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Jenny Baker

How Can We as I-Os Better Serve Organizations? Lessons Learned From Esteemed CHROs

Lynn Collins & Mark Morris

A critical challenge for I-Os is the need to better understand and serve the C-suite, first-hand intelligence from these senior executives is uncommon. CHROs reflect most I-O related topics at senior executive meetings, represent our field, and set the talent agenda, so we knew if we could get to that group we could gain valuable insights. We put together a Town Hall session at SIOP with that ambitious goal, to aid and deepen our understanding of how I-Os can better serve organizations. We hand selected five highly esteemed CHROs who have a PhD in I-O and can speak to our audience.  

The session was a big success—the massive room held 600 seats, and few were empty. Few left before time was up and the line to meet the CHROs was huge. We expected the interest level; the Whova app showed that over 400 people were interested in attending. One tweet summed it all up, stating: “The CHRO Town Hall is the best session I’ve ever been to. All five CHROs have PhDs in #IOPsych and started in traditional I-O roles before taking on HRG positions.”  #SIOP19@SIOPtweets

A special thanks is due to each of them: Peter Fasolo (Johnson & Johnson), David Rodriguez (Marriott), Carol Surface (Medtronic), Belinda Hyde (SPX), and Rich Cober (MicroStrategy) for their gift of time, thoughtful insights and very important take-aways! 

The session kicked off with audience participation via a real-time interactive digital poll of how well we are doing in key I-O areas. The range of scores on these practitioner topics ranged from 4.3 to 7.8 on a 10-point scale with an overall mean of 6.4 (See Table 1). Scores reflected a healthy but realistic skepticism, which gives us a chance for sober reflection and to target our own areas for development!    

Table 1

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the effectiveness of industrial organizational psychologists (as a field) in:

Mean (SD)



4.3 (2.2)

Change management

5.5 (2.2)

Succession and workforce planning

5.8 (1.8)


6.2 (2.1)

Improving quality of life  in organizations

6.5 (2.4)

Performance management

6.7 (2.0)

Training and development

6.9 (1.9)

Data analytics and insight

7.8 (1.7)


7.8 (1.5)


Below are the highlights from the CHROs panelist, an edited version of their comments:

What are the top priorities for CHROs?

  • Employee engagement/customer satisfaction. There is a lot of focus on employee engagement and that welfare of employees leads to customer satisfaction. We need to know how to create an employee experience (engagement)/ a place where team members are excited to come in, where they feel like they have the tools to be their best selves at work. Creating and fostering a healthy culture is one of our top priorities.
  • Leadership in a changing world of work. How does leadership need to develop to adjust to fast-changing environments? Leaders are the direct way to how team members experience the organization, they are really important in everything. Therefore, leadership development is a key leverage point.
  • Strategic work force planning. Marriage of humans and machines, how to transition lower level employees as more work gets automated. Building capabilities for the future (innovation, creative marketing) that support strategy.
  • Maximize performance. To enhance the performance of individual, teams and the whole organization. All workstreams need to be working in harmony toward achieving our strategy.


Where can we as I-Os have the greatest impact?

  • Predictive Analytics. We have the power to use data and analytics to support advocating a person or a role. We are uniquely equipped to identify the jobs that add the most value (e.g., revenue, profit, customer retention, engagement) and predict and identify who is most likely going to be the most successful person in whatever role that is.
  • Program Evaluation – Determine What Works. To have the right level of analytics to be able to say with certainty that this is the outcome you will likely achieve and deconstruct the logic of why. We can provide outcome-focused answers, on how to find the best talent, how to engage talent, and how to increase profitability. We need to demonstrate that the investment is worth it, with either quantitative or qualitative data. We should get data to support, confirm and deny what’s working and why. This type of program evaluation is key to driving organizational effectiveness.
  • Accelerate Diversity and Inclusion.  This goes beyond doing the right thing, it helps retain top talent. We can make compelling data-based arguments showing that Leaders who build more diverse/inclusive teams have more innovation.


What is not working, and what is not having the impact it should?

  • Branding. We are not doing a good enough job communicating about the skills and benefits of I-O psychologists. There’s a proliferation of data scientists getting into some of our space. Their skillset misses what we bring with the organization context and behavior.    
  • Speed. We need to shorten the cycle time going from hypothesis, to the research, to the application. We’re operating in a world that is moving faster. Traditional methods of job analysis are not going to work. How do we hack our own research methodologies?
  • Agility. We as a field need to be more responsive to what is going on in organization. We need more actionable research with a primary focus on solving problems, and secondary focus on getting behind the science and learning. Consultants struggle to work at that speed; we need to succeed fast.  
  • Relevance: We each need to firmly understand how your firm makes money and connects to customers.  We can be technically right but lose the audience. We need to learn how to influence and how we add value to stakeholders.

We ended the session with Q&A and we asked the audience what they believe I-Os need to do to most effectively serve organizations-see Exhibit 1 below for more.  Hopefully, we’ll see more workshops, advanced development, and sessions in SIOP 2020 that connect directly to senior business leaders to continue to help I-Os hone these skills! 

Exhibit 1: Themes on “What I-Os need to do to most effectively serve organizations”


  • Drive talent to align with business culture and strategy
  • Build credibility
  • Know how to influence and persuade stakeholders
  • Deeply understand the business case to solve problems
  • Make data-driven decisions
  • Focus on practicality
  • Speak business not science
  • Collaborate with HR professionals of different backgrounds

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