Career Scoop: Manager, Organisational Development

Career Scoop File, on what its like to work as an Organisational Development ManagerWhat’s your Job Title?

Manager, Organisational Development

In a nutshell, what do you do?

I work with our Healthcare workforce to improve productivity, engagement and leadership, so that staff can provide better care to our patients.

Why did you decide to become an Organisational Development Manager?

I got into psychology because my first role was made redundant.  That was when I found my specialized skills weren’t in demand in the market, nor did I hold tertiary qualifications, so had limited job opportunities.

While studying my senior certificate at night school I was day-dreaming in English class and realized that I am always interested in human behaviour – what makes people tick, so thought maybe I should study psychology.

After my first psychology class I knew it was the right choice for me. I was interested in both forensic and organisational psychology but when I looked at job opportunities and remuneration decided to take up organisational psychology.

The reason I took on my current role was because I had spent 12 years as an external consultant in Organisational Psychology and I wanted to get back to an in-house position, to the political realities and constraints of implementing changes internally. I wanted to get in touch with realities and work on projects through to the end, so I could see the outcomes of my work.

What path did you take into it?

My first career was in court reporting and, as I said, when technology made this role redundant after 15 years, I went back to complete my Senior Certificate, and then enrolled to study Psychology.

Whilst I was studying, I worked full-time in a clerical role to support myself, and I also looked for ways to get involved in HR and Training projects within my work, to build relevant skills and experience. It took 7 years to complete my degree, then I took a year off work, to concentrate on my Honours year.

When I graduated, one of my lecturers recommended me for a consulting Psychologist role at an outplacement company (managing a team of career coaches and providing career management services), where I stayed for 6 years.

From there, I moved to large Talent Management firm, in a consulting role (psychometric assessment, leadership development, employee engagement) for another 6 years, and I secured my current, in-house role through networks.

What, in your opinion, is the best bit of being an Organisational Development Manager?

I most enjoy coaching and developing my own team, and being able to see them grow.

The best bit for my organisation, is having been able to introduce evidence-based solutions – giving them better quality tools, techniques and processes to work with.

Obviously I enjoy it when we win awards, and get the recognition for what we’ve done in the organisation… and it’s rewarding to see projects completed, to see a plan coming to fruition.

Overall, Healthcare is a really interesting sector to work in; you get to build relationships with a wide variety of people across most occupations, and I enjoy getting to hear what people are doing, and help them to perform at a high level.

Every job has its downsides. What do you think are the worst bits?

I dislike data analysis, return on investment analysis and reporting… but it’s a part of working internally, where you have to prove the value of your work and justify the costs of introducing new ideas (much as sales is a key part of working as an external consultant, in Organisational Development).

Working within the not-for-profit sector can also be frustrating, as you have to work with a very tight budget, do more with less, and be really innovative when you have such a lack of resources.

Is it what you expected when you first started out – and what’s different?

Yes, it’s about what I expected. The governance side can be a bit frustrating; working within a very rigid, hierarchical structure, there’s lots of politics and any concerns or issues can take a long time to reach you, as tend to go through a fixed chain of command (when I wish people would come straight to us).

Having said that, we had a very quick uptake of our services, as nurses and healthcare staff are very familiar with the value of evidence-based practice – so they recognised the value of our suggestions very quickly. When it comes to the evidence-based side, we currently rely on research data a lot, as our internal data isn’t yet consistent or reliable.

What do the public least understand – or mistake – about what you do? 

Most people don’t understand what Organisational Development is, and the closest thing they recognise is Learning and Development, so they tend to confuse us with training. As so much of the work we do is behind-the-scenes design and planning, it tends to be a bit invisible.

I work on increasing employee productivity and engagement, with some example projects including:

  • Engineering better recruitment practices, so that we get the right fit candidate, for the right job, at the right time
  • Introducing recognition awards, to recognise staff with really innovative practice
  • Running diagnostic organisational surveys, to audit and improve our performance
  • Introducing the use of psychometrics, in staff recruitment and development
  • Introducing high level leadership development programs, to ensure that our leaders are performing optimally
  • Providing non clinical professional development opportunities

What kind of people tend to do well?

People who are achievement-driven, and both analytical and objective – as well as very organised, with a high level of attention to detail so that you can produce quality, professional products (whether that’s interventions, policies or documents).

You also need a strong customer focus, and the ability to influence opinion and decision-making at a high level, without having positional power. In this role, you need to be assertive – to be able to have difficult conversations without creating conflict – so you do need to be confident, and resilient.

Finally, any advice you’d offer to people looking to get into this line of work? 

If you’re a student of Psychology or Organisational Development, you need to gain life experience and get a real understanding of how organisations function. You really need to understand the working dynamics and politics of organisations. I’d recommend taking on contract or temping roles, to build this understanding, and / or looking for internships.

If you’re an adult, looking to transition, you need to get your qualifications first and then bring your life experience to that. Having a diverse tool-kit will definitely help, and there are lots of accredited Psychology tools – think of gaining coaching accreditations, building mentoring experience, project management and design skills. It can also help to have experience / skills in facilitation, business presentations, story-telling – a diverse range of tools to work with.

Finally, as an adult, you need to be adaptable coming into this space. You have to be able to balance being confident in your recommendations, with not being wedded to them or too precious, as you often have to re-group and adapt if your recommendations are not accepted.


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