Fox School of Business at Temple University researchers outline why brands would be wise to include micro-influencers as part of their marketing strategy this holiday season
PHILADELPHIA — It’s the holiday shopping season and by all accounts, it’s going to be a big one. According to a recent OpenX Technologies report, consumers are expected to spend more than last year, and this is especially true for millennials. The report found that millennials plan to spend 15% more than the average shopper and 25% more than baby boomers.
So how are companies and brands supposed to break through the noise to reach these potential customers? Two Temple University Fox School of Business professors believe the answer could be micro-influencers.
“Micro-influencers bring credibility and authenticity,” says Jay Sinha, associate professor of marketing and supply chain management. “The best ones bring in their own personal narratives that mesh well with the brands they endorse.”
Together with Thomas Fung, assistant professor of marketing and supply chain management, Sinha recently authored the “Right Way to Market to Millennials,” published in MIT Sloan’s Management Review.
A micro-influencer is not Cardi B or Rihanna. Rather, they are defined as those that have a follower base numbering between 1,000 and 100,000. They’re someone that a millennial can relate to, and that’s what’s been missing with traditional influencer marketing.
A recent study by Bazaarvoice noted that traditional influencer marketing is falling out of favor; 63% of online audiences noted that influencer content is materialistic and misrepresents real life. In comparison, micro-influencer marketing is just the opposite.
“They provide opportunities for companies, big and small, to reach out to narrow and often difficult-to-access subpopulations,” Sinha says. “Micro-influencers have finessed the subtle ‘nudge’ into an art form.”
According to Sinha and Fung, some of the more prominent brands using micro-influencers include Nike, Sephora, Levi, Microsoft and many others. That will remain the case this holiday season.
For instance, Zales Jewelers recently partnered with YouTube star Jaci Marie Smith and her husband, Leif Carlson, to create a “Holiday Love Story” across a number of social platforms. Similarly, clothing retailer H&M recently created the H&M League, a group of 22 influencers who have been promoting the brand for the year. Much of the content specifically revolved around key holiday dates like Black Friday and New Year’s Eve.
“As department stores fight for relevance ahead of the start of the holiday shopping season, micro-influencers command a significant role in framing a new marketing narrative,” Fung says. “Boomers might be okay with ‘sea of sameness’ product offerings, however, millennials thrive on an ‘experience playground,’ where micro-influencers become their lifestyle coaches.”
This micro-influencing trend likely is not going anywhere anytime soon, either.
“Even though there are indications recently that ‘influencer fatigue’ has set in among millennials, they still remain open to those micro-influencers that have suasive power over them from their charisma and expertise in some niche market category,” Sinha says.
About the Fox School of Business
The vision of Temple University’s Fox School of Business is to transform student lives, develop leaders, and impact our local and global communities through excellence and innovation in education and research.
The Fox School’s research institutes and centers as well as 200+ full-time faculty provide access to market-leading technologies and foster a collaborative and creative learning environment that offers more than curriculum—it offers an experience. Coupled with its leading student services, the Fox School ensures that its graduates are fully prepared to enter the job market.
The flexibility and responsiveness of our knowledge-creating research faculty allow the school to address the needs of industry and generate courses and programs in emerging fields. As a leader in business research, the Fox School values interdisciplinary approaches and translational research that influence and impact real-world problems. Our research informs an adaptive curriculum, supports innovation in teaching and prepares students for the ever-changing business environment.
Almost everyone who works has a boss. It’s no secret that the quality of this relationship can have a big impact on the lives of supervisors and employees alike. The best bosses provide mentorship, training and support for their direct reports, facilitating professional growth and success for their team. But is it possible for employees, through their actions on the job, to impact their bosses as well?
Soojung Han, a PhD candidate in the Fox Department of Human Resource Management, thought so. During her five years as the first woman engineer at a South Korean petrochemical company, she had an outstanding relationship with her boss, who gave her an unusual amount of autonomy, respect and trust.
“I knew it was out of the ordinary from talking with my friends about their jobs, and I also knew it was important,” says Han. Every time her supervisor acknowledged her work or granted her additional responsibilities, she wanted to do an even better job. The experience had such a profound impact on her that when Han decided to pursue her PhD, she chose to focus her research on just this style of empowering leadership. Her personal connection to the subject is perhaps one reason her scholarship had been so exceptional.
Han and her colleagues’ recent paper, “Examining why employee proactive personality influences empowering leadership: The roles of cognition- and affect-based trust,” explores this territory. The research was published in May in the prestigious Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. A publication of that caliber is a rare achievement for someone who is still a student. This fall, Han assumed a faculty position at Cal State Los Angeles.
Employee proactivity is often the catalyst for supervisors to grant workers greater autonomy and more responsibility, which increases employee engagement, productivity and job performance. Given the importance of these self-starters in the workplace, the proactive personality type is of great interest to researchers. However, to date, most of the research has focused on employee-centered outcomes, such as the relationship between proactive personality and career success. But the complex ways that an employee’s proactive style may affect his or her supervisor has been largely overlooked by scholars. That’s why Han decided to turn her attention to how these proactive employees affect their bosses.
“The proactive personality type is defined as someone who makes changes in their environment, so we suspected that these employees might change their supervisors as well,” she says. She gathered more than 100 pairs of supervisors and employees and surveyed them to assess the qualities in question: proactive personality, empowering leadership and supervisor trust. Via questionnaires, employees rated their own proactive personality traits and their boss’s leadership style, while leaders scored their direct report’s level of trust in an employee.
Han’s research examines two types of trust typical of work relationships: Cognition-based trust, which is based on logic and facts regarding an employee’s work responsibilities, and affect-based trust, which boils downs to whether or not a supervisor personally likes his or her direct report.
To test their hypotheses, Han and her coauthors used statistical models, including hierarchical multiple regressions, to analyze the data. The team found that supervisors were more trusting of employees with proactive personalities and thus were more likely to empower them.
“It’s risky for leaders to let employees make decisions,” says Han. “What if they lack skills or, worse, what if they take advantage of less supervision and more autonomy?”
