Industrial and organizational (I/O) psychologist Rachel Baghelai is on a mission. And she wants to enlist your help! As VP of Assessment and Measurement for the Kaleidoscope Group, Rachel wants to make “work suck less” for her clients and others. 

Work is work,” says Baghelai, “But we shouldn’t have to dread Monday mornings. And employees can be passionate about their work and be productive. To have both that passion and productivity, employees need a supportive and inclusive environment to thrive. And that’s what we help our clients accomplish.”

To do this, Baghelai and the assessment team that she manages helps clients uncover the current state of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the workplace by integrating findings from business reviews, operational assessments, employee listening campaigns, and workforce analytics. “Each type of assessment examines the organization through a different lens whether employees, communities, or suppliers, which allows us to triangulate the data and develop more robust conclusions and recommendations that align with the clients’ short, mid, and long-term goals.”

Baghelai brings a great deal of insight and expertise to the table. The daughter of two economists, she decided to go down a different career path. Having entered college at only 16 years old, she obviously demonstrated the drive, curiosity, and discipline necessary to succeed academically at a very young age. Like many undergraduates, she was overwhelmed in deciding what to major in but eventually settled on communications and business. 

Over the next decade or so she completed two master’s degrees (Business and I/O Psychology) and then her Ph.D. in Business Psychology, all while working full-time. Baghelai noted, “In my first semester of my I/O Psychology program, I knew this is what I was supposed to be doing and before I started the second year of my master’s program, I had transitioned careers and was working in external consulting focusing on employee surveys and selection.” While there, she was exposed to some of the most influential I/O psychology thought leaders—and found herself a bit starstruck by the scholarly luminaries she met at conferences and other work events. “These were the leading lights in I/O Psych, the most prominently published, and the most respected in the industry . . . I was so in awe that not only did I get to meet them, but that I was able to have conversations with them about their work and how it impacted organization in the real world.” 

The Role of I/O Psychology in Making Work Suck Less

Many people are unfamiliar with I/O Psychology as a specialty discipline, according to Baghelai. Put most simply, I/O Psychology is “the scientific study of human behavior in organizations and the workplace. It focuses on deriving principles of individual, group, and organizational behavior and applying this knowledge to the solution of problems at work” as defined by the American Psychological Association (APA). 

For Baghelai and the rest of the assessment team, this means applying painstaking analytical rigor to their assessment and measurement processes with no biases in assumptions and no one-size fit’s all approach to evaluating each client’s unique strengths, pain points, or opportunities. “We have to do a lot of upfront work and investigation to really understand the organization we are working with before we design and conduct any type of assessment,” she says. “This step is critical to ensuring that we are actually measuring the right things, rather than looking at client-based DEI through too broad or too narrow a lens. This upfront work also allows us to contextualize the findings and make meaningful recommendations. Which ultimately leads to more successful outcomes.”

Since joining Kaleidoscope Group in April 2022, Baghelai has utilized her education and work experience to build out the assessment practice area by hiring new team members with different specialties and developing new solutions offered to clients – ensuring that the work they do is reliable, scalable, and replicable. One of the projects she’s enjoyed working on the most has been revising and validating The Kaleidoscope Group’s Workplace Inclusion Framework and survey instrument.

“2020 changed everything about work and everything about DEI efforts,” she says. “That is why we decided to take a look at our Workplace Inclusion Survey and update it to make it more nuanced for today’s workplace.” To develop the updated survey, she conducted an exhaustive literature review that included academic literature and popular press articles. After the data review, a team of 17 individuals from varying disciplines and demographic dimensions came together to distill the information into approximately 40 or so questions.

While that was labor intensive, they also needed to get a representative sample of the U.S. labor market (for U.S.-based clientele) so that the test sample accurately reflected the current population in terms of demographics. “That was pretty awesome because, honestly, a lot of times that’s not something taken into consideration when validating assessment tools,” Baghelai concluded. 

In addition to the typical validation analyses conducted when determining what items to keep on the survey, Baghelai practiced applied inclusion to ensure that all voices were incorporated into the final instrument.  To do this, she examined the data not only at the total sample level, but also by (1) demographic group – allowing her to gain insight into what each group really cared about when it came to inclusion in the workplace, and (2) at the individual level using a heartbeat analysis – which helped identify those dimensions of inclusion that respondents were most passionate about. With this information in hand, the survey development team narrowed the survey instrument down to 27 items.

While updating the instrument was time-consuming and exhaustive, the payoff has been well worth it, according to Baghelai, saying, “In the end, we have a stronger survey tool with basically the same factors as our previous survey, but questions are now asked in more relevant and intentional ways to reflect work environments pre- and post-2020 . . . which doesn’t mean the previous survey was wildly off at all, we’ve just updated it to consider the workplace today.” 

This is only a snapshot of one of the many projects the Assessment Practice manages for The Kaleidoscope Group and Baghelai is just one example of the extraordinary depth of expertise that has been assembled to address client issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion over the last 30 years. Along with her diverse team of experts, she stands ready to help you and your organization “measure up” to make sure your DEI journey is on course and successful.

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