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SIOP Courts the Houston Business Community



The 2013 Conference saw an effort by SIOP to reach out to business leaders to introduce them to the capabilities of I-O

SIOP, for the first time, conducted a preconference event designed especially for Houston area business and HR leaders on April 10.

Building a strategy to identify, develop, and retain top level talent was the focus of the session, which was planned by the Visibility Committee with assistance from the Professional Practices Committee. “The purpose was to demonstrate how I-O psychology can provide evidence-based scientific solutions that add value to businesses and organizations,” said Carl Persing, Visibility Committee chair.

“One of SIOP’s goals is to demonstrate how I-O psychology can make key contributions to businesses and organizations. We leveraged the annual SIOP conference to reach out to local business and organization leaders and introduce them to a few different aspects of I-O that are highly relevant and visible to them,” said Jolene Skinner of Towers Watson, based in Dallas, who facilitated the special session.

The session was entitled “Just For You: Strategy-Driven Executive Talent Management” and featured presentations by three SIOP members: Jeff Facteau, vice president of professional services at SHL, who discussed how organizations can more reliably identify high-potential executive talent; Lorraine Stomski, partner at Aon Hewitt, who focused on approaches to developing and coaching top talent; and Allan Church, vice president at PepsiCo, who described unique drivers that keep talent engaged and inspired.

The target audience included senior leaders and decision makers as well as HR leaders with organizations located in the Greater Houston area. They were people who may not know much about I-O and were not attending the conference. For some of the attendees, it was their first in-depth exposure to I-O and SIOP.

Although turnout was small (about 25), the response of attendees was very favorable, and organizers consider the effort an important first step and believe that similar sessions could become a regular feature at future SIOP conferences and at the leading edge consortia.

“We are already working on strategies to reach a broader audience and are confident we can increase attendance at these meetings,” said Skinner.

In his presentation, Facteau noted that human capital concerns topped the list of CEO challenges in a 2013 survey by The Conference Board and that many organizations have implemented high potential programs to accelerate performance and build a leadership pipeline.

He described high potential employees as those with the ability, engagement, and aspiration to rise to and succeed in more senior critical positions.

However, identifying those most likely to benefit from the investment in a high potential program requires a great deal of care. One of the best methods is individual assessment by trained and experienced assessors employing validated assessment tools targeted at characteristics indicative of potential, Facteau said.

Stomski said that Aon Hewitt’s Top Companies for Leaders Research showed that leaders are best developed through on-the-job experiences (70%), coaching and feedback (20%), and education and training (10%).

Among the best practices that accelerate leadership growth is challenging high potentials with assignments outside their comfort zones and putting them in higher business situations that bring out the best learning. Others include exposure and visibility to the board of directors, structured opportunities for peer networking, customized leadership training, and hard hitting but balanced feedback on leadership behaviors and capabilities that is crucial in helping participants focus on specific areas to develop.

She added that organizations should identify and nurture leaders from diverse populations within the company, in particular women and Gen Y employees, by providing leadership development programs and special projects and assignments.

Church focused his presentation on using data-driven methods to understand, engage, and retain top talent.

He cited a 2010 study that showed high-potential employees were most motivated by a clear career path and planning. Also listed high were greater authority and feedback and conversations.

He said surveys are one of the most powerful tools an organization can employ to determine key drivers of engagement and retention. “With the right application, you can focus insights on any targeted group of employees.”

Key considerations in survey applications for measuring engagement include identifying the right sample, having the right type of data and process, and asking the right questions.

Other factors impacting engagement and retention are transparency as well as validity and consistency of high potential designation, competiveness of total rewards package, visibility and impact of leadership talent decisions, and employee life-stage considerations.