Her work shows that, in spite of the risks, the payoff can be significant for an organization. Empowering leadership pays tangible dividends. “Previous research has supported that empowering leadership is associated with a host of positive outcomes, including increased psychological empowerment, task performance and citizenship behaviors for both individuals and teams,” says Han. She recommends that companies work on building both cognitive-based trust, through formal skill-building training, and affect-based trust, by taking the time to plan and invest in social events and team building.
This specific research paper gives the edge to affect-based trust—likability. But Han cautions that the two types of trust are more interrelated than they may first appear. “Though it seems like affect-based trust shows a stronger effect, its impact on empowering leadership is less likely to occur when cognition-based trust is low,” says Han. “Therefore, both cognition- and affect- trust are important to induce leaders’ empowering behaviors.
Her research also speaks to the importance of improved screening of prospective employees. It pays to be able to identify new hires who will consistently demonstrate proactive behaviors at work, not just say they will during a job interview. Han believes tools like personality tests and questionnaires that assess proactive traits specifically would be helpful as companies seek to fill their ranks with these go-getters.
“As we can see, their proactive style benefits not only the employees themselves, but their supervisors, too,” says Han.
This article was originally published in On The Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.
Pursuing extended education can be extremely challenging for the average person, let alone those in demanding careers. However, Kate Nelson, an active duty Military Intelligence Officer, is proving this to be more than possible.
Captain Nelson is in her 15th year of military service and has accomplished two master’s degrees: one in military studies and the other in sports management. Now, she is pursuing a Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) here at Temple University’s Fox School of Business.
The Fox editorial team caught up with Captain Nelson to hear about her experience of earning her doctorate in business while actively serving in the U.S. Army.
What made you want to pursue a DBA?
“I knew I wanted to get my doctorate. But I thought [I’d do it] when I got out, maybe take a year or two off,” Nelson says. It wasn’t until her boss, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Faint, also a current Fox student, informed her about the DBA program.
She recalls thinking, “‘You can’t do this while active. That’s ridiculous.’ But he sat me down, told me the pros and cons, wrote me a letter of recommendation, and here I am.”
The Executive DBA program aims to help executive-level managers and experienced service members like Nelson learn how to solve business problems through advanced critical reasoning. As a first-year student, Nelson plans to research how people consume both women’s and men’s sports differently. She also credits her pursuit of advanced education to her training in the military.
“The U.S. military is the most educated and trained military in the world,” Nelson says. “They always tell us to better ourselves and look for the next step in our career. I was always taught that every day you should learn something.”
How does military experience translate to business?
“My experience isn’t in business, but it is translating because I’m managing hundreds of soldiers,” Nelson explains. “Some businesses look at the military and how it runs, and they use us as an example. So, I can actually speak to that in class.”
According to Cailin DiGiacomo, admissions coordinator for the DBA program, “The current cohort has 22 students, all coming from drastically different industries. Several come from a military background.”
DiGiacomo guides prospective students through the application process, helping them understand how the Executive DBA program can teach them to expand their decision-making abilities through applied theory and research.
How do busy professionals find time to pursue a DBA?
“Our program is very flexible. During each semester, we have three weekend residencies. We send the dates out to our students in the summer so they can plan around it. Then, there’s a weekly online component as well,” says DiGiacomo.
Nelson agrees. “The curriculum is basically a long weekend six times a year. We get thirty days of leave every year that we can use, so it really isn’t too bad.”
This degree seems suitable for people like Captain Nelson, who have very demanding work schedules but are passionate about furthering their careers in business. With the DBA program, she finds time to both manage her soldiers and manage her education.
Learn more about Fox School Research.
Big data is a buzzword everywhere in the business world, but there are a few specific sectors where this revolution is making an especially big impact: information systems, operations management and healthcare.
That’s why Subodha Kumar, the Paul R. Anderson Distinguished Professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management at the Fox School, turned his attention to these areas. While big data experts across the board have breakthroughs in their individual fields, Kumar’s research focuses on the importance of sharing these advancements, as well as the data and systems that made them possible. Cross-pollination of ideas will be the key to future progress, according to Kumar.
The insights Kumar gleaned from his analysis of the existing academic research in these specific sectors informed his predictions and recommendations for how businesses might harness big data s in the future. “The whole idea is that there have been a lot of discussions and a lot of research about how big data is impacting the industry, but less attention has been paid to how all the different work in big data fits together, how it is connected,” says Kumar.
For this research, Kumar picked three areas where some of the most interesting and innovative developments in big data are happening. These are areas where massive amounts of data aren’t simply being collected, but that data is also being analyzed and put to use. Take healthcare as an example: As entities across the healthcare space, such as hospital systems, begin to combine their data sets, you can create more intelligence and make better inferences.
“But whenever you have data from many sources, you need smarter systems to read all this data and make sense of it. How can we create algorithms to help doctors make better diagnoses? That requires new and different thinking,” says Kumar.
As researchers learn how doctors use an enormous database of cancer patients worldwide to settle on effective treatment more quickly, experts in the information systems space are racing to find effective ways to work with the massive flood of data like text, photos and video generated by social media use. Meanwhile, operations management experts perfect the algorithms needed to detect fake online product reviews.
“In different industries, people are very siloed. Healthcare people are only worried about healthcare,” says Kumar. Competition has made firms secretive, reluctant to share and combine their data and methods, but this fear often does more harm than good, according to Kumar. “We really need to learn from each other. What would happen if Amazon were more open to learning from how hospital systems use big data and vice versa?”
To that end, his research synthesizes what is already known from research in these three key areas to create a framework for thinking about big data going forward and how these disparate learnings and datasets can be put together for the greater good. “Our research shows that even direct competitors can benefit from sharing data,” says Kumar.
He points out that as data collection devices (including smartphones, smart speakers like Alexa and wearable devices like Fitbit) proliferate and more data-producing machines infiltrate everyday life, business opportunities and challenges will grow. It’s only a matter of time before people live with smart refrigerators that track your calories and driverless cars that know your daily routine and pinpoint your real-time location.
Unless everyone interested in big data learns to share and solve problems together, missed opportunities will continue, costing firms time and money. “Right now a lot of the data being generated from social media and other sources is not being collected or analyzed in a way that makes it meaningful or useful,” says Kumar. His research could change that.
