Our relationships with private sector partners are symbiotic:
- We help you design, conduct, and interpret research to address the needs of your organization.
- We help you explore how organizational behaviour scholarship could benefit your organization.
- You help us work towards a better understanding of one of our research areas.
The work process is collaborative, meant to bring your expertise in your field into conversation with our expertise in organizational behaviour research.
Our collaborations normally begin with a meeting, where we discuss what it is that you are trying to learn, assess, or answer. We begin to turn questions and intuitions into hypotheses, so that it becomes possible to look for evidence-based answers. We explore what data you have that could help answer our questions and what data you might need to get.
Working from these discussions, we will help you select research methods that are most appropriate to the kinds of questions you are trying to answer, the kind of organization you are, and the kinds of data you have access to. We draw on existing scholarship to make sure that we measure what we want to measure, and collect data of sufficient quality to help us understand what we are trying to understand. Click here to learn more about data quality.
Before we can proceed with the planned research, we will need clearance from the McMaster University Research Ethics Board and from your company. The MREB was created to help protect the privacy and well-being of research participants. Larger companies may have similar institutional review boards; you may also need to seek approval from an internal committee at this stage.
Once we have internal approvals, we can start gathering the data we will be working with. This may mean working from data that you have already collected for some other purpose, or collecting new data. We have the means to deploy a range of specialized research instruments quickly and efficiently. If we are working with a survey, we will provide you with a link to the survey to distribute to your employees.
We finally get to start answering some of our questions! We will use a range of measures, including descriptive statistics, more advanced statistical methods (regression, structural equation modeling) and qualitative analysis to examine the data we have collected.
Once we have analyzed the data, we present the findings to the company. We will help you navigate the results of the study and understand the strengths and limitations of the methods we used. Some research projects end here but others involve more back and forth between research findings and research design. For some large-scale or long-term projects, we start with pilot studies before designing bigger or more targeted follow-up studies.
Once our work together is complete, you will be ready to make informed decisions based on the strengths and weaknesses we identified. On our end, we will package our findings for dissemination among networks of HR practitioners and academics, through presentations at academic conferences and publications in academic journals.
During this process, we will keep the name of your company confidential unless you give us your explicit permission to reveal it.
Example: A multi-year assessment of the impact of a new electronic communication system
An auditory-aid equipment company has sales and service teams across Canada. To reduce the amount of travel required of employees, regional teams have recently been restructured, going from larger groups serving multiple provinces, to smaller groups serving smaller geographic areas. Regional teams have only one or two workers with the same specialization. To help colleagues maintain contact, a communication system featuring instant messages and email is being commissioned, and annual meetings and training sessions are being envisaged.
Assessing the effects of this change will require a long-term, mixed-methods research project. We will need to define variables together. Costs and benefits include factors that are already expressed numerically (travel costs; the fee for commissioning software), but also others that are less tangible: Do employees stay on longer now that they don’t have to travel as much? Are people losing important insights into their coworkers’ activities now that they no longer meet face-to-face on a regular basis? Assessing these different measures will require the use of multiple research methods.
Example: A one-time training intervention to encourage knowledge sharing
A nursery and landscape design firm has recently expanded to include landscape maintenance among its services. Although the employees hired for the new positions have received a lot of training, they regularly encounter challenges that had not been anticipated by the training, and that they feel ill-equipped to deal with. A lot of the knowledge that makes the more experienced workers so skilled is situation-specific and seems difficult to transmit in anything but an ad-hoc way. The pressure weighing on everyone is beginning to create tensions between older and newer employees.
The problems encountered by this firm have parallels in other organizations. Many of the behaviours they are trying to encourage and discouraged could be conceptualized in terms of two types of behaviours that have been well defined and are increasingly studied in organizational behaviour research: knowledge sharing and knowledge hiding.
An effective training intervention in a situation like this could be as simple as a presentation outlining current scholarship. Across workplaces, there are similarities in the ways circumstantial, structural, and individual factors interact to encourage or discourage knowledge sharing and knowledge hiding. Some of these factors are structural and organizational. Managers can draw on this knowledge to design work processes and incentives that encourage knowledge sharing. Some of these factors are personal, or relate to the details of individual interactions. Workers can draw on this knowledge to ask for help in ways that are more effective, or to refuse help in ways that are less likely to offend.