Lauren A. Wegman, Brian J. Hoffman, Nathan T. Carter, Jean M. Twenge, and Nigel Guenole studied changes in task identity, task significance, skill variety, autonomy, and feedback from the job to begin looking into the matter. The abstract for the paper:

Despite frequent references to “the changing nature of work,” little empirical research has investigated proposed changes in work context perceptions. To address this gap, this study uses a cross-temporal meta-analysis to examine changes in five core job characteristics (e.g., task identity, task significance, skill variety, autonomy, Current Issue Coverand feedback from the job) as well as changes in the relationship between job characteristics and job satisfaction. An additional analysis of primary data is used to examine changes in two items related to interdependence. On average, workers perceived greater levels of skill variety and autonomy since 1975 and interdependence since 1985. In contrast, the results of a supplemental meta-analysis did not support significant changes in the association between the five core job characteristics and satisfaction over time. Thus, although there is some evidence for change in job characteristics, the findings do not support a change in the value placed on enriched work. Implications for researchers and organizations navigating the modern world of work are highlighted.

You can read “Placing Characteristics in Context: Cross-Temporal Meta-Analysis of Changes in Job Characteristics Since 1975” from Journal of Management free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to stay current on all of the latest research from Journal of ManagementClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Working image attributed to Boris Baldinger (CC)

Relative and Absolute Change in Discontinuous Growth Models

July 15, 2016

6431785919_07c22823c6_z[We’re pleased to welcome Paul Bliese of University of South Carolina. Paul recently published an article in Organizational Research Methods entitled “Understanding Relative and Absolute Change in Discontinuous Growth Models: Coding Alternatives and Implications for Hypothesis Testing” with co-author Jonas W.B. Lang.]

Jonas and I became interested in the topic because we kept encountering “transition events” that could lead to discontinuous change and wondered how to statistically model the events.  For instance, a combat deployment represents a potential transition event in the career of a soldier.  Likewise, unexpectedly changing a complex task on a participant in a lab represents a transition event that could be frustrating and impede performance. As a final example, letting sleep deprived participants get a full night’s sleep is a positive transition event that should improve cognitive Current Issue Coverperformance (but may not do so equally for all participants). In all these examples, some pattern of responses is interrupted by the transition event; however, where the models are really useful is in trying to understand the patterns of change after the transition event because individuals rarely react in the same way.

When Jonas and I got into writing the manuscript we were really surprised by how some minor coding changes surrounding TIME could produce parameter estimates that had quite different meanings. In fact, I realized that if I had figured out all the details that went into the submission years ago, I probably would have specified and tested hypotheses differently in my own publications where I used the approach. My hope is that other researchers will use the manuscript as a resource to study other transition events and that the examples will help provide better specificity to the types of hypotheses researchers can propose.

The abstract for the paper:

Organizational researchers routinely have access to repeated measures from numerous time periods punctuated by one or more discontinuities. Discontinuities may be planned, such as when a researcher introduces an unexpected change in the context of a skill acquisition task. Alternatively, discontinuities may be unplanned, such as when a natural disaster or economic event occurs during an ongoing data collection. In this article, we build off the basic discontinuous growth model and illustrate how alternative specifications of time-related variables allow one to examine relative versus absolute change in transition and post-transition slopes. Our examples focus on interpreting time-varying covariates in a variety of situations (multiple discontinuities, linear and quadratic models, and models where discontinuities occur at different times). We show that the ability to test relative and absolute differences provides a high degree of precision in terms of specifying and testing hypotheses.

You can read “Understanding Relative and Absolute Change in Discontinuous Growth Models: Coding Alternatives and Implications for Hypothesis Testing” from Organizational Research Methods free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to stay current on all the latest research from Organizational Research Methods? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

 

The Dynamic Relationship Between Minor League and Major League Baseball

July 13, 2016

18683790574_271a262a88_zAt first glance, the organizational form of major league and minor league baseball teams may appear straightforward–minor league teams provide training and experience for players, which provides major league teams with a strong recruitment pool. However, a recent paper published in the Journal of Sports Economics by F. Andrew Hanssen, James W. Meehan Jr., and Thomas J. Miceli, entitled “Explaining Changes in Organizational Form: The Case of Professional Baseball,” the authors suggest that the relationship between major league and minor league baseball teams is more dynamic than previously thought. The abstract for the paper:

In this article, we investigate changes over time in the organization of the relationship between Major League Baseball and minor league baseball teams. We develop a model in which a minor league team serves two functions: talent development and local entertainment. The model predicts different modes of Current Issue Coverorganizing the relationship between majors and minors based on the value of these parameters. We then develop a discursive history. Consistent with the model’s predictions, we find that when the value of minor league baseball’s training function was low but the value of its entertainment function was high, major and minor league franchises operated independently, engaging in arms’-length transactions. However, as the training function became more important and the local entertainment function less important, formal agreements ceded control of minor league functions to major league franchises. Finally, as the value of local entertainment rose once again in the late 20th century, the two roles were split, with control of local functions accruing to local ownership and training functions to major league teams. This analysis helps shed light on factors that influence the boundaries of the firm.

You can read “Explaining Changes in Organizational Form: The Case of Professional Baseball” from Journal of Sports Economics free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to stay current on all of the latest research from Journal of Sports EconomicsClick here to sign up for e-alerts!


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