Kumar outlines a proposed framework for mapping big data applications and insights across industries in his recent research paper, “Emergence of Big Data Research in Operations Management, Information Systems, and Healthcare: Past Contributions and Future Roadmap,” published in the journal Production and Operations Management. “The framework essentially provides a breakdown of different topics that have been investigated and what could emerge because of new advancements,” explains Kumar.
Looking to the future, Kumar sees some specific sub-areas of the domains he studied where big data will make an even more significant impact and improvements in business. His proposed future roadmap points to cloud computing, the internet of things and smart cities, predictive manufacturing and 3D printing, and smart healthcare as the likely places big data will flourish most dramatically in the years to come. The possible developments have the potential to change the quality of life for people around the world.
As boundaries between these once discrete domains continue to fade, big data emerges as a powerful common denominator. Up until now, the focus has been on how to get more and more data. But, according to Kumar, the focus must shift into how this data can be combined and analyzed to make sense of it. Without context, the data is little more than ones and zeroes.
“This research is about how can we generate value for the whole society from this data by collecting, analyzing and sharing data,” says Kumar.
“Nano-marketing” is more than just a buzzword—it’s a way for companies to capitalize on the current trend of personalized and authentic marketing.
As the millennial generation has grown—both in size and purchasing power—to be the largest demographic segment in the country, companies are trying hard to gain their attention. “As a whole, this group of 80 million prefers photos and mini-videos that are visually appealing and can be processed quickly,” says Jay I. Sinha, associate professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management at the Fox School. “That is part of the reason why we’ve seen a tremendous surge in the popularity of visual platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and YouTube, among others.”
Together with Thomas Fung, assistant professor of instruction, Sinha advises the “Right Way to Market to Millennials.”
Who are Micro-Influencers?
It may seem like everyone is “Insta-famous” these days. Micro-influencers are social media personalities who have cultivated their defined brand and fan base, typically between 1,000 and 100,000 people, with very specific areas of focus.
For example, Melissa Alam, BBA ’10, a brand strategist, shares her recommendations for food and drink locations around Philadelphia. She has cultivated relationships with companies like Starr Restaurants and Drink Nation to arrange giveaways of gift cards and event tickets for her 11,000 followers on Instagram. “I’ve been hired as an influencer and worked with many large brands,” says Alam. “I share all sides of my life so that people can relate to me both online and offline if they meet me in person.”
“Micro-influencers bring credibility and authenticity,” says Fung, “typically due to their extroverted nature, relatability, and genuine passion in some niche field.” In Alam’s case, her followers may see her as a real person with insider knowledge and honest advice. “The internet is full of people showing off lavish lifestyles or reaching unattainable goals for the average person,” says Alam. “It’s so important to stay genuine, authentic and true to yourself and your personal brand if you’re trying to attract an honest following.” The grassroots feeling of this kind of marketing allows companies to address the unique needs of individuals through their relationships with micro-influencers.
Advice to Companies
So what do companies need to know to take advantage of this new kind of marketing?
1. Micro-influencers have their own brands and followers with very specific interests.
“They provide opportunities for companies, big and small, to reach out to narrow and often difficult-to-access sub-populations,” says Sinha. For example, he shares that GE used micro-influencers to help find and recruit female technology specialists for the company.
2. Micro-influencers are accomplished and personable storytellers.
Millennials relate well to storytelling. “The best micro-influencers bring in their own personal narratives that mesh well with the brands they endorse,” says Fung. Micro-influencers have been able to build up their own personal brand by leveraging this skill, so companies should encourage sponsored influencers to incorporate their products or services into their own authentic narrative.
3. Micro-influencers are not direct marketers.
Traditional marketers may feel that the sponsored content is not coming across in an obvious way. But with micro-influencers, their endorsements should never feel forced. “Micro-influencers have finessed the subtle ‘nudge’ into an art form,” says Sinha. He notes that many influencers will refuse to accept relationships with brands or companies that are contrary to their own beliefs or interests, which would damage their credibility with their followers.
Beware of Inauthenticity
The biggest pitfall companies should avoid is appearing inauthentic. Millennials are discerning and skeptical consumers who will turn away quickly from a brand or company that they feel are trying too hard or selling out. “Young, creative micro-influencers know their audience well,” says Sinha. “Let them guide the positioning of the product.”
By diligently finding the right micro-influencer to sponsor, companies of all sizes can cultivate marketing relationships that are interactive, personalized and authentic with the millennial generation.
This article is a sneak peek of the next issue of On The Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.
Wine is a product that exudes elegance, class and strict regulations. For many wine producers, centuries-old regulations continue to guide their production and marketing. The rise in New World wine industries like the U.S., Chile, Australia and others—which are subject to far fewer rules— is threatening the success of Old World wine industries in Europe.
Kevin Fandl, associate professor of Legal Studies in Business at the Fox School of Business, delved into this topic to uncover how regulation affects the wine market. His research was supported by Temple University’s Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER).
“The idea was to look at both sides of the regulatory coin. That is, what impact do regulations have, positive or negative, on innovation in the wine sector,” says Fandl. “On the other end, how do regulations affect what consumers have access to when they select their wines and how do those preferences drive demand?”
To answer these questions, Fandl reviewed decades of winemaking legislation.
So how do Old World wines and New World wines differ? According to Fandl, “The difference is the history. The New World hasn’t been making wine [for centuries]. So, it hasn’t needed to regulate it except in the last fifty years. The Old World is fighting against centuries of legislation meant to protect the quality of their wines—regulations that are now constraining their ability to effectively market their products.”
This history that European wine companies are battling comes in the form of hundreds of years of inhibiting policies. From specific labeling guidelines to mandatory classifications of grapes, the European Union (EU) enforces strict protocols for its wine manufacturers.
“The regulations are meant to maintain high prices and high quality,” Fandl says. “That protectionist view is limiting European producers to older generations of wine drinkers. It’s ignoring their ability to innovate and sell to millennials.”
As Fandl wrote in his paper, “Regulatory Policy and Innovation in the Current Wine Market,” published in the American University International Law Review journal, millennials are the largest generation to consume wine since the baby boomers. “They are consuming, on average, 3.1 glasses of wine per sitting.”
To better understand what these average consumers of wine are looking for, Fandl conducted an online survey of 500 American wine-drinkers.
