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Watching brief: US Federal Government’s new research on inclusion

United States, Office of Personnel Management Research Release, November, 2012

High potentials in the pipeline: Leaders pay it forwardIn 2011 President Obama issued a diversity directive to all US Federal Agencies. This directive has led the Office of Personnel Management to undertake innovative new research on inclusion.  Bruce Stewart, Deputy Director and Ray Parr, Chief Data Scientist at the OPM provide a briefing on their findings.

Background:

The New IQ refers to inclusive intelligence, and consists of 20 questions that were identified through a rigorous factor analysis trial of OPM’s Employee Viewpoint Survey (EVS) questions. These 20 EVS questions had the highest correlation to inclusive environments of the 87 questions tested. The 20 questions are grouped into 5 Habits of inclusion, “FOCSE” (Fairness, Open-mindedness, Cooperativeness, Supportive, Empowered). Furthermore, the 20 EVS questions are referred to in our research as “behaviors”. The New IQ is built upon the concept that individual behaviors in the form of habits create an inclusive environment. These behaviors can be learned, practiced, and developed into habits of mind thereby improving the inclusive intelligence of organizational members.

Research Question:

Research tells us that workplace inclusion is a contributing factor to employee engagement and organizational performance. One of the major issues facing organizations and the US Federal Government in regard to inclusion is how to properly measure it and improve an inherently intangible aspect of group interaction.

Research Methodology:

A comprehensive literature review was conducted to identify the latest insights regarding the impact of inclusive practices on organizational performance, employee satisfaction and engagement, and conflict reduction.  In 2011, Shore et al. performed an extensive review of research literature on the topic and found that inclusion as defined by belongingness and uniqueness was associated with higher job satisfaction.  Specifically, studies showed that inclusion was positively correlated with employee satisfaction (Acquavita et al., 2009) and that exclusion from decision making is a predictor of attrition (Mor Barak et al., 2006).

Subsequently, a factor analysis was conducted on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) FedView Employee View Point Survey (EVS) data. (The EVS is an 87 question annual employee perception survey administered governemntwide by OPM. The data from this survey was utilized as the basis of the respective research).  The Factor Analysis was used to determine which question items from EVS were tied to aspects of inclusion in the workplace. This process consisted of preliminary factory analysis carried out separately by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) at OPM and ODI at Veterans affairs, after which results were compared for government-wide and agency specific data.

Findings and Insights:

Analysis of the data identified 20 questions from the 87 question EVS indicated positive correlations to the formation and sustainment of an inclusive organizational environment. Further, the 20 questions clustered around 5 factors that were later renamed habits. The corresponding habits are:

  •  Fair
  • Open
  • Cooperative
  • Supportive
  • Empowerment.

Based on the data it seems likely that the integration of the aforementioned “inclusive habits” into the daily leadership, management, and employee actions could positively impact organizational and team performance in the areas of improved teamwork and better utilization of talent, increased resiliency and retention, increased innovation and creativity, and improved team performance and productivity.
Additionally, there is substantial research to indicate the increased inclusiveness can accelerate “group intelligence” which is a team characteristic that has been positively linked to increased innovation and more efficient and accurate problem-solving.

Next Steps:

Further research into the area of habit formation and sustainment is forthcoming. It is the belief of the researchers that most managers and employees are familiar with the “management and employee” behaviors that are connected to improved inclusiveness and productivity, but the challenges of the 21st century work environment conspire to blunt these required and known actions.  Understanding and fostering a deeper framework for habit formation is one possible method to increase usage of and internalization of inclusive behaviors and the subsequent habits.

Further areas of research will examine the relationship of the inclusive intelligence, group intelligence, and increased innovation logic chain. Does increased inclusiveness lead to improved group intelligence?  And if so, does group intelligence lead to more innovation within the US Federal Government.

Finally, research will be conducted to identify the impact of the New IQ approach to increased productivity and performance outcomes in selected federal agencies.

References:

Acquavita, S. P., Pittman, J., Gibbons, M., & Castellanos-Brown, K. (2009). Personal and organizational diversity factors’ impact on social workers’ job satisfaction: Results from a national Internet-based survey.  Personality and Social Psychology Review.

April, K. & Blass, E., (2010). Measuring Diversity Practice and Developing Inclusion. University of Cape Town (SA) & Ashridge Business School (UK) and Eddie Blass (Senior Lecturer, University of Hertfordshire (UK).

Gallup Organization, (February 2005). Q12 Employee Engagement Survey, performed in the Food and Drug Administration.

Mor Barak, M. E. (2000). Beyond affirmative action: Toward a model of diversity and organizational inclusion. Administration in Social Work,

Mor Barak, M. E., Cherin, D. A., & Berkman, S. (1998). Organizational and personal dimensions in diversity climate: Ethnic and gender differences in employee diversity perceptions. Journal of Applied Behavioral Sciences

Mor Barak, M. E., Levin, A., Nissly, J. A., & Lane, C. J. (2006). Why do they leave? Modeling child welfare workers’ turnover intentions. Children and Youth Services Review.

Nishii, L. H. (2010). The benefits of climate for inclusion for diverse groups. Unpublished paper, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

Nishii, L. H., & Mayer, D. M. (2009). Do inclusive leaders help to reduce turnover in diverse groups? The moderating role of leader–member exchange in the diversity to turnover relationship. Journal of Applied Psychology,

Shore, L. M., Randel, A.E., Chung, B. G.,  Dean, M.A.. Ehrhart, K.H, Singe, G.  (2010). Inclusion and Diversity in Work Groups; A Review and Model for Future Research. Journal of Management

Sirota, D. et al.  (2005). The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit by Giving Employees What They Want.

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