The secret of making successful decisions

We live in the age of information. Technological and scientific advancements mean that we’re increasingly bombarded with suggestions about how to make improvements to our lives. Yet these suggestions often seem to differ or conflict. With an abundance of information, how do we know which suggestions to give credence to, and which to act upon?

Organisations face the same challenges. Their decision-makers understand the need to make sound and effective choices about how to allocate limited resources. And the decisions they make have profound implications for employees and society. But those decisions are undoubtedly complex, and often, the people making them don’t have a clear view of all the factors in play.

This is understandable. Decision-makers often have to navigate challenging and pressurised organisational contexts, and act quickly to deliver results. While no one sets out to make a bad decision, a large amount of research has shown that even the best decision-makers often make hasty and inaccurate ones – because they haven’t taken the time to consider and evaluate a wide-range of evidence. What’s more, the factors and outcomes of organisational decisions – such as leadership, engagement and culture – may be intangible and difficult to measure. As a result, decisions and actions are often guided by what’s been done in the past, or what others in the industry are doing, rather than by evidence that’s grounded in the immediate organisational context.

At the Future Work Centre, we want to help organisations to make better, more effective decisions about their people by taking an evidence-based approach. This means asking the right questions, and balancing different types of evidence (such as existing organisational data, people’s experiences, published research and insights into the psychology of people at work) before reaching conclusions.

To do this, we apply our skill and expertise as occupational psychologists and researchers in organisations to design robust programmes of research. We go beyond measurement, helping organisations to understand the meaning of the evidence and how it speaks to them as an organisation and as individuals.

In other words, we find out what works, in what way, and for whom. And that results in decisions that work, too.

To find out more, visit ‘What is an evidence-based approach?

What is occupational psychology?

What is occupational psychology?

Dr Richard A. MacKinnon, insight director

Working as a psychologist, one of the most frequent questions I get asked by people (aside from ‘Can you tell what I’m thinking?’) is ‘What do occupational psychologists actually do?’

First, let’s put to rest any images of the “patient” lying back on a couch and telling the “therapist” all about their dreams and their childhood. This is not that kind of psychology.

Simply put, occupational psychology is the branch of psychology that studies people at work. This specialism is interested in what people think, feel and do when it comes to work – from careers and dealing with change to benefiting from training and coping with stress.

Occupational psychologists tend to specialise in one particular area, but they all use common scientific methods, which is what makes them psychologists. It’s worth noting that they don’t always refer to themselves as “occupational” psychologists and sometimes use the terms “industrial” or “business” psychologist instead.

Here are five examples of what occupational psychologists might do:

  1. Help people just starting their careers to identify what interests them and to prepare for the application process.
  2. Help organisations to recruit the right people by developing psychometric questionnaires or writing interview questions.
  3. Organise work into discrete, coherent and rewarding jobs.
  4. Design the work environment to make people as productive and happy as possible.
  5. Coach people through changes and challenges in their careers.

As you can see from these very brief descriptions, occupational psychology is an incredibly interesting and varied profession and one that has the potential to affect more people than any other psychological discipline. After all, there are about 30 million of us at work in the UK right now. Many tens of thousands are looking for employment, with thousands more leaving the education system to find work each year.

Our fundamental goal as occupational psychologists is to make the interaction between the person and the job as rewarding, productive and enriching as possible. This benefits the employee, the team, the organisation and society as a whole. You can’t ask for much more than that!

Is there something you’d like to know about occupational psychology?

Ask us in the comments!

The road less travelled

If you were standing at a fork in a path, and the path was well-trodden in one direction but overgrown in the other – which would you choose? Probably the well-trodden one, right?

That’s how some organisations make decisions. Whether it’s who to hire, what training and development to invest in or how to make their people more productive, they follow what others have done and what they hear is ‘best’ – without any evidence that it’s going to work for them. Unsurprisingly, it sometimes doesn’t. And the impact of that can be huge.

Read more in our article published in HR Grapevine:

New appointment – Claire Rahmatallah

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Claire Rahmatallah as our Commercial Director. Claire will be responsible for helping us reach as wide an audience as possible and for making our research findings and guidance meaningful and accessible, so people and organisations can make more informed decisions.

Claire has over 15 years’ experience as a marketing and communications professional in the field of occupational psychology.

”We’re incredibly pleased to welcome Claire to the team” said David Lythgoe, Managing Director. “She has great experience and a deep understanding of how organisations apply and get value from occupational psychology”.

New appointment – Andrew Smith

We are delighted to welcome Andrew Smith to the team. As Insight Psychologist, he will be responsible for turning evidence-based research into meaningful insights and recommendations for both organisations and the general public.

Andrew brings with him over 15 years’ experience from a range of industries and sectors. During his time working in the IT industry, he developed a passion for using technology and data to provide insight into performance and behaviour at work. He has worked both in business psychology consultancy and independently. 
His work has included leadership talent programme design and evaluation, competency modelling, psychometric test development in online and high-stakes settings and coaching in the financial sector.

“We are really excited to have Andrew on board.” said Richard.