“Millennials seem more interested in the story behind the wine. They also like innovation; for example, screw caps, interesting labels and descriptions, or new marketing techniques.”
New World wine industries like the U.S. and Chile are implementing these techniques, while Old World wine companies are locked into traditional production and marketing techniques, either due to
strict regulations or an unwillingness to adapt. From his research, Fandl determined that “innovation is something that consumers demand” and the regulations in the European wine sector are preventing that innovation.
So, what impact do these findings have on the wine market?
“I hope it speaks to governments to help them appreciate the flexibility that a loose regulatory structure gives to their wine sectors and how important those wine sectors are to their economic development,” Fandl explains.“I also hope it speaks to vineyards to show that you really need to innovate if you want to stay alive in the current wine market.”
This isn’t the end of Fandl’s research, either. He will be continuing this analysis by bringing in other countries and identifying the specific policies they should focus on changing.
If there’s any hope for this regulation reform, Fandl says Old World wine companies need to “push for change. They need to advocate for regulatory change through their government, to allow them more flexibility.”
From Fandl’s findings, it’s evident that the Old World wine industry needs some flexibility if they want to stay competitive. If consumer demand is changing, it’s crucial for the product to change with it.
“Let consumers make the decision on what they believe is quality,” says Fandl.
Learn more about Fox School Research.
Choosing to pursue a PhD in business might be the best decision you make in your life, but there are a few things that might discourage you or impact your chances of being accepted at your program of choice.
This is part of the reason why the Fox School of Business recently hosted DocNet, an event where students who are interested in doctoral education in business can meet recruiters from top universities, ask questions and familiarize themselves with the application process. Undergraduate students from all over the Philadelphia region had access to some of the best researchers in their fields.
Here are four suggestions for prospective PhD students offered by faculty and recently admitted students:
1. Pursue a PhD for the right reasons. Dr. Patrick McKay, Stanley and Fanny Wang Professor of Human Resource Management at the Fox School, emphasized how PhDs are not career enhancers or status symbols.
PhD degrees are meant for individuals who combine the drive to conduct high-quality, cutting edge research with the desire to teach the next generation of scholars. “Pursuing a PhD for non-academic, professional motivations, like a promotion at work, is not a good idea as that objective is poorly aligned with the goals of traditional doctoral programs,” he told the crowd.
“Potential applicants with such professional ambitions might pursue a Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) instead.”
2. Apply to programs with scholars who conduct research in your area(s) of interest. Research programs can be diverse, so finding the appropriate faculty-mentor should be among every applicant’s highest priorities. Universities often feature a wide range of professors covering all manner of topics, but be mindful that no one institution is at the cutting edge of every niche in every discipline.
Dr. Solon Moreira, assistant professor of strategic management, suggests that students choose a program “with a good number of active researchers that are committed to working closely with PhD students, transferring skills and guiding them through the early steps of their journey into academia.” In other words, prospective students should seek out scholars who are not only motivated researchers but also active mentors, a role that faculty at the Fox School take very seriously.
3. Reach out to faculty members and current students at the schools you are interested in attending. It can be intimidating to “cold email” faculty at top-tier universities with questions or to express your interest. However, Hailey Park, a current PhD student in the Fox School’s department of human resource management, advised that doing so could give you insider information. “If they’re not planning on accepting new students,” Park said, “you don’t need to bother paying $80 or more to apply.”
4. Tailor your applications to each school. Schools share a common commitment to educating the populations they serve, but the ways in which they differ are just as important. Take the time to tailor every part of your application—your cover letter, writing samples, and even your recommendation letters—to each school, which has its own specializations and focus areas.
For example, Park suggests asking for at least four recommendation letters lined up so that you can tap different recommenders with different interests and backgrounds for different programs.
Although applying to PhD programs can feel overwhelming, one should always remember that the application process is manageable. “The admissions team is here to help you every step of the way,” said Dr. Sunil Wattal, managing director of the PhD programs at the Fox School. “Our mission is to transform high-performing students into trailblazing scholars.”
Get started on your journey at fox.temple.edu/phd.
Sabrina Volpone, PhD ’13, is an organizational diversity expert, researching topics of diversity and identity within the context of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation and immigrant status. Since graduating from the Fox PhD program, her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as the Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology, and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.
The On The Verge editorial team had the opportunity to chat with Volpone about how she got started researching the experiences of traditionally under-represented employees, how a more diverse workforce requires organizations to adapt and how they can do better.
How did you become interested in diversity and inclusion?
When I was growing up in Texas, I was not exposed to much diversity. The Dallas/Fort Worth area was very different 30+ years ago then it is now; the only people I knew were white and Christian.
My mom, who had a business degree in accounting and worked for a huge company in Texas, told me a story about how she got fired because she was getting sick at her desk too often when she was pregnant. Her company shrugged it off, saying that they assumed that once she became a mother she would be leaving her job anyway. Hearing these things opened my eyes to small-town values—taking care of your neighbors, for example—being pushed aside when stigmatizing factors were introduced.
Then, when I was working toward my degrees, both my bachelor’s from the University of North Texas and PhD in Human Resource Management from the Fox School, I wanted to do something meaningful that could speak to people’s experiences at work. The research I was seeing did not capture what was going on for women, people of color and other disenfranchised groups.
What are the differences between diversity and inclusion? How does your research incorporate both?
Diversity is more than just checking a demographic box or filling a quota. To really leverage the benefits of diversity we have to talk about inclusion, a separate, but related, topic. The difference has often been illustrated in the following quote from Verna Myers, the vice president of inclusion strategy for Netflix: “Diversity is being invited to the party, and inclusion is being asked to dance.”
In a recent research project, my team went back to basics to investigate how organizations actually define diversity. There are a host of organizations that would like to improve how they are managing diversity because they are facing lawsuits, or simply because they want to be more strategic about managing human resources. There is an increasing need for organizations to collectively rebuild and expand the way we think about these topics.
For example, we looked at the way a few Fortune 500 firms were defining diversity and found that only 38 percent had established definitions on their websites. A large number of those who did listed standard descriptors typically found on HR hiring paperwork that are based on Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws, stating that the company does not discriminate based on age, sex, race, etc. Other companies take a different approach, however, and use language that extends beyond “legal” terminology.
