Greg Sears is contributing to the way businesses and organizations assess, hire, and manage employees through his research. Sears is an Associate Professor of Human Resources Management and Organizational Behaviour at the Sprott School of Business. His research program brings together elements of psychology with human resource management.

After completing his undergraduate degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology, Sears began work with the federal government’s Public ServiceCommission at the Personnel Psychology Centre in Ottawa. Here, he helped develop and administer various selection instruments, including ability tests, job interviews, and simulations, to aid in improving staffing and hiring processes in the Government of Canada. Moreover, Sears was a key contributor to the federal government’s “360-degree Leadership Assessment Process,” which assesses the competencies of managers from different perspectives (e.g., by their supervisors, peers, and followers).

While working in this area, Sears recognized gaps in the traditional approaches to selecting the right person for the job, as well as how to predict good leadership in candidates. Fueled by this, Sears returned to academia to complete his PhD in Human Resources and Management. With both his psychology background and business acumen, Sears recognized how personality characteristics and other key competencies (for example, “soft skills”) are often overlooked in organizational assessment systems. By including these characteristics in the selection process, an employer is better able to determine whether a person will be a good match for meeting job requirements and will be more likely to report stronger perceptions of well-being at work—something that Sears’ research has demonstrated.

What do employees like to see in their leaders? Sears’ research further investigates whether, and how, leader and follower characteristics contribute to effective leader-follower working relationships. Historically, the role of a manager is to ensure they get the best efficiencies out of their employees, but Sears’ research is looking at various “personalized” approaches to leadership, such as “servant leadership,” which focuses on managers prioritizing the needs of their employees and ensuring employee overall satisfaction and well-being.

Working with his PhD students, his research aims to understand how servant leadership and the quality of the leader-follower relationship impact perceptions of motivation and wellbeing for both the leader and their followers. Further to this, Sears sees the need for change, specifically to change the strategies used to improve the way leaders lead and create a culture within their organizations.

Awarded a SSHRC research grant, Sears is working with colleagues Ed Ng, from Dalhousie University, and Kara Arnold, from Memorial University, to examine leadership dynamics among senior leaders in organizations (CEOs and Chief Diversity Officers) and how this affects workplace inclusion. Findings from this research will provide novel insight into the key characteristics and competencies that should be considered in selecting and training leaders to better support diversity and inclusion in organizations.

Sears’ research umbrella at Sprott is a diverse portfolio of interconnected spheres in human resource management and organizational behavior and he continues to work with industry leaders and other academic collaborators. He is currently working on a research project for a large, public-sector organization examining how their selection process may be improved. The project will explore and determine some of the key predictors of employee satisfaction and performance by looking at different types of selection tests and employee characteristics. For example, he is investigating whether an individual’s ability to consider and understand the viewpoints of others (“perspective-taking”), plays a key role in predicting employees’ display of cooperative behaviors and impacts the well-being of others in the workplace. The central goal in this project is not only to predict one’s performance, but also how to improve the recruitment process, taking into account how best to improve the quality of life of employees.

Sears’ desire to understand the “world of work and how it operates” emerged from some of his very challenging and formative work experiences. One summer as a university student, Sears took a job as a ship cleaner. The working conditions were lamentable—long days for a demanding supervisor with a sharp temper! And, between those quitting and those being fired by the boss, of the 30 employees that started, only a handful were left by the end. Through this experience, Sears’ thoughts circled around boss performance and employee satisfaction. It was here, facing very onerous and demanding working conditions that Sears’ interest was piqued in understanding what effective leadership looks like and what is required for employee well-being. And, it was here, that he knew that it would be his last summer cleaning ships!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019 in , ,
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