What is Organisational Psychology?

What is organisational psychology

Organisational psychology, also known as industrial and organisational psychology or occupational psychology is the study of human behaviour and thinking in a workplace environment. Professional psychologists who are qualified in organisational psychology often look to apply a mixture of fieldwork with research, applied methodology and theory to shape their study of their subject.

This means that they look into past theories and findings, but also allow their own experience and assessments to shape any areas or questions for future research. In an office-based context, an organisational psychologist would apply psychological theory, principles and real-life experience to companies and the workers working within them. This approach is known as the ‘scientist-practitioner model’.

Organisational psychologists are highly valued by companies, as they speak to workers and find out information on behaviours, opinions and attitudes towards topics such as:

  • Personal well-being
  • Job satisfaction
  • Job performance
  • Motivation
  • Health and safety
  • Management

They look to see how these areas can be improved by worker training, HR processes, recruitment processes, feedback, management styles and other support. Organisational psychologists also conduct research on other areas linked to work, such as work/life balance, changing careers, retirement and mental health.

What is organisational psychology used for?

Organisational psychology enables companies to shine a light on workers’ perceptions, abilities and skills. It helps an organisation to achieve its goals and potential while aiding workers’ professional and personal development by finding out what employees may be finding difficult, irritating or enjoyable about their role and their company’s approach to things.

The main aim of  organisational psychology is to improve worker well-being and performance, by reporting any issues to higher management, so these can be assessed and resolved.

Studying workplace behaviour

Put simply, organisational psychology studies how people behave in the workplace. This includes individual behaviour, behaviour when working in teams and collaborating, group dynamics, management behaviour and dynamics, and how people interact and communicate with each other.

Findings from observations and research are often used to improve the workplace environment within an organisation, and how workers feel about working there. The aim is to ensure that a company’s values are aligned with the needs and wants of its workforce, to ensure that a good work/life balance is achieved and that employees want to do their best for the company.

Organisational psychologists also look into how a company makes decisions at the top level, and how these impact people in lower levels of an organisation. They study how effective communication is, so that business owners and CEOs can make changes if there are any issues with the lines of communication.

Key principles of organisational psychology

Organisational psychology encompasses the following main areas:

1. Recruitment

Improving and developing the recruitment and hiring processes within a company, including how jobs are advertised and promoted, how candidates are selected and evaluated, and the general hiring process.

 2. Employee development

Organisational psychologists can look into how an organisation offers training and career support. They can look into how skills and abilities for a job are determined, and how employees are offered assessments, evaluations and access to training and development programmes.

 3. Worker satisfaction

Organisational psychology offers insight into employees’ motivations, health, safety, well-being, and job satisfaction. It gives companies an opportunity to see how workplace culture and the working environment can be improved. It can also delve into workers’ work/life balance, to see if there are better ways to align work and family life, through initiatives such as flexible working hours and home working, for example.

 4. Performance

An organisational psychologist can help companies find useful ways of monitoring employee performance in their roles through appraisals and feedback.

 5. Organisational management

Organisational psychology also focuses on company structure and inner workings. This helps an organisation to determine how productive, profitable and efficient it is, so changes can be made (if required), to improve the working culture.

How does it help businesses?

Organisational psychology has many benefits for both employees and employers.

For companies, hiring an organisational psychologist can ensure that company and worker values are closely aligned, so that the two are working harmoniously. By having a deeper understanding of an organisation’s culture, a healthier working environment can be created – reducing employee turnover while increasing productivity and general employee satisfaction.

For employees, speaking to an organisational psychologist can enable them to express how they feel about a company’s culture and their own work/life balance. They can feel part of solutions to problems, and solve issues more effectively. Psychologists can get to know workers’ opinions and preferences, and report back to senior management with proposals that can improve worker motivation and how they feel about their roles.

What does an organisational psychologist do?

An organisational psychologist will use research methods and their knowledge of psychology principles (as well as their own observations of a working environment), to study a workplace and get a feel for its culture, inner workings and problems. They’ll delve deeper into understanding company morale, productivity, management styles and so on. They may carry out screenings, training workshops and employee interviews to compile company reports and plans of action for the future.

Other tasks organisational psychologists may carry out include working with HR departments, helping businesses to hire new employees, assisting with company mergers and transitions, planning and assisting with company re-structures, training and motivating workers, and studying employee behaviour. They may also work as consultants, and act as a point of contact for psychological research and insight.

Organisational psychologists may use personality testing and profiling when assessing who may be a good fit for a role. They’ll also use behaviour testing to understand the dynamic between colleagues and departments if issues arise.

Potential working environments

Studying organisational psychology will prepare you for a role in which you are responsible for improving work processes and work cultures. You’ll typically work in a consultancy and advisory role, and will likely be working across a range of environments such as:

  • Hospitals
  • Corporate offices
  • Schools
  • Universities
  • Clinics
  • Factories
  • Police

You can also work at a variety of other locations where performance and staff morale are important for an institution to function correctly.

You will need to be calm under pressure, good at multi-tasking and prioritising, and will encounter different people from all walks of life, so good communication skills are a must. In this role, you will also need to deal with different stakeholders across a business, who may or may not be open to changes you suggest.

Studying organisational psychology

If you’re planning on studying organisational psychology, it helps to have some grounding and previous qualifications in general psychology. However, it is possible to take a Level 3 Organisational Psychology Diploma with prior learning to GCSE standard.

Some people also study organisational psychology after studying an associated subject, like social sciences, science, or business studies. If you study for a diploma in organisational psychology, this can lead to further qualifications such as a degree in psychology. You will need a degree to become a registered organisational psychologist.

Organisational psychology courses

Oxford Learning College offers a selection of organisational psychology courses and similar qualifications, including:

  • Quality Licence Scheme Level 3 Organisational Psychology Diploma – This course covers a wide syllabus to provide students with an overall introduction to organisational psychology. Each course module is designed to develop awareness of the psychological aspects involved in the working world, and how business psychology is linked to people management. Students will cover topics such as leadership, teamwork, ethical research and worker motivation in the context of organisational psychology.
  • Accredited Level 3 Organisational Psychology Diploma – This diploma gives students an overview of how the mind works, as well as general psychology and behaviour in relation to the working world. Students will be able to review personality types and identify differences, learn more about the role of an organisational psychologist, study different ways of satisfaction and motivation, and study alternative psychological aspects in relation to employers and workers.
  • Level 4 Accredited Psychology Diploma – This diploma is a good option for those who want to explore key areas of psychology. It offers a combination of theory with practical exercise. Upon completion, students will have a comprehensive understanding of psychology as a subject, and the course can be used as a pathway to further study at degree and university level. The course is also accredited by CIE Global.
  • Counselling, Coaching and Psychology Diplomas – If you’re looking to specialise in mental health services either within an organisation/corporate field or within the NHS/private sector, a diploma in counselling, coaching and/or psychology can help you on your way with your career plans. We offer a wide range of Level 3 Diplomas in Counselling, Coaching, and Psychology.