In my work, I am trying to illustrate that diversity and inclusion must work hand-in-hand. The diversity element establishes the organizational environment and the legal mandates required by law. Inclusion facilitates a climate where employees feel valued and included as a result of their unique characteristics. This is important because, as some of my other research shows, leveraging diversity in this way can result in financial gains. We found that one small change in a diversity definition can relate to more than $2 billion in current profits and more than $1 billion in profit growth. Thus, being inclusive when defining diversity results in increased financial outcomes for companies.
How does inclusion impact companies?
To explore the importance of inclusive policies and procedures in the workplace, I was part of a research team that examined the experiences of breastfeeding women in the workforce. We interviewed women in the morning, afternoon and night to see how the quality of their breastfeeding space throughout the day improved work outcomes. The data and quotes from the women illustrated a powerful point: the legal definition of what must be provided (a space to pump that is not a bathroom and is shielded from view) will not make a satisfied, productive employee. When companies provided more than the bare minimum for breastfeeding mothers, we noticed an increase in their work goal progress and their breastfeeding goal progress while also seeing improvements in their work-family balance satisfaction.
How does a more diverse workforce and consumer base require organizations to adapt? How are businesses innovating around majority-minorities, women, people with disabilities, millennials, and other demographics?
Some companies are not, and their workplace cultures and even financials are seeing the impact of that. Many organizations that are not evolving along with their workforce may cease to exist in 10 to 20 years because of their inability to strategically manage their human resources in a way that captures the diversity of their employees.
For example, in a paper that my coauthors and I recently published, we looked at the hiring process for people with concealable stigmas. Specifically, we examined the relationship between applicants disclosing their hearing disability during the interview process and whether or not they received a job offer. Changing our policies and procedures throughout each human resource function to be inclusive of employees with non-visible disabilities is an example of adapting from systems that, historically, have been focused on accommodating employees with visible physical disabilities.
But those who are thinking about the lived experiences of employees, they create policies and procedures that capture that. They are also being strategic through all of their human resources functions—processes like hiring, training and promotions—and are threading the importance of diversity and inclusion practices through all the ways they do business. Executives are making sure that employees are being heard and taken care of. In order for companies to survive, these considerations will become a requirement.
This article is a sneak peek of the next issue of On The Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.
The Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI) was excited to welcome innovating alumnus, David Paul, back to campus last week to be the latest speaker to be featured in the Innovation Leader Speaker Series. Paul, founder and executive chairman at Globus Medical, stopped by for an intimate conversation about his journey from engineer to entrepreneur to CEO of the now publicly traded Globus Medical Inc.
At Globus, Paul perfected the art of teasing out true problems that doctors were experiencing, which allowed him to design new and superior solutions. When companies fail to identify innovations, Paul said, it’s almost always a failure of leadership.
Paul himself almost failed to invest in robotics despite the recommendations of his team but was enlightened by an experience with his teenage son. Paul spoke about how finding a higher purpose, serving the patients and the healthcare providers who treat them, enabled him to persevere even when facing barriers, such as being sued by his former employer. He described how the key to his success was developing a better, more efficient process for engineering new medical products. This enlightened discovery has allowed Globus to acquire robotics companies and start bringing Paul’s vision for robotics and the future of surgery to fruition.
When the time came to go public in 2012, Paul insisted on maintaining a controlling share of the company. When his investment banker objected, he made them study the long-term profitability of public companies with founder control. Turns out, they discovered that those companies, who founder controlled companies, did significantly better over time.
In 2017, Paul stepped down as CEO but maintains an active role in the company as executive chairman of the board. Paul holds a M.S. in Computer Integrated Mechanical Engineering Systems from Temple University. Paul was interviewed by Dr. Charles Dhanaraj, the H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest Professor of Strategy, and Founding Executive Director of Fox’s Center for Translational Research in Business.
Takeaways from our attendees:
“IEI’s Dealing with Disruption event with Globus Medical’s Executive Chairman David Paul was excellent. How often do you get the opportunity to meet with somebody who built a billion dollar company from scratch and ask them questions about their entrepreneurial journey? I even had the chance to chat with Mr. Paul during the networking part of the event, which was really terrific.”
“It was interesting to learn about his view on the healthcare industry in the U.S. He pointed out that the operations and marketing teams are important when you launch a venture, as important as the technology and management teams.”
In recent years, mindfulness has become a highly desirable quality both professionally and personally. Mindfulness gurus have emerged in popular culture, and companies have developed programs such as Google’s “Search Inside Yourself” to promote mindfulness in the workplace.
Ravi S. Kudesia, assistant professor of human resource management at the Fox School, is interested in how mindfulness is used in the workplace to develop personal agency and employee problem-solving. There’s only one problem: Mindfulness, as a term, is not easy to define. And the way we intuitively think about mindfulness as highly individualized may need to be rethought as well.
In his paper “Mindfulness as Metacognitive Practice,” Kudesia targets the ambiguity in the term mindfulness to isolate its usefulness and applicability. “We lack answers to even the most basic questions,” says Kudesia. “What is mindfulness? How does mindfulness training operate? And why might it matter for organizations?”
Moreover, without understanding what mindfulness is, how can employers hope to harness its potential in the workplace? In fact, the kind of mindfulness that companies promote may be less useful than they hope. While many have suggested that mindfulness is a kind of individual skill – and that if enough employees have this individual skill, their organizations will change for the better—Kudesia suggests that this view is naïve. Instead, he suggests that mindfulness can be best understood as what he calls a “metacognitive practice.”
“When seen as metacognitive practice,” Kudesia writes, “mindfulness entails the coming together of expertise embedded in perception and concepts, enabling beliefs about information processing, and the crucial human ability to step back and monitor one’s mental activity—all of which jointly shape how people engage with situations.”
By linking mindfulness to concepts and expertise in specific situations, Kudesia invites us to think about mindfulness at the system level. He gives the example of product engineers who, siloed off from data on customer feedback, must nonetheless figure out why a product is unexpectedly breaking in massive quantities, leading it to be returned under warranty. The default assumption is that it is an issue with the product’s structural integrity. An engineer, in this case, might practice mindfulness to gain a more nuanced view of the issues with the product, but they also remain limited by system-wide information flows—engineers simply do not have access to customer feedback.
