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SIOP Explores New Frontiers


by Stephany Below, SIOP Communications Manager

32nd Annual Conference Boasts Record-Setting Attendance and Several Firsts

SIOP welcomed a record-setting number of industrial-organizational psychologists from around the country and the world to the “Happiest Place on Earth” April 27-29 to take part in the culminating event of the year for SIOP.

The 32nd Annual Conference, which took place at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resort in Orlando, smashed SIOP’s attendance record, with 4,801 registered attendees. This beat out the previous, long-held record for Chicago, which had 4,637 registered attendees in 2011. The 2007 conference in New York City now stands at the third-largest conference, with 4,509 registrations. SIOP welcomed attendees from around 40 different countries and six continents, from as far away as Australia, Pakistan and China as well as many local Orlando professionals.

The conference also showcased a variety of “firsts,’ including new session types, special keynote speaker events, and innovative ways to help attendees communicate and collaborate. Continue reading for a run-down of this year’s highlights!

This year’s conference was once again buzzing with the latest research and practice in I-O psychology. As always, the conference was preceded by a variety of workshops in which attendees could gain in-depth insight on specialized topics. This year’s workshops showcased 11 engaging topics, including “Unpacking New Insights: Visualizing Data to Access the Inaccessible” and “Redesigning Performance Management: Assumptions, Choices and Roadblocks.”

New this year, attendees could use the official SIOP conference mobile app, powered by Whova. Through Whova, attendees could search for, join, and rate sessions; create personal schedules; comment and share their conference experiences and photos with other attendees; and network with those in their field. With a nearly 70% attendee adoption rate, SIOP plans to offer the app next year as well!

The SIOP Visibility Committee once again organized a Top Minds and Bottom Lines event Wednesday night to reach out to local business leaders, students, and HR practitioners about the science and practice of I-O psychology. This year’s event, titled “Picture This: Using Data Visualization for Leadership Effectiveness” was held at the University of Central Florida’s Executive Development Center in downtown Orlando and led by Victoria Mattingly, and organized as well by Amy McKee, Maureen Ambrose, and the SIOP Administrative Office staff. Presenters included Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Evan Sinar, Paul Tsagaroulis, and Amy Walzer. The event attracted around 75 local students and professionals. 

The SIOP Foundation also held its annual dessert reception Wednesday evening, which gave donors and award recipients a chance to mingle while enjoying food and entertainment. New this year was a photo and award presentation by Foundation President Milt Hakel welcoming each award, fellowship, scholarship, and grant winner to the reception before entering. This improved process, which took the place of formal presentations throughout the night, gave winners and donors more time to network and enjoy rest of the evening.

The opening plenary commenced Thursday morning with a moment of silence, led by SIOP President Morton McPhail, in honor of those who lost their lives at the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando last year. Conference Chair Daisy Chang then welcomed attendees to Orlando and introduced Awards Chair Joann Sorra, who presented this year’s recipients. (See the awards story here for a complete list of winners!)

Following the awards presentation, Fellowship Chair Ken De Meuse presented the 21 newest Fellows, elected to the honor for their outstanding contributions of performance in I-O psychology through research, practice, teaching, administration, and professional service. (The SIOP Fellows are listed in a full article here.) Foundation President Milt Hakel also brought members up to date on the Foundation’s work to build I-O’s applied science.

Incoming SIOP President Fred Oswald announced the presidential address of outgoing president Morton McPhail. But first he entertained attendees with a humorous introduction and history of the life of SIOP’s president. During his address, McPhail discussed the topic of change and the future, how SIOP and I-O psychology are already preparing for that future, and some of the challenges still ahead. McPhail highlighted excellent examples of SIOP’s preparations for the future and the use of I-O psychology to solve organizational challenges, such as in preparing for the departure of SIOP Executive Director Dave Nershi and the ongoing process to upgrade SIOP’s Principles for the Validation and Use of Personnel Selection Procedures. (Watch the entire video of the Opening Plenary address in the coming weeks on SIOP’s YouTube channel.)

Following the plenary, the conference continued with more than 900 symposia, panels, posters, special events, and presentations on a wide variety of topics ranging from “I-O Psychology and the Space Program” to “Towards a ‘New Organization’: Building and Measuring Teams” and “Natural Language Processing and Text Mining for I-O Psychologists.” Other topics included employee health and wellness, women in leadership, workplace deviance, bullying, incivility, an aging workforce, talent management strategies, big data, the impact of cultural differences in the workplace, employee turnover, mergers and acquisitions, workplace surveys, employment testing, hiring, social media in the workplace, and work and family issues.

Thursday offered several Theme Track sessions focusing on “Driving Breakthroughs by Anticipating What’s Next: Planning for the Future of I-O Psychology.” In addition, SIOP offered specific tracks for HR practitioners and on the topic of reproducible research. The third annual HR Track highlighted programming attractive to practitioners and HR generalists more broadly. The programs in this track were just a percentage of the total HR sessions offered at the conference, but they touched a variety of topics that have broad appeal

The rest of the conference continued with hundreds of sessions, including invited speakers, panel discussions, master tutorials, Communities of Interest, Friday Seminars, and poster sessions.

