In a session moderated by Noshir Contractor, Northwestern University, three presentations described cutting-edge social and behavioral sciences (SBS) research with the potential to inform the building and professionalization of the analytic workforce. Presenters addressed how to select and recruit those best suited to intelligence analysis, how to foster analysts’ ongoing skill development through autonomous learning, and how to motivate and support the workforce through effective leadership.
Nancy Tippins, The Nancy T. Tippins Group, LLC, began by stating that identifying the requirements of the job and defining the basic skills and abilities candidates need is essential before determining how and where to recruit the best candidates, maintain their interest, and influence their job decisions. She explained that organizational psychologists employ a systematic process to choose from among the many types of selection procedures available for identifying the best candidates for a job. Examples of such approaches are shown in Box 2-1.
The selection process, Tippins continued, begins with a job analysis. She explained that the analysis involves identifying what and how often critical tasks are performed and the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics (KSAOs) needed to perform those tasks. Next, she said, an organizational psychologist identifies (or develops) tests that might be used to measure the relevant KSAOs and validates them to establish their job relevancy. The final step is an implementation phase, which she noted is
important for ensuring that carefully selected and validated tests are used as intended. She identified the final step in the selection process as completing technical documentation of the process.
Tippins stressed the importance of developing criteria that define who will be successful (e.g., who can perform the job, who will stay in the job) and who will not, as well as using a validation process to determine whether the selected measures are identifying candidates who are likely to be successful. She stated that validation is important for two key sets of reasons (1) business reasons, such as ensuring that the tests are job relevant and working as intended; and (2) legal reasons, such as ensuring compliance with relevant federal, state, and local Equal Employment Opportunity laws that protect certain groups.
There are several types of validation strategies, Tippins elaborated. In the criterion-related approach, the validity of a test is established when test scores can be statistically related to a relevant criterion measure (e.g., later performance on the job, accidents, turnover). Content-oriented validation relies on subject-matter experts to identify linkages among the tasks people
perform in their job, the skills and abilities needed to accomplish those tasks, and the constructs the tests measure. Other validation approaches also exist, Tippins said, but these typically rely on validation studies conducted in other settings.
Tippins went on to observe that content- and criterion-related validity approaches each have pros and cons. She identified several benefits of content-related approaches. First, she said, they take less time and fewer people to execute, which also means they are usually less expensive to implement. Second, because identifying acceptable criteria (e.g., indicators that a person is doing a good job) is difficult and collecting criterion data can be especially difficult in some work environments, not having to develop criteria can be a benefit. In addition, Tippins noted, subject-matter experts are often willing to participate in content validation because it requires them to make judgments rather than reveal information about their own skills and abilities. On the other hand, she pointed out that from a legal defensibility point of view, content validation is often insufficient for addressing concerns about fairness and bias in the testing process and may not be sufficient for yielding measures of personality and intelligence.
Tippins then turned to criterion-related validation approaches, describing them as potentially challenging but also frequently considered the “gold standard” in validation, particularly when investigating fairness and bias in hiring and establishing the “business necessity of the test” when legal challenges arise. She explained that criterion-related approaches to validation can either be concurrent, which entails gathering test data from current employees as well as candidates and matching scores to their current job performance (or other criteria), or predictive, which entails gathering test data from candidates and matching the data to their future job performance (or other criteria). However, she noted, delaying validation until after a test has been implemented can present difficulties in defending the selection procedures if legal and administrative challenges arise. She added that both approaches to criterion-related validity establish validity through the statistical relationship between the predictors and criteria.
Tippins continued by observing that identifying appropriate criteria may be one of the greatest challenges to any criterion-related validation effort, and that collecting data on predictors and criteria can be time-consuming and expensive. She stated that concurrent validation studies have special challenges because they use current employees to provide test data and often provide criterion data (e.g., job performance ratings). She gave as an example that the use of current employees to take a test for validation purposes means those employees must take time away from their job duties to complete the testing, which may affect an organization’s productivity and bottom line. She identified as another challenge to using staff to provide predictors and data that current employees often do not like
being tested on their skills and abilities. In some cases (e.g., supervisor and incumbent are in the same union), she observed, supervisors are reluctant to provide accurate job performance ratings.