“[W]hat if an engineer gains access to customer information and enacts metacognitive practice to doubt the structural integrity diagnosis? The engineer may introduce a new concept of ‘product aesthetics’—the product breaks not because it is weakly designed but because customers find it uninspired and, thus, take poor care of it … This new concept would cue a different routine related to product redesign: making the product beautiful rather than making it stronger.”
Yet, along with this new diagnosis and new concept may arrive new problems. If one engineer believes in the new diagnosis while another engineer insists that the issue lies with the product’s structural integrity, the original source of enlightenment may become a source of consternation.
“One person may seize upon doubt, seeking to transform situations, while others seek to reproduce established responses,” writes Kudesia. He describes this communication breakdown as fragmentation, the notion that mindfulness in an individual cannot always resolve system-level problems; in fact, sometimes it can exacerbate them. While mindfulness allowed them to diagnose a problem, their social reality determines whether they can enact a solution.
This should not dissuade companies from encouraging mindful practices, but it should encourage them to think more broadly about what mindfulness truly is. Instead of merely trying to instill mindfulness as a psychological property in individuals, Kudesia suggests that we should foster environments in which people can better practice mindfulness together. When engineers face an impasse like the one described above, how do they incorporate this new information into the fold? Do they create new processes? Do they confer with new individuals who can provide insight into the problem? If both engineers are engaged and open, they can transform the risk of fragmentation into opportunities for growth, incorporating new concepts into their routines and crafting new solutions out of them.
“You don’t instill mindfulness in individuals and call it a day,” Kudesia explains. “We engage best in mindfulness when we are in spaces that are conducive to mindfulness.”
2019 has been an extraordinary year for Sudipta Basu.
In July, Basu was appointed the Fox School’s new associate dean of research and doctoral programs. He was also honored to be named the American Accounting Association’s inaugural Yuji Ijiri Lecturer on Foundations of Accounting. The prestigious lectureship, sponsored by five global accounting associations, recognizes thought leadership from around the world. Basu presented his Ijiri Lecture, “How Robust are the Foundations of the Conceptual Frameworks?” at the annual American Accounting Association meeting in August.
Throughout his career, Dean Basu has established himself as a thought leader and now he will help chart the direction of academic research at the Fox School moving forward. To understand his vision, he discussed the past, present and future of research at Fox.
Can you share a bit about your background? Why were you originally interested in accounting?
I grew up in big cities all over India (Bombay, Madras, Calcutta and Delhi in that order), earning a BA (Honours) in Economics at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University and an MBA in economics, finance and accounting at the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta. My family members have many PhDs including a grandfather (mathematics), uncles (statistics, history and English) and first cousin (astrophysics), so an academic life was always considered a respectable—and even praiseworthy—choice.
I first studied accounting in grades 9 and 10 and found it quite hard to follow initially. But once I realized how double-entry bookkeeping worked, and that simple algebra revealed the intangible value created by transactions, I was hooked.
What are some of your major goals as dean of research and doctoral programs?
Fox produces lots of high-quality research and one of my main goals is to make our research more visible locally and internationally.
I would also like to collaborate with the Digital Scholarship Center at the Temple library to introduce our students and faculty to new cutting-edge digital tools that could help them stand out in the research world. Most importantly, I want to change our research culture so that we can talk about how our new ideas improve people’s lives and not merely about where they were published. I want to focus on explaining the who, what, when, where, why and how of a particular research project’s impact.
What role has research played in shaping your career?
For me, research is a vocation rather than a career, meaning that I enjoy and value its creativity and life-long learning aspects so much that I largely ignore the future monetary and status rewards. As my wife puts it, I often go to sleep thinking about research and wake up in the morning still thinking about research. I pursue big questions that excite me, such as why accounting exists or what our world would be like if double-entry bookkeeping had not emerged, even if this research cannot be published in our top journals. I am constantly scanning blogs, conferences and journals for questions and tools that I can use in my research, so I am a big consumer of research, not just a producer.
How would you like to see Fox School research evolve in the future?
As its former research director, I strongly support the Translational Research Center’s efforts to make Fox School research more relevant to all our stakeholders—other academics, practitioners, students, policymakers and our local communities. I would like more of our faculty, students, alumni and staff to engage in research and to describe their findings in top academic journals AND in less traditional venues such as op-eds, letters to the editor, blogs, TED talks, undergraduate and practitioner journals, etc. Ultimately, I want Fox School faculty, staff, alumni and students to be more widely regarded as thought leaders in business research.
What role does research play in business schools?
Most business schools promote faculty and student research to increase our shared knowledge. Business schools’ missions usually shape the type of research they support. At research-intensive schools like Fox, rigorous empirical and theoretical research takes pride of place. At teaching-oriented schools, pedagogical and practice-oriented research is valued more than theoretical research.
Where is the largest intersection of research and industry in the future of work?
Researchers dream up the technologies, products, business models and organizational forms of the future. Every technological advance frees people from doing some kinds of routine work, which are delegated to animals, machines, and now computers. The freed-up workers can better use their minds to make higher quality and unique products and services that were too earlier too costly to market.
How can companies work with Fox School researchers?
Companies can learn from the new ideas developed by Fox School researchers and conversely inform them about changing realities in the marketplace. Ideally, we would develop a virtuous cycle wherein firms identify emerging problems, researchers propose alternative solutions, firms try these out in practice and observe how well they work and provide feedback, which in turn lets researchers refine their prescriptions.
This article is a sneak peek of the next issue of On The Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.
As the way we do business evolves faster than ever, leaders need to be prepared. Employees look to their senior executives for confidence, guidance and direction—especially in times of change. But being a leader means nothing unless people choose to follow, and people generally choose to follow those in whom they believe. “It all hinges on the leader’s credibility,” says Lynne Andersson, associate professor of human resource management at the Fox School.
The Power of Perception
Andersson’s previous research started by identifying behaviors that make employees cynical towards their leaders. She identified two key factors in credibility: perceived competence and perceived trustworthiness. Both elements are dependent upon outsiders’ viewpoints—whether or not they believe in the leader’s skills, knowledge, values and dependability.