A highlight of any conference is the opportunity to network, greet colleagues, and meet new friends. SIOP offered plenty of venues for those exchanges, including several lovely receptions for all attendees as well as special receptions for international members, new attendees, and LGBT and alumni groups. New this year was the Practice Network reception, held by the SIOP Professional Practice Committee. The reception featured Disney-themed fun and entertainment and was a welcome chance for attendees to network and let loose after a long day of sessions.

This year, the members of the SIOP LGBT Committee were busy at the Annual Conference. From a business meeting with guest speaker Gina Duncan from Equality Florida, to a jam packed social hour, to many great sessions containing cutting-edge research on LGBT employees, the committee was truly engaged throughout the conference. However, the committee received a special surprise when the president of Walt Disney World, George Kalogridis, offered to host a happy hour for their membership on Friday night.

Disney opened the Atlantic Dance Hall an hour early just for this event to provide a private space for networking and making new connections. Disney provided a wonderful spread of food, as well as a DJ, to get everyone up and dancing. They also invited their LGBT Pride group to increase connections between SIOP and Disney. The event was a huge success and attendees enjoyed meeting the great folks from Disney. The SIOP LGBT Committee hopes to continue to build upon these relationships in the future and greatly appreciates Disney's commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The Exhibit Hall was bustling with visitors Thursday and Friday, as attendees engaged with representatives at 70 booths. In the exhibit hall, attendees could ask questions, gather literature, test samples, and chat with representatives from some of the leading organizations in the I-O field. Of particular interest this year was the new Committee Zone. At the Committee Zone, attendees could interact with members of various SIOP committees and learn more about their purposes and projects. The Local I-O Groups Committee even staged a SIOP scavenger hunt. Attendees could also learn more about SIOP membership at the Committee zone, including gathering literature about member benefits and asking questions about their membership.

Exhibitors also participated in the first SIOP “Morning Mixer” Friday morning, where they could interact with other conference partners and enjoy a light breakfast.

Bright and early Friday morning, SIOP greeted runners taking part in the 25th annual Frank Landy 5k Run, coordinated by Paul Sackett. Participants got a chance to take in some of the beautiful grounds of the Swan and Dolphin hotel and nearby Boardwalk area while taking part in a unique SIOP tradition!

Also new this year were SIOP’s first conference news event and photo opportunity, both featuring the closing keynote speaker, NASA Astronaut Stanley Love. Dr. Love participated in a news conference Saturday with two SIOP members involved in space team research: Dr. Wendy Bedwell of the University of South Florida, a co-principle investigator on a grant from NASA aimed at understanding crew dynamics as related to team composition, and Dr. Brandon Vessey, Deputy Element Scientist for Flight Analogs at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The news conference, which was open to anyone interested in space flight and how it relates to I-O psychology, was well attended by SIOP members and welcomed a local television crew as well.  

SIOP attendees also had an opportunity to get a photo with Dr. Love in his NASA flight jacket in front of a photo of Mars immediately following the news conference. (Find your Stan Love photos here!)

The conference also included several professional development opportunities, such as CE sessions, the always-busy Placement Center, and the eighth annual Practitioner Speed Mentoring event, where attendees discussed various pertinent I-O topics with seasoned professionals. For the fourth year, attendees could participate in the Science Funding Speed Mentoring event as well. As a part of SIOP’s efforts to strengthen the science foundation of I-O psychology, this event aims at assisting participants interested in pursuing scientific funding opportunities.

The first ever Shaken and Stirred session was more than just an invited session. Attendees watched 15 handpicked thought leaders and mavericks within and outside I-O take just two minutes each to answer one seemingly simple question: “What if...?” (Watch the Shaken and Stirred session on YouTube!)

Stanley Love gave an entertaining and educational closing keynote address to close the conference Saturday afternoon.  He spoke on the topic of “Why It's Hard to Send Humans to Mars.” In addition to giving attendees a brief lesson in rocket science, Love explained many of the intricacies and challenges of space travel in an entertaining and informative manner, noting the role I-O psychologists take in preparing teams of astronauts to work together under the harshest of conditions. Learn more about Dr. Love by reading his full biography here!

Outgoing SIOP President Mort McPhail then passed the ceremonial gavel to incoming President Fred Oswald, who outlined his goals for the coming year, including announcing his presidential theme, Team SIOP. (Read more about President Oswald’s presidential goals on SIOP.org in the coming weeks and check out SIOP’s YouTube page in the coming month for a video of the closing plenary session!). The closing plenary session also included a touching tribute to SIOP’s outgoing executive director, Dave Nershi, who gave a short speech of thanks to all of SIOP’s members and staff for his positive experience at the Society.

The conference concluded with a special Havana Nights closing reception that featured live music and delicious Cuban-inspired cuisine.

The 2018 SIOP Annual Conference will take place April 19–21 at the Chicago Sheraton, so begin making your plans now!

We hope to see you next year in the Windy City!