As a final challenge in selecting the measures for a candidate assessment program, Tippins noted that large representative samples are required to gather the statistics needed to examine validity. She stressed the importance of ensuring that validation approaches are feasible from a statistical standpoint based on the organization’s ability to gather data from a sufficiently large sample.
In addition to determining the validity of a test—how well it is likely to work—Tippins continued, it is important to identify appropriate selection procedures for selecting the best candidates to be intelligence analysts. Some selection approaches, she observed, may address certain aspects of the job but not other, important ones, which could affect how well a candidate is ultimately able to perform the entire job. She provided a list of factors to consider (see Box 2-2) in selecting the measures for a candidate assessment program.
Tippins next offered her views on how well different selection tools work for different purposes. She believes, for example, that structured interviews are fair only in predicting job success and relatively poor in predicting turnover. However, she added, there is usually little adverse impact associated with these interviews, and most job applicants expect to be inter-
viewed. By contrast, she said, measures of cognitive ability are often some of the best predictors of job performance, especially for complex jobs, but they frequently have high adverse impacts on racial and ethnic minorities and draw mixed reactions from some job applicants.
Tippins went on to observe that different assessment approaches are also associated with different costs. She noted that structured interviews, cognitive ability tests, and personality tests are relatively low cost, whereas approaches that involve creating biographical data or situational judgment items or work simulations are more complex and costly. She explained further that work simulations and their scoring procedures are somewhat challenging to develop, and they are often expensive to administer because subject-matter experts are needed to observe and score the behaviors exhibited. In general, she said, paper-and-pencil tests are less costly to administer because they incur fewer personnel costs relative to structured interviews and work simulations, which require greater investment of time, personnel, and costs.
As previously described by Clark, Tippins stressed that intelligence analysts need to be able to conduct research and write both short and longer papers for policy makers, as well as analyze and think critically, work well with others and collaborate, communicate effectively, and debate a position constructively. She offered examples of possible approaches for identifying candidates who possess these skills and abilities. The first approach was a structured interview question asking candidates about experiences when they demonstrated certain KSAOs. The interviewer would then rate the response using behavioral anchors that indicate what is and is not a good response. A second example cited by Tippins was situational judgment items that present applicants with a scenario and ask them to choose the best option for describing what they would do. She explained that such items are often multiple choice and require subject-matter experts to determine the point values associated with the various choices. Abstract cognitive ability tests and personality tests could also be appropriate, she said. She added that simulations, which involve assigning candidates a role to play and tasks to perform and are also scored by multiple raters on behaviorally anchored rating scales, enable recruiters to see how well a candidate demonstrates his or her KSAOs.
Tippins then listed important questions to consider when choosing a candidate selection approach:
- What does the job require on day 1?
- To what extent will the test(s) accurately measure the ability to perform the job?
- How many of the job requirements will be covered in the selection program? What is missing?
- What are the costs to build (or buy), maintain, administer, and score the test(s)? How much time will it (they) take?
- What effect on diversity will the test(s) have?
- Will the test(s) help build the employment brand? How will applicants react?
Tippins emphasized the importance of taking into account how and when candidates are trained. “If extensive training is provided on the job, you are not selecting people for what they need to be able to do after training. You are selecting people for what they need to know how to do on their very first day of the job [after training].”
Tippins then turned to the subject of recruitment, explaining that it is the process of identifying candidates, getting them interested in the organization, influencing their job choice, and ultimately bringing in the right people for the job. She stated that the success of candidate generation can be measured by the quantity, quality, and/or diversity of the applicant pool. Once the recruiting process has been completed, she suggested, it can be useful to examine the performance and tenure of the individuals recruited to evaluate the recruiting and selection processes.
To generate applicants, Tippins continued, recruiters can pursue a variety of sources with both active and passive candidates, such as career websites, recruitment firms, social media, and college placement offices. She stressed, however, that organizations need to recruit where candidates with the requisite KSAOs are likely to be, which requires research. Research shows, she noted, that employee referrals often lead to the best outcomes—better job performance and longer tenure.
