WorkLife Articles

Here are a number of articles covering work-related topics:

  1. Recent shifts in the working environment
  2. Management Development
  3. Occupational Psychology research and practice
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Recent shifts in the working environment

During the last two decades, our working and private lives have become ever more intertwined. On the one hand, we work longer and longer hours (Britain features high up in the 'top ten' of European working hours) and 'work stress' makes a regular reappearance in the daily headlines. On the other hand, we seem to have embarked on a quest for greater fulfilment and satisfaction in our working life, as a growing number of people no longer prefer the job that pays most but the one that helps our personal development and life-long learning. Thus, employees have come to expect more from their employer than the mere provision of a job.

In addition, economic changes and resulting organisational adjustments such as down-sizing and delayering have left their mark. The old 'job for life' is no more and both organisations and employees have had to make adjustments (e.g. Herriot & Pemberton, 1995). For instance, contract working and short-term employment relationships have become much more prevalent. Companies have also re-structured internally, with flatter management systems and a move away from bureaucratic hierarchies. Ways of empowering employees such as 'job enrichment', 'total quality management' or 'performance management' have also left their mark. Hence, it is now been said that responsibility for employees' career and development no longer lies with the employer, but is shared by the employee him/herself (e.g. Miles & Snow, 1996).

Dr. Almuth McDowall, September 2011
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Management Development

It is not an easy task to define the term 'management development'. Perhaps the term 'management development' should altogether be abandoned and replaced by 'people development'. This then could be defined as any processes, which are implemented in an organisation with the aim of furthering employees' potential and growth. Traditionally, this has often been conducted within the realm of a one-to-one supervisor/ subordinate relationship, with regard to a variety of aims such as improving performance, appraising salaries and devising personal development plans (Fletcher, 1997).

Recently, a number of new initiatives have taken hold though, including the prevalence of multi-source or 360 degree feedback as an input into reviews or appraisals (e.g. Fletcher & Baldry, 1999). Here, a manager would not just get feedback from his superior, but from individuals who work above him/her, below him/her and with him/her. It has been argued that this provides a more rounded assessment, that precludes personal bias which is often present in one-to-one appraisals. Other organisations are utilising multi-modal assessments, so-called development centres which have been adapted from assessment centres (traditionally used for selection and promotion), in order to identify development needs and potential or even as a learning experience in their own right (Carrick, Chance & William, 1999). Many organisations continue to make use of one-to-one relationships, not only by appraising salaries and performance, but also through developing people with mentoring and coaching.

It is the role of occupational psychologists to evaluate which processes work best for employees with certain personal characteristics, and in which environment. Moreover, thorough evaluation should also help to give clues as to whether any of these processes actually do what they purport to do: facilitate individual development.

Dr. Almuth McDowall, November 2010
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Occupational Psychology research and practice

Occupational, industrial or work psychology, whichever name one prefers, is probably the one area of psychology that concerns each of us. We all work in some way shape or form in our daily lives: be it in formal employment, as volunteers for a charity or looking after our homes and families. Occupational psychology draws its theoretical background from a variety of even longer-established psychological theories and frameworks, such as social, cognitive and counselling psychology (e.g. Arnold, Cooper, Robertson, 1998). As the name implies, occupational psychology concerns itself with the study of individual differences and system characteristics in a work environment.

At its heart, it should have the welfare of the individual and the optimisation of the environment they work in. Some of the key areas of occupational psychology are training, appraisal and development counselling, ergonomics and human-computer interaction, the assessment of individual differences and organisational characteristics, job design and organisational development.

Dr. Almuth McDowall, July 2010
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All articles © 2013 Worklife Consulting Ltd.

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