Q&A With Tae-Youn Park

Get to know more about one of ILR’s seven new faculty members.
Welcome to Tae-Youn Park
Friday, August 2, 2019

Tae-Youn Park comes to Cornell following a stint as an assistant professor of Organization Studies at the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University. He received his Ph.D. in 2012 from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota 

What is your research about?
I study how employment policies and practices, such as compensation, parental leave, and employee turnover and retention, affect both employers and employees. I often see that the employment policies that seemingly benefit employers do not necessarily benefit employees. For example, in the current (gig) economy, it seems desirable to treat each employee differently based on their own merits, but I don’t think we know well about how such approaches affect other important outcomes such as employee well-being, creativity, innovation and employee rights. Through my research, I aim to find ways to benefit both employers and employees in a balanced manner via employment policies.

How did you become interested in your field?
I became interested in my area when I was working for South Korea’s New Paradigm Center, a government-sponsored consulting and research initiative designed to help small and medium-sized businesses in Korea. At the center, I met many business owners who wanted to implement good employment policies and practices but did not know how to, as well as many employees who were working in stressful environments. One story I vividly remember is that a refugee who had experienced severe working conditions in North Korea quit a company in South Korea saying that “the work is too tough.” During the course of my early research career, I also learned that people often have different theories on effective ways to manage people, as reflected in cases at Amazon, Uber, Tesla, Google, etc. This led me to become interested in studying employment relationships.

What impact do you hope your research will have?
When studying employment policy effects, I focus a lot on the contingencies and conditions that moderate the effects. I realize that many managers believe that their organizations’ situations are unique and different than others, and thus unsure about if they should adopt a policy. While it is true that each organization is different, I think there also are general ways to characterize organizational environments. I hope my research can help managers characterize better about their business environments and the effects of employment policies they consider.

What attracted you to the ILR School?
It is fascinating that so many talented people with different disciplinary backgrounds are grouped together in one place, all researching on the same mission: making workplaces better. I was trained by both labor economists and organizational psychologists, and I know how intellectually stimulating it is to be in such a group. To me, Cornell ILR is one of the few places—and the best among them—where the school’s mission and faculty composition fit very well with my scholarly goal of advancing employment theories. I am also very much looking forward to meeting highly talented students.
What are you most excited for about your time at ILR?
People, and the new opportunities. Everyone I met at the ILR school has been very smart, supportive and friendly. And I know that ILR provides many opportunities to connect with HR professionals and make practical impacts. These are important to me, and I am looking forward to my time at ILR.
Cornell’s “Any Person, Any Study” ethos – how will you be part of that?
I taught MBA students for seven years at Vanderbilt University and I think I have quite a good understanding of both business and labor sides of work issues. Also, at Vanderbilt I was one of the most accessible faculty members and served as a faculty advisor for Asian students helping them getting adjusted to the career and life in the U.S. I would be happy to meet any Cornell students, including those with minority backgrounds, and share my personal and academic knowledge with them.

If you could share one piece of advice with your students, what would it be?
Try talking about the things that you learn at the school. You will learn a lot, but the knowledge is not yours unless you can talk about it to others.

What’s something people are surprised to learn about you?
I roast coffee at home.