Tippins also emphasized that candidates receive information from many sources. “One of the points I think is really important to consider when you are thinking about your recruiting program,” she said, “is that everything that occurs [is printed in public media] about your organization has an effect on the candidate pool if that candidate hears and sees and reads it. Bad news in the newspaper can have an impact, as well as what you [the organization] are sending out.”
Tippins stressed further that all interactions between candidates and people in the organization (e.g., recruiters, hiring managers) affect candidates’ interest in pursuing employment with the organization. She observed that candidates prefer those who are warm, informative, competent, and trustworthy. She added that, while the demographic characteristics of recruiters or their similarity to candidates may not have a consistent effect, there is a relationship between the values and demographic characteristics of candidates and how they respond to the messages of recruiters or others in the organization. Accordingly, she suggested, organizations may need to adapt to the changing needs and values of the candidate pool over time.
Moreover, she said, candidates are not necessarily a homogeneous group, and individual differences across candidates mean that organizations may need to recruit using multiple methods and messages. She added that the context, job-relatedness, and feedback and explanations candidates receive about an organization’s selection procedures all can affect their perceptions of the organization and their willingness to accept a job.
Discussion with the audience about the recruitment and selection processes centered on the usefulness of personality testing. Tippins noted that personality tests have lower validity relative to other forms of testing (e.g., cognitive ability tests). However, they often increase the level of prediction achieved in a test battery over and above cognitive ability testing. In her view, work simulations may provide better information about personality characteristics, such as tenacity. A participant suggested that personality characteristics are important because they can provide key indicators of capacities for growth and leadership, observing that measures of personality are improving, and recent research has been examining the complex relationship between personality and context. Another participant agreed that personality measures are becoming increasingly sophisticated and suggested that they might measure key aspects of performance, such as organizational citizenship or counterproductive behavior, that simply measuring cognitive ability would not capture. He added that it is important to take the complexity of the job into account. Ted Clark, CENTRA Technology, Inc., explained that internships have also proven useful in identifying personality traits that are and are not well suited to the intelligence analyst position.
Jill Ellingson, University of Kansas, described autonomous learning as one approach to workforce training that may meet the needs of the IC. She defined it as a form of training that allows for developing skills on the job, as opposed to training that occurs outside of that context. She asserted that, while formal or structured training can be a very effective way to deliver information and content, it is not always well suited to helping people address questions and overcome challenges that arise in the course of their work, and that much of what people learn about how to do their jobs effectively occurs through informal learning.
In her recent book on the topic, Autonomous Learning in the Workplace,1 Ellingson and her colleague, Raymond Noe, define autonomous learning and examine the existing research on this approach. Elaborating on the ap-
1 Ellingson, J.E., and Noe, R.A. (Eds.). (2017). Autonomous Learning in the Workplace. New York: Taylor & Francis.
proach, she explained that autonomous learning is voluntary, unstructured, independent, and job relevant, adding that its voluntary nature is one of its most notable differences from traditional approaches to training. She added that, instead of being required, imposed, or the result of a performance review in which goals are established by a supervisor, autonomous learning is based on employees identifying and anticipating their own skill needs, and then voluntarily seeking out a means for learning what they want to learn.
Autonomous learning is also unstructured, Ellingson noted, without formal objectives, prescribed materials, or assessments. “The learner becomes the instructor,” she said. “The learner decides what he or she is going to access from a materials perspective. The learner may or may not practice, seek feedback, or decide to evaluate themselves. They have complete control over that process.” She added that employees identify the options for fulfilling their learning needs, such as seeking mentors or resources for improving their knowledge in a content area. Similarly, she explained, autonomous learning is also independent, and not administered or supported by management. This means, she observed, that it happens outside of the organization’s infrastructure and does not require administrative approval. This approach, she said, involves employees actively taking advantage of opportunities they identify within a setting that empowers them and provides them the freedom to do so.
Ellingson also stressed that autonomous learning is job relevant, so it can help employees do their jobs more effectively and put them on a path for success in their careers. Ultimately, she asserted, it can assist the organization in being more productive. She added that employees are more likely to be motivated to pursue autonomous learning when they can see its benefits, either in advancing their career or improving their work environment: “They can understand why what they are learning today is going to allow them to better their career or further their career in some way tomorrow.”