“These perceptions are extremely important in the digital age,” explains Andersson. With so much information available to be collected and scrutinized, from social networks to artificial intelligence, people may have concerns about who is in control. “Employees want to know that those who are managing them and assessing their performance are competent and trustworthy.”
After having started the research around the question of cynicism, Andersson reversed the point of view. She and her colleagues conducted research studies, gathering feedback from blue- and white-collar workers located all over the country over the course of three years, to identify specific actions that leaders can take to improve credibility with their employees.
Building Credibility, Projecting Competence
Leaders who emphasize the future were seen as the most competent by their employees. “Creating clear plans for future success is different than simply stating a strategic vision or setting performance targets,” Andersson notes. “It involves mapping out, in detail, how the organization will achieve its goals.” Keeping on top of industry trends, predicting upcoming changes and having clear ideas of how to respond to both are other ways for leaders to demonstrate their visions for the future.
Employees value leaders who demonstrate a focus on organizational outcomes but who also attach those outcomes to an individual’s job. “It’s important to convey that an employee’s work affects the whole organization,” Andersson advises. “Employees attribute competence to leaders who can make those connections.”
Competent leaders also look for ways to improve their organization’s operations. “You can consider eliminating unnecessary reporting structures, reducing spending waste, establishing new roles or investing in technology that improves business effectiveness,” Andersson says.
She also advised against putting too much emphasis on credentials. “In our meritocratic world, we love credentials—but people in our study did not equate credentials with competence. Leaders had to prove it through their actions or behaviors, not their resume.”
The most important step to take when trying to project trustworthiness is speaking and acting consistently. “To begin, it means making decisions that aren’t contradictory,” says Andersson. “But it also means behaving in a way that aligns with promises, explicit or unspoken.” Leaders should deeply understand all of their stakeholders’ needs in order to prevent potential conflicts.
Leaders that embody the organization’s vision and values are also regarded as highly trustworthy, according to the research. “Employees want to see consistency between the walk and talk.” Andersson encourages senior executives to be mindful of both their professional and personal values, as employees are watching closely to verify authenticity.
According to the research, employees were more trusting of leaders who valued them. “While you may prioritize your employees in your words, make sure that employees are recognized,” says Andersson. “Show how important your employees through things like rewards and plum assignments.”
Insights for Better Leaders
How can senior executives apply this research on the job? Andersson notes that leaders should be cognizant to two main points. First, the good outweighs the bad—sometimes. “When regarding competence,” says Andersson, “people tend to weigh positive information more heavily than negative information.” This means that one competent action may be a good signal of reliability to a leader’s employees. However, the opposite is true for trustworthiness; one dishonest statement or unethical action can make employees lose faith.
Second, restoring credibility is difficult, but not impossible. “To regain lost credibility, leaders must reestablish positive expectations,” Andersson advises. “This means they must repeatedly engage in trustworthy acts since a single act won’t mean much.” By focusing on the actions outlined by Andersson and her colleagues, leaders can slowly build back that relationship.
Credibility in Action
Actions speak louder than words, and according to Andersson, these are the most important things leaders should do to increase their credibility amongst employees.
What Do Competent Leaders Do?
- Emphasize the future
- Prioritize employees
- Take action and initiative
- Communicate effectively
- Gain knowledge and experience
What Do Trustworthy Leaders Do?
- Communicate and act in a consistent manner
- Protect the organization and employees
- Embody the organization’s vision and values
- Consult with and listen to key stakeholders
- Communicate openly with others
- Value employees
“If you see something, say something.” As intuitive as it may seem, speaking your mind is hard—especially within the boundaries of an office environment. Most employees face the fear of retaliation and the social costs that come with speaking up to management in difficult situations.
Leora Eisenstadt, assistant professor of Legal Studies, and Deanna Geddes, professor of Human Resource Management at the Fox School, delve deeper into these emotional situations in their interdisciplinary studies. The researchers discuss the implications of expressing anger at the workplace and highlight two problematic legal doctrines that disincentivize employees from making any complaints—thus costing companies.
A Cycle of Discontentment
When employees suppress anger at work, it not only affects their mental well-being but also their attitudes—often resulting in lowered productivity. “When employees fear the consequences of retaliation by management,” says Geddes, “they tend to either suppress it by keeping silent, or express their frustration to their peers, who usually have no power to respond or effect change.” These negative discussions often spiral into increasing discontentment among employees that impact the overall health of the workplace.
Reactions vs. Retaliation
In the face of perceived discrimination, employees may turn to the courts for help in resolving disputes. However, Eisenstadt argues that current legal frameworks may negatively affect employees’ willingness to speak up in the judicial system. Currently, judges use the following two legal doctrines in an effort to promote consistency across similar cases but frequently end up disenfranchising employees.
- The “Objectively Reasonable Belief” doctrine protects only those employees who complain about behavior that the courts would regard as unlawful. Given that employees do not typically understand the nuances of court decisions, this may make employees hesitant to come forward because they are unsure if their complaint will be protected by the law.
- The “Manner of the Complaint” doctrine supports employers who claim the reason for firing an employee was the ‘inappropriate’ way in which the complaint was raised, without serious consideration to the details of the complaint itself.
Eisenstadt argues that the consequences of these court-created approaches are clear. “Employees, upon seeing how these doctrines play out for their co-workers, choose to keep silent,” she says. This not only hinders the goals of the law, which is meant to protect employees from workplace discrimination but the culture and worker productivity at the workplace also suffer.
A Call For Change
Not all emotions at work lead to discord, says Geddes. “Psychological research demonstrates that expressions of anger to management in any form—whether it be in respectful complaints or in emotional outbursts—is healthier and more productive for both the worker and the workplace overall.”
So what happens next? The researchers advise that companies build a culture of open dialogue within their organizations to promote expression up and down management lines. Nonhierarchical, team-based structures, leadership’s encouragement of meaningful debate and clear channels for expressing opinions all help employers address emotions while the employee is still in the workplace.
Eisenstadt and Geddes also suggest that the court system rethink its implementation of the existing retaliation doctrines. They propose that the judiciary take an approach that considers the circumstances that led to retaliation and view the scenario from all relevant perspectives, not just the employers. “This more global approach would undoubtedly create a greater sense of security in employees,” says Eisenstadt.
