The Role of Training and Development in I/O Psychology

Training and development is a very wide area within the field of I/O psychology. Continually improving the skills of the company's work force is essential for staying updated in the fast moving business world. Most companies have come to the realization that this is a vital part of business success; therefore, most have implemented some type of program into their human resources practices. The I/O psychologists have many career options when it comes to this part of the field. Coaching, training program implementation, instructional design, and management training are just some path options available. It is a rewarding and exciting part of I/O psychology.

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Many new I/O psychologists are drawn to this specialty in the field of training and development. Coaching involves aiding executives, business owners and others to reach their full career potential. It is often a consulting position, and as such it allows I/O psychologists to work with multiple people in different sectors of the business world; thus it can be a very interesting specialty.

A coaching job can also include acting as a consultant that is hired by various companies to identify and select leaders from the current pool of employees. The consultant is then given the responsibility of developing and coaching the candidate to enable their smooth transition to the higher position. In this regard the Coaching specialist is also acting as a trainer and educator to the person who is being groomed for an executive position.

While many non-degreed business coaching consultants exist in this market, an I/O psychologist is considered to have the high qualifications and education necessary to perform this job to its highest standard. Many large companies will not hire a business coach unless they have a Master's degree in the field. Coaching can take place in person, by phone, and through teleconferencing. The financial compensation for an experienced business coach can be quite high.


Focusing on a specialization in training can be diverse and interesting for an I/O psychologist. This area basically entails establishing training needs and implementing various programs to help advance the skills, expertise, and education of employees. As with coaching, many positions and opportunities exist for freelance consulting. Alternatively, positions may be had with one company, usually in Human Resources.

Training specialists use many techniques to establish training needs; some of which include surveys, personal interviews, job analysis, and observation. This is usually an on-going procedure as training needs will change from year to year. Training specialists are also charged with creating various programs that are suitable and advantageous to employees. Some programs and training offerings may include e-learning, in-house classes, off-site classroom training, CBT (computer based training), and traditional college classes.

Instructional Design

Instructional design is defined in many ways it is similar to training and development; however, it focuses more on organizational structure and implementing learning systems into organizations. Thus, an I/O psychologist who specializes in this area would be more involved with the planning and formulation of instructional materials and learning. Instructional design may be implemented in schools, universities, and businesses. There is less involvement with students and more contact with educators and facilitators in this area.

Organizational Learning

Organizational learning studies theories related to the way an organization learns and adapts to changes and developmental growth. Also, OL is closely related to other areas of training and development with the basic difference being that it studies learning from a higher and broader perspective. It is through the study of organizational learning that businesses and organizations are able to innovate, grow, expand, and evolve. Some I/O psychologists only stay on the research end of this field; however, there are many opportunities for consulting positions and in-house HR positions within this area of Training and Development.

Management Training

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Organizational Psychology course?

The training and developing of managers is more involved and specific than broader areas of training. While coaching may be geared towards executive level employees, managers have their own special needs in regard to their positions. They are often the middle people or liaisons between upper management and support staff. Managers are given a great deal of responsibility within companies and organizations including making important decisions on a daily basis. Most companies offer special training for their management teams.

The I/O psychologists are concerned with gearing this type of training for the specific duties and responsibilities that a manager will face on a regular basis. They are also trained on how to properly deal with those who work under them and given motivational instruction.


Training and development is a broad and varied area of study within I/O psychology. There are many options and career paths available in this area for those who are interested in widening the resources of organizations and those who work for them. Consulting is often an option for many of these areas, so, if working for various companies rather than one organization is appealing to you, then this is an area you should consider.

Organization Development and Guided Change


Organization Development (OD) has been used for years to help organizations solve problems and reach goals. It is also used as a means of avoiding problems by teaching key personal problem solving skills that will help them to identify potentially troublesome situations and deal with them before they cause serious damage.

OD is often implemented during a large change within a company or organization. However, many executives are realizing the benefit of using OD as part of their regular business practices. In either case this field has large benefits and can be interesting and quite involved. In this lesson we will discuss the most prevalent applications of OD and why they are important to business success.

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Why OD

OD involves organizational reflection, system improvement, planning, and self-analysis. Thus, OD can and does identify, manage, and implement change within an organization. It is a process that is used for a variety of reasons that will help organizations make positive changes that will become part of the company culture and habit.