Ellingson then pointed out that various aspects of how intelligence analysts work and learn make autonomous learning a potentially useful approach for them. First, she observed, analysts’ skills are honed during real-time experiences through practice and mentoring. Although analysts attend a 4-month training, the transfer of learning from that setting to the work is not automatic, she suggested. Second, according to Ellingson, knowledge sharing and collaboration among peers, across teams, and from senior to junior analysts are essential to the work, requiring that the analysts be proactive in reaching out to others and knowing whom to contact. Third, she said, analysts need to be able to learn from mistakes and turn them into positive opportunities for reflection. Errors are common in settings where people must learn by doing, she added, so it can be important to foster an environment that allows the analyst to grow from mistakes rather than becoming paralyzed by them. Fourth, she stated that analysts
must learn quickly because their work is intense, challenging, and stressful, and the stress of working on crises and tight deadlines and with very senior officials requires a learning approach that accommodates those realities. Finally, she noted that the knowledge analysts need to have necessarily shifts as issues and regions of interest shift over time, so analysts need to be able to learn quickly and change if they want to remain relevant and advance in their careers.
Thus, Ellingson sees autonomous learning as useful to analysts in the IC because it “supports skill development when employees must respond to nonroutine, unpredictable, and shifting task demands and requirements.” Because it is malleable and flexible, she observed, analysts can identify the critical areas they need to develop further as their needs shift, whereas formal training is generally much more structured and static in nature. She added that autonomous learning also supports employees who are self-directed and possess the motivation and intelligence needed to take responsibility for their own growth, so that it aligns well with the skill sets and dispositions analysts often possess.
Ellingson also pointed out that the ability to learn whenever and wherever needed is well suited to the work context of the intelligence analyst, who already is working long hours. “The research tells us,” she said, “that time-based work interference [with] family is the number one constraint against informal or autonomous learning,” adding that learning during work hours is often more acceptable to employees and that autonomous learning can be integrated into the analyst’s work day. She suggested that organizations can foster learning by allowing employees to identify times in their day when they have the most attentional energy. When a workshop participant mentioned that managers may prefer that their employees devote their attentional energy primarily to work tasks, Ellingson argued that learning is future oriented and is a valuable part of achieving the strategic vision an organization may have.
Ellingson continued by observing that autonomous learning is also uniquely suited to facilitating the transfer of tacit knowledge—wisdom, experience, and implicit understanding—between analysts through mentor-ships and other relationships and resources. “There is a lot of information flow back and forth, and most of that is probably never written down,” she said, asserting that autonomous learning is “great for helping people understand how work gets done.” A participant elaborated on this idea by suggesting that analysts need a certain level of savviness and social proficiency to gain this tacit knowledge.
Ellingson then provided several examples of autonomous learning (see Box 2-3). She suggested that even though these types of activities may already be occurring, organizations should consider how to harness this autonomous learning. To do so, she added, requires identifying how to sup-
port it, incentivize it, and maintain it while preserving its voluntary nature, an area in which additional research is needed. She then cited examples of potential research questions that would increase understanding of the impact of and ways to support autonomous learning:
- Are there actions that others can take that will facilitate an analyst’s adaptive mimicry?
- How can an error management mindset be reinforced in the analyst to help ensure that mistakes are empowering rather than debilitating?
- What characteristics should the leader within an analyst community of practice possess?
- Which self-regulatory tactics would best support analysts who elect to take on challenging new tasks?
- How can managers protect analysts’ efforts toward autonomous learning during work hours?
- Is the risk of failing to learn from feedback greater when the feedback source is a senior colleague relative to a peer?
Following Ellingson’s presentation, workshop participants discussed the challenge of motivating or encouraging employees who are not natu-
rally inclined to engage in autonomous learning. Ellingson noted that in general, intelligence analysts are likely to be intelligent and motivated; however, those who are particularly proactive could be studied as a group to identify the characteristics they possess and the contexts that foster being proactive. Steve Zaccaro, George Mason University, whose presentation followed Ellingson’s (see below), observed that people who are more curious tend to be more proactive in seeking to solve problems and find solutions. He suggested that it could be useful to seek out and validate ways of identifying people with this quality. He added that managers can establish a learning climate and recognize the importance of autonomous learning.
