Plant people to reap profits

Understanding Occupational and Organisational Psychology. First edition - Testing People at Work
December 2, 2005

There is an old Chinese proverb that goes something like this: "If you are planning for one year, plant rice; if you are planning for ten years, plant trees; if you are planning for a hundred years, plant people."

The whole basis of occupational and organisational psychology is to understand and develop strategies of improving the "people aspects" of organisational life. Both of these books provide valuable insights and ammunition in planning and developing people at work.

Understanding Occupational and Organisational Psychology is a generic textbook that was designed to meet the curriculum requirements of the division of occupational psychology of the British Psychological Society. There is an overview chapter on occupational psychology that explores its paradigms, perspectives and practice. This is followed by eight chapters in the field's major sub-areas: selection and assessment, training, performance appraisal and career development, employee relations and motivation, organisational development and change, workplace counselling and personal development, human-machine interaction and design of work and work environments (health and safety).

No surprises there, but it is good to see, in several of the chapters, an orientation towards personal development; rarely does one see in other texts a chapter devoted exclusively to workplace counselling and personal development. The success of most organisations depends on the wellbeing and success of their individuals and teams. The more people meet their own objectives and get on with one another, the more effective the organisation.

This is a really useful and comprehensive textbook that will provide readers with all they need as a primer in the field of occupational and organisational psychology.

Testing People at Work is a more specialised book, on psychometric testing at work. It is long overdue and is an outstanding addition to the literature in the field. It covers aspects of testing that have not been highlighted hitherto or if they have been, too long ago to be of any use in the new world of psychometric testing in the workplace. The book is very well written and clearly structured. The authors make it easy and succinct even in their more technical chapters on statistics, utility analysis and the like.

The book starts with an introduction on competence in occupational testing, and how important it is for practising occupational psychologists, which is followed by four sections on preparation for testing, psychometrics (the more technical aspects), assessment tools and using tests.

The first section comprises chapters on job analysis, intelligence and cognitive ability, personality, needs analysis and attracting applicants.

The second is on basic statistics in testing, sensitivity of selection measures, standard error/reliability, validity, bias of measures and utility analysis. The third covers assessment tools, highlighting choice of selection methods, psychometric tests, e-selection, other scientific methods of selection and less scientific (for example, graphology, astrology and so on) methods and, most important of all, "assessment centres", which are now used by many organisations in the public and private sector. Choosing the right job and matching the right person for the right job is fundamental to individual and organisational success. The final part is using tests, exploring test administration, norms/profiles, interpreting scores, face-to-face feedback, written reports, telephone feedback and ethics and data protection. This is a very valuable and rarely highlighted aspect of testing but of enormous practical significance to HR practitioners and occupational psychologists alike. This book should become a classic of its kind.

Cary L. Cooper is professor of organisational psychology and health, Lancaster University Management School.

Understanding Occupational and Organisational Psychology. First edition

Author - Lynne Millward
Publisher - Sage
Pages - 514
Price - £75.00 and £24.99
ISBN - 0 7619 4133 9 and 4134 7

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