OD is done for many reasons; some companies realize that their old way of doing things is not allowing them to compete in a global market. The others understand that their workforce needs more than monetary compensation to be happy and fulfilled and thus perform to the best of their ability. Whatever the case, OD helps organizations to manage their employees better and more efficiently.

OD psychologists and consultants perform various duties and provide many services, some of which include:

Change Management or Guided Change. The OD specialist will work with groups and organizations to help plan and implement large changes within an organization. This is often called guided change as it is change that is supervised so that it is successful in the long term.

Problem Solving. This is a vital issue for any company and has been shown to improve the overall handling of situations and events that most businesses confront on a daily basis. The OD consultant or specialist helps groups identify key issues, brainstorm and do research about the issues and then help them formulate decisions and actions that will address and rectify the issues.

Team Development. It often helps when businesses allow their employees to form groups or teams who work together to accomplish goals. The OD consultant will help create teams within an organization that will work well together. Later the OD consultant will assist them in learning to work effectively together and how to be productive in a group environment.

Business Redesign. Redesign entails working within organizations to restructure their current ways of doing things and analyzing why other methods have not worked effectively in the past. It differs from guided change in that the company is not usually sure what changes need to be made. Thus the OD specialist must help them to develop a plan of change. Redesign also calls upon the consultant to help design new methods of doing business and implement these into the work environment as seamlessly as possible.

Proper Planning for OD Success

OD takes a great deal of planning, particularly for large and long established companies who are going through vast changes. It is often difficult to get everyone on board and on track when they have become used to doing things one way for an extended period of time. Even if employees view the changes as positive, they often feel stressed by having to learn and implement new and unfamiliar business practices. Thus, well planned change can allow for a smooth transition, rather than creating confusion and obstacles to these efforts. Since each business and organization is different, plans must be customized to meet the needs of each unique company.
Organizational development consultants address several important aspects that will insure successful change and development. In each instance of guided change OD specialists must spend a great deal of time working out short-term and long-term planning to ensure that the changes will ultimately be successful in the present and in the future. Many times a consultant will stay on for an extended period of time to make sure that all involved are following the plans and guidelines established for them. Another method is to train HR for this task, so that long after the OD consultant has left, HR can take the role of keeping the organization from falling back into old procedures.

Planned Intervention

Richard Beckhard, a recognized pioneer in the area of OD, is credited with coining the term "planned intervention." According to Beckhard OD is a long term process by which change is implemented over time. He outlined OD as thus:

    1. Planned. It is not a Band-Aid or quick fix to problems that exist within a company or organization.
    2. Organization Wide. The whole system must be involved for success.
    3. Managed from the top. Change and OD must have the full efforts and support of executive level management. It is their job to act as models for employees for OD implementation to be effective and successful.
    4. Must increase organization effectiveness and health. It must improve the organization in some way usually by aligning procedure and systems with the people who work for it.
    5. Must use behavioral science knowledge. As OD combines the knowledge of behavior and the ability to understand people, business systems, and the interaction of the two, it is important that this background is present.

In this regard OD is a series of planned interventions that allow for significant change that will last over a very long period of time.

Implementing Change, Gleicher's Formula

Many organizations may see a need for change, but that is not always an indication that it is ready for long-term change to take place. For OD to be ultimately successful the entire organization must, as Beckhard points out, be involved and on-board for new practices and methods of doing business. Beckhard, along with David Gleicher devised a formula for I/O psychologists to decide whether or not an organization was ready for change to take place. This formula is often called "Gleicher's Formula, as Beckhard credits him with its creation. The basic principle this formula is shown below:

D x V x F > R

= Dissatisfaction with the way things are now.

V = Vision of what is possible.
F = First concrete steps that can be taken towards the vision.
R = Resistance to change.

If the product of D, V, and F are greater than the resistance to change, change can effectively take place. If any of the factors on the left side of the equation are weak or not present, change cannot successfully take place.

This formula was seen as a milestone in the field of organization development and is still used today to establish change readiness in regards to OD. It has been proven that without this criteria being met, implementing change successfully is nearly impossible.


Organization development is an important field within Industrial and organizational psychology. It has numerous applications in the business world and can successfully help bring about effective change for the better to any organization, large or small. Establishing the willingness and readiness for change is the first step in OD implementation and long term success.