Nancy Cooke, Arizona State University, expressed the view that whether autonomous learning is a job requirement remains an open question, and that identifying measurable behaviors associated with autonomous learning would enable further study of its components and its validity. Zaccaro suggested that creating a work climate that encourages learning and talking to people about their interests or provides a structure or incentives for learning might help motivate those who do not pursue autonomous learning automatically. Both Zaccaro and Ellingson agreed that leaders can foster dialogue and partnership around learning goals and serve as a resource for learning without being directive. Ellingson said she has noticed a move away from paternalistic models of employee development. In her experience, organizations have assigned more responsibility to individuals, and she suggested that it is now incumbent upon individuals to take advantage of this shift. Zaccaro observed that these dynamics represent a Western view of leadership, and perspectives from other cultures could be useful to consider. Ellingson also stressed that individual members of the workforce need to understand the importance both of their current work and of preparing themselves for future demands.
Zaccaro began by suggesting that “perhaps the fundamental task of organizational leadership is to foster a willingness by organizational members to exert effort, devote high effort or resources to the organization.” Whenever an individual joins a group, he observed, there is a balance and tension between individual and group needs. This tension, he asserted, requires compromise and balance from individuals, but leaders have the task of fostering its resolution.
Although the executives that lead an organization need to motivate individuals and teams, Zaccaro continued, sometimes it is important for them to motivate other leaders (i.e., middle managers). Middle managers must manage one or more teams or departments, he observed, which requires
a different strategy from that used for direct leadership. Middle managers often must meet both current work demands and the developmental needs of their teams, he noted, a tension that Clark said he has observed in intelligence settings. Zaccaro added that executives leading whole organizations have an even more complex motivational task. In his view, the research literature pays insufficient attention to how motivational dynamics change across these different levels.
At the individual level, Zaccaro continued, important criteria for motivation include trust; self-efficacy (the belief that one can do a required task); engagement; and commitment/attachment to one’s organization, one’s team, and one’s leaders. He went on to explain that at the team level, as people interact, a “motivational emergent state” occurs, characterized by trust, cohesion, and a collective sense that the team can accomplish what it needs to do. Ideally, he added, the team begins to think of itself as a trusting unit. Finally, he said, at the organizational level, psychological safety becomes a major factor. Organizations also can have a sense of efficacy, he noted, and particular organizational climates contribute to motivation.
Zaccaro focused on three functions of leaders that are especially important for motivating the workforce. First, he said, “leaders are fundamentally responsible for setting direction in any leadership context in any domain.” Second, leaders manage the group in accordance with that direction. Zaccaro emphasized that while managing involves many aspects, facilitating engagement is particularly important. Third, he said, leaders promote learning and growth. He stated that those three functions together play important roles in motivation.
According to Zaccaro, setting direction starts with a vision, which he defined as an idealized image of where the organization or team should go. He argued that a strong ideological component is key to a vision because it provides the motivational impetus for the vision’s followers. Research has shown, he stated, that when a leader articulates a vision effectively, followers will bind their self-identity to the leader, to the vision, and to the values it represents. He pointed to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech as a perfect example of effective vision setting.