Will robots replace humans at work?
As technology evolves, this question has been on the minds of many. For repetitive jobs, some are already automated. But managers and supervisors, whose jobs require higher levels of cognitive ability, should be safe—right?
Xue Guo and Zhi Cheng, two doctoral students in the Fox School’s Department of Management Information Systems, studied how the new technologies like TaskRabbit, a leading online platform to find immediate help for everyday tasks, have affected managerial-level jobs.
In analyzing data from the housekeeping industry, Guo and Cheng found a 2.9 percent decrease in the total number of offline full-time workers after the platform’s introduction—a drop mainly driven by a decrease in the number of frontline supervisors and managers.
Effects of Digital Management
The evolution of the gig economy—and the subsequent digital platforms—has created new opportunities for those searching for work. ‘Gigs’ allow people to be more selective about the employers they want to work for, receive relatively higher pay and choose from a field of work options. Even employers enjoy the flexibility of recruiting extra help as needed, reducing fixed labor costs and presenting them with options for specialized skills.
So how do these platforms change the rules of the workplace, especially for management?
To answer that question, the researchers integrated data from TaskRabbit, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, aiming to better understand the impact of the gig economy for routine cognitive workers versus manual workers.
“After the entry of TaskRabbit,” says Guo, “we observed a 5.5 percent decrease in first-line managerial jobs.” Manual workers, such as cleaners and janitors, were not as affected. This suggests that the platform mostly affected middle-skill management, whose primary tasks were to arrange and schedule service in the housekeeping industry.
Managers Moving to TaskRabbit
TaskRabbit reduced the demand for offline managers in the industry by directly connecting some of the tech-savvy cleaners to their clients. According to Guo, the detailed information about clients’ requirements and workers’ qualifications “allows them to connect with each other at lower search costs.”
Not all managers who left the industry were replaced by robots, however. Supervisors who were skilled in using technology could move to these digital platforms, giving them more freedom in an online role. “On TaskRabbit, managers could recruit and supervise regular cleaners more efficiently,” reasons Guo. “The platform also provided more flexibility and autonomy, incentivizing them to move online.”
Laborers Grapple with Technology
The researchers found that TaskRabbit increased the productivity of manual workers by efficiently planning schedules, monitoring their performance and solving disputes, subsequently driving market demand. The platform also attracted workers of different skills and backgrounds while increasing labor supply and accessibility by reducing the barriers of entry to get a job.
Laborers could also take advantage of the options for flexibility and mobility. “We observed that, even though the number of jobs has reduced, we could see an increase in self-employed workers,” says Guo. “Later studies may look at the actual wage differences, but TaskRabbit can support the option of self-employment of both managers and laborers.”
Learning To Keep Up
Thanks to technological changes like these, the dynamics of the traditional workplace are continuing to shift. Generalizing to other industries, Guo mentions that these platforms increase productivity and allow for more efficient business models, but may come at a cost to the less computer literate.
The researchers, however, are positive about this emerging economy in the future of work. “The barrier to entry of TaskRabbit is not very high,” says Guo. While this skills-biased technology change is happening in the workplace, it can create new opportunities—particularly for those entrepreneurial workers willing to learn.
For Dr. Leila Bouamatou, DBA ’17, women’s leadership in business is deeply personal
As the daughter of the founder of a family-owned bank in the West African country of Mauritania, Bouamatou studied the challenges that women in francophone Africa face when seeking to take over the family business during her time in the Fox Executive Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) program.
Bouamatou found that women’s biggest struggles included the institutionalized stigma of working outside the home; resistance from both older male and female members of the family, who were often unwilling to break with tradition; and the convention of women taking their husband’s last names, thus having a different last name than the family company.
To succeed in leading a family business in this environment, Bouamatou identified several key factors—such as modern-thinking fathers, supportive husbands, access to educational opportunities, and personality traits like determination and ability.
As the general manager at the Mauritanian General Bank, Bouamatou hopes to inspire young African girls and women to become leaders in business. She wants others to receive the encouragement that she felt at home from her parents and siblings. “I am particularly lucky to be the daughter of a modern-thinking father who has great respect towards women,” said Bouamatou, “and who believes in the potential of his daughters.” She recalls her mother teaching her from an early age about the importance of education and ambition.
Despite the barriers that remain, she sees hope for the future. “Africa is changing, and so is the mentality,” Bouamatou said. “Women are getting more and more educated and becoming more and more ambitious. Fathers are more and more supportive of their daughters and more open-minded, compared to previous generations.”
“I am fully aware that it would be hard for one single African woman to change the world,” said Bouamatou. “But I know that this African woman can shape her world and destiny.”
Nirmala Menon, MS ’91, International Change Agent
Nirmala Menon, MS ’91, worked in the Global Diversity and Multicultural Team at IBM before becoming the founder and CEO of Interweave Consulting, a diversity and inclusiveness solutions company. At IBM, she experienced the diversity and inclusion challenges across various countries. The experience prepared her to found Interweave and lead it to be a pioneer in India, where the arena was a non-existent market when the company began operations.
Through Interweave, Menon works with companies to implement progressive policies to support diverse groups. The company has touched the minds and hearts of over 150,000 people, including senior leaders and managers through its workshops and initiatives. Others receive these messages through e-modules and webinars.
“Diversity and inclusion is still a new area of work in India and it is hard to provide a direct ROI on the efforts,” said Menon, addressing the impact of her efforts. “However, there are several anecdotes that show that the efforts have translated into positive behaviors at work. A better understanding of respectful behaviors at work and more conscious efforts at gender, disability, and LGBT inclusion are all, we believe, influenced by our efforts.”
When asked how she is making the world a better place, Menon said, “In my mind, everything we do dovetails into building a better world! The work we do has a tremendous positive impact as it is directly focused on building inclusion. From helping organizations understand the value of diversity and inclusion and helping to build enabling workplace policies to support the same, it has a direct impact for the nation.”
She believes organizations are powerful vehicles of change and teach people to become influencers. “A mind expanded or enriched with knowledge and sensitivity is bound to be applied not just at work but equally in their behaviors at home and in society.”
As a result, Interweave is building the foundations for social change in India and beyond.