Output & Impact: Work and Organizations

Friday, May 27, 2016

In the nearly 100 years of the Carlson School's existence, its faculty has produced an unending stream of groundbreaking research, pushing against boundaries in both academia and in the business world at large. Discover notable examples from the Work and Organizations Department

A multidisciplinary affair

Years ago when the Department of Work and Organizations was called the Industrial Relations Center, much of its research involved jointly appointed faculty from other departments. One of its most significant areas of research was the Work Adjustment Project, also known as the Minnesota Studies in Vocational Rehabilitation. This project was primarily done by Bill England from industrial relations, Lloyd Lofquist from the department of psychology, psychology PhD candidate Dave Weiss, and Rene Dawis, who had feet in both industrial relations and psychology.

“This project ran from the middle 1960s through the early 1970s,” says Professor Emeritus John Fossum. “Its primary development was a psychological model matching people and jobs and all of the measurement instruments necessary to enhance the outcome.” The most notable of these measuring instruments was the Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire (MSQ). First published in 1967, the MSQ was designed to measure employee satisfaction with several different aspects of the work environment, such as company policies, compensation, responsibility, and achievement.

Carlson School Professor Richard Arvey made use of the MSQ in an important study done with twins in the late 1980s. In “Job Satisfaction: Environmental and Genetic Components” (Journal of Applied Psychology, 1989), Arvey queried 34 twin pairs to determine if there is a significant genetic component to job satisfaction.

Arvey's findings showed job satisfaction was 30 percent genetic and 70 percent due to environmental and other factors. He also noted that twins tend to seek out similar jobs. This fact was made all the more interesting in that the twins in his study had been raised apart.

Bringing an employer perspective to the field, Carlson School Professors Herb Heneman, Jr. and Dale Yoder were heavily involved in raising professional standards in human resource management. “They co-edited an eight-volume collection of research-based practice chapters across a wide range of professional competencies human resource executives needed to command,” Fossum says. Heneman and Yoder were also heavily active with the American Society of Personnel Administrators, now known as the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)—so much so that the SHRM annually bestows the Herbert Heneman Jr. Award for Career Advancement.

Focusing on the unemployed

For the last 10 to 15 years, Professor and Industrial Relations Faculty Excellence Chair Connie Wanberg has been researching how to proactively cope with unemployment and improve the success of job search behavior. Her most influential work has been “Psychological and Physical Well-Being During Unemployment: A Meta-Analytic Study” (Journal of Applied Psychology, 2005). This paper has received recognition for being in the top 1 percent in the academic field of psychiatry/psychology as well as for having 1,074 citations.

This study was important because Wanberg and coauthors Zhaoli Song, Angelo Kinicki, and Frances McKee-Ryan took all available findings across all journals and across all available countries to show in a definitive manner that unemployment has a negative effect on individual mental health.

Additionally, this negative effect was shown to be due to the characteristics of the experience and not the individual. The authors also examined characteristics of the person and experience that explain if a person will have a worse or better time of it being unemployed.

“This article has been impactful because it has been useful to both researchers and practitioners. It addresses an important life event and societal issue—unemployment is a life event experienced by many individuals,” Wanberg says. “There is a strong need by agencies to understand how to best help individuals who experience job loss and how to get them back to work quickly.” Some agencies view this from a financial angle. Unemployment insurance costs taxpayers millions of dollars and the health implications alone are expensive to society.

“Other agencies are concerned about this from the individual angle—how to provide services that will help unemployed individuals find good jobs and how to alleviate the stress involved with being unemployed and without work,” she says.

Wanberg has regularly heard from practitioners that this article has been helpful to them. “An agency called JVS Work Transforms Lives in San Francisco recently received a $6.4 million grant from the Department of Labor to create programs to help the long-term unemployed,” she says. “Evidence that documents how unemployment affects individuals and who is most likely to need help is important to create cases for these programs. Jamie Austin, the vice president of finance and operations of this agency, wrote to me and noted that they drew upon my work in their proposal.”

Watch Wanberg further describe her research:

Discover the impact of research taking place across the Carlson School:

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Output & Impact: Finance
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Output & Impact: Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship
Output & Impact: Supply Chain and Operations