Next, Zaccaro continued, strategy provides the team with the plan for achieving the vision. He identified as key to an effective strategy from a motivational standpoint explaining both the plan for what needs to be done, or the strategy, and why, or the strategic intent. He noted that many leaders fail to provide the reasoning behind and rationale for their strategies. “Motivating the workforce and motivating change requires an absolute understanding of why that must happen,” he said, adding that research
indicates that communicating strategic intent fosters team adaptability and performance.2
Zaccaro identified as the next step in direction setting providing operational plans and tasks. He emphasized the importance of connecting the intent of the plan to those tasks, noting that several theories offer explanations for why these direction-setting steps are important for motivation. He pointed first to job design theory, which posits that the meaningfulness or significance of the work is an important motivating characteristic of a job. The communication of strategic intent explains why the work is meaningful, he observed, and can be highly motivating. Role theory offers a second explanation, he said, noting that motivation decreases when roles are ambiguous or unclear. Third, he cited models about trust, especially knowledge-based trust, which posit that trust is fostered when people know what they and other people are supposed to do. He added that theories about shared cognition have also been supported by research; for example, research shows that when members of a group have high-quality mental models—ideas or representations of how something works—collective efficacy increases.3 Communicating strategic intent helps foster these high-quality models, he stated, which can prove especially important for persistence in the face of challenging circumstances.4 Finally, he pointed to self-regulation theory, which suggests that strategic and operational clarity supports better time management and planning for contingencies, both of which are linked to higher employee engagement.5
Zaccaro went on to observe that, in addition to setting direction, leaders can take steps to facilitate engagement among members of their teams. Although he acknowledged debate about the term “engagement” in the leadership literature, he interprets it as “exerting your whole self into the organizational work.” Research indicates, he said, that engagement fosters creativity and innovation. He added that creativity can both require motivation and be a motivational task but requires a great deal of effort and cognitive resources, stressing that breaking free from typical frames of reference or familiar routines requires a high level of engagement. He em-
2 Marks, M.A., Sabella, M.J., Burke, C.S., and Zaccaro, S.J. (2002). The impact of cross-training on team effectiveness. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(1), 3–13.
3 Mathieu, J.E., Rapp, T.L., Maynard, M.T., and Mangos, P.M. (2010). Interactive effects of team and task shared mental models as related to air traffic controllers’ collective efficacy and effectiveness. Human Performance, 23(1), 22–40.
4 Marks, M.A., Sabella, M.J., Burke, C.S., and Zaccaro, S.J. (2002). The impact of cross-training on team effectiveness. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(1), 3–13.
5 Parke, M.R., Weinhardt, J.M., Brodsky, A., Tangirala, S., and DeVoe, S.E. (2018). When daily planning improves employee performance: The importance of planning type, engagement, and interruptions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 103(3), 300–312. doi: 10.1037/apl0000278.
phasized further that creating a state of psychological safety is particularly important to environments in which members of a group can be motivated, engaged, and creative.
According to Zaccaro, psychological safety refers to “people’s perceptions of the consequences of taking interpersonal risks in a particular context, such as a workplace.”6 He identified it as necessary for people to be willing to push back against one set of ideas with another or ask questions. “That kind of state is crucial for what we call knowledge work,” he asserted, “where the work consists primarily of thinking.” Research focused on how groups think collectively, he noted, indicates that psychological safety is linked to individual voice behavior, organizational commitment, and job engagement. At the team level, he added, the psychological safety of the team’s climate has been linked to team effort, information sharing, and learning. Finally, he explained that at the organizational level, the psychological safety of the organization is associated with greater knowledge exchange and organizational learning.
Zaccaro went on to discuss Project Aristotle, in which Google examined more than 180 teams and 250 entrepreneurs, reporting that it identified five attributes of effective teams: dependability, structure and clarity, meaning, impact, and psychological safety. Contractor commented that this study has been criticized because of the potential limited ability to generalize its findings beyond Google employees—most of whom have high cognitive ability—but suggested that the findings spurred interest in the use of data analytics to find the right people for positions to build a strong workforce. He added that the findings suggest it may be important to gain a better understanding of the construct of the willingness to fail and learn from mistakes on an individual level and the psychological safety of the group.
Zaccaro then described research that supports five actions leaders can take to foster psychological safety, engagement, and motivation: (1) fostering emotional regulation and management, (2) communicating high expectations, (3) building confidence, (4) facilitating and accepting questions, and (5) mentoring and coaching. These actions, he elaborated, are associated with leadership styles that have been called “transformational, charismatic, servant, and humble.”7 Expanding on these leadership styles, he explained that leaders can be more effective at motivating the workforce not when
6 Edmondson, A.C., and Lei, Z. (2014). Psychological safety: The history, renaissance, and future of an interpersonal construct. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 1(1), 23–43.
7 Encyclopedia of Management. (2009). Leadership theories and studies. In Encyclopedia of Management online (6th ed., pp. 462–467). Available: http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CCX3273100155&v=2.1&u=psucic&it=r&p=GVRL&sw=w [April 2018].
they are dominant and in charge, but when they put the needs and motives of their employees ahead of their own.
According to Zaccaro, the importance of promoting learning and growth has been a recent focus of leadership research. He stressed that leaders have a responsibility to increase human capital in the workplace. This can be achieved through selection and hiring, he observed, but also by fostering a learning climate throughout the organization and providing developmental experiences and assignments as learning opportunities for employees. He distinguished this from autonomous learning in that managers have a greater role in establishing the goals for learning or providing assignments.
Zaccaro asserted that developmental assignments can be particularly motivational for employees when provided at key points in their careers and can foster remaining with an organization longer. His research on this topic countered the common belief that individuals with high cognitive capacity in the army left the army for better opportunities.8 Instead, he reported, people with high cognitive capacity and creative thinking and complex problem-solving skills tended to stay in the army longer because they were more likely to receive assignments that promoted their development. He pointed out that more recent research supports these conclusions, indicating that supportive leadership that includes assignments tailored to personal needs, feedback, and coaching, coupled with novel tasks, fosters personal learning and growth.9 Other research, he added, suggests that feedback may be especially important to reaping the benefits of developmental assignments.10
Zaccaro also noted that collective leadership—individuals working together to accomplish leadership functions—can foster workforce motivation beyond the influences of leadership functions. Collective leadership can be rotated among different individuals, he observed, either distributed, with different leadership functions being assigned to different individuals, or simultaneous.11 These approaches to leadership, he added, can contribute
8 Zaccaro, S.J., Connelly, S., Repchick, K.M., Daza, A.I., Young, M.C., Kilcullen, R.N., Gilrane, V.L., Robbins, J.M., and Bartholomew, L.N. (2015). The influence of higher order cognitive capacities on leader organizational continuance and retention: The mediating role of developmental experiences. The Leadership Quarterly, 26(3), 342–358. doi: 10.1016/j. leaqua.2015.03.007.
9 Jiang, Y., Jackson, S., and Colakoglu, S. (2016). Team context as a form of experiential learning: Impact of team leadership climate and task characteristics on team members’ learning. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 37, 654–672.
10 DeRue, D.S., and Wellman, N. (2009). Developing leaders via experience: The role of developmental challenge, learning orientation, and feedback availability. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(4), 859–875.
11 Contractor, N.S., DeChurch, L.A., Carson, J., Carter, D.R., and Keegan, B. (2012). The topology of collective leadership. Leadership Quarterly, 23(6), 994–1011.
to workforce motivation to the extent that trust and psychological safety are fostered. He cited a recent meta-analysis showing that “when you have shared leadership, you begin to see more trust, psychological safety, which contributes to more shared leadership.” He stated that “collective leadership leads to higher collective efficacy.”12,13
Zaccaro then suggested that one way of thinking about collective leadership is as a leadership network, in which people in an organization are acting both as leaders and as followers through informal structures. These networks and individual roles within them shift over time across different problems and dynamics, he observed. He asserted that workforce effectiveness is optimized when shifts in these leadership networks are aligned with the needs and challenges of the organization, and that it is the job of organizational leadership to foster that alignment. He identified collective leadership and leadership networks as an intriguing avenue for future research on leadership and workforce motivation.
During the discussion following his presentation, Zaccaro spoke to generational differences in motivation in the workforce, noting that there are generational differences in what individuals expect from leadership in the workplace. Millennials may place a higher value on having a voice in leadership through shared or collective leadership, he observed, adding that they may place greater emphasis or value on the meaningfulness of their work relative to members of other generations.
12 Chen, M.-F. (2015). Self-efficacy or collective efficacy within the cognitive theory of stress model: Which more effectively explains people’s self-reported proenvironmental behavior? Journal of Environmental Psychology, 42, 66–75. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2015.02.002.
13 Nicolaides, V.C., LaPort, K.A., Chen, T.R., Tomassetti, A.J., Weis, E.J., Zaccaro, S.J., and Cortina, J.M. (2014). The shared leadership of teams: A meta-analysis of proximal, distal, and moderating relationships. The Leadership Quarterly, 25(5), 923–942.