The Crossroads of Psychology Programs, Management Programs and Motivation

Dear reader

Alexa Thompson shares with us a piece on the results of integrating positive psychology within human resource management to produce effective, efficient and motivated employees. The author of several online resources about psychology, including where a psychology graduate might find a job or establish a career (perhaps in human resource management), Alexa outlines how exactly positive psychology came to be such an integral part of business and human resource management, as noted in a review I wrote of a recently published book on human resources and management.

A good read! Enjoy it!

Peter Lorange

The Crossroads of Psychology Programs, Management Programs and Motivation

Alexa Thompson

Human resource management is recognized today as a key difference between the modern business practices of today and the archaic practices of the past. Though the concept of HRM can be traced to the outset of the Industrial Revolution, it was not until the late 20th century – when a definitive link between positive psychology and productivity was established – that it became a workplace standard. Today, many companies and small businesses are able to thrive by incorporating positive reinforcement and motivational techniques into their office culture.

“19th century business owners realized that great oversight was required.”

The ideas of human resource and management initially arose from necessity. As factories, plants and other production facilities began sprouting up across Europe and North America in the early 19th century, business owners realized that great oversight was required. A series of  Factory Acts, passed in the United Kingdom between 1802 and 1937, gradually improved workplace conditions by maximizing shift lengths, requiring routine inspections from outside appraisers and limiting the number of children per factory (and then abolishing the practice of child labor altogether). However, these industrial welfare measures did little to sanctify worker’s rights or improve their attitudinal outlook. For most business owners, productivity and profit were the chief concerns.

The early 20th century yielded some interesting findings on the relationship between worker morale and company output. Frederick Taylor, a well-known engineer, noted in Scientific Management that people tend to perform tasks more effectively if they are naturally or intellectually inclined to perform them well. Taylor’s inquiries, known as the Hawthorne Studies established distinct behaviors between individuals who worked alone and clusters of workers – and noted the increase in productivity when people felt comfortable within their workplace surroundings.

Frederick Taylor, the father of scientific management

These studies corresponded with two key developments of modern business – the rise of labor unions (beginning in the late 19th century and continuing to the present day) and the increased emphasis on workplace safety that began in the 1970s.

Today, human resource management encompasses all aspects of employee management and wellbeing, including recruitment, interviews, oversight, evaluation, record-keeping and salary/wage increases. Another key aspect is positive psychology, as HRM representatives are expected to serve as positive contacts within the company for any employee. For this reason, they are instrumental in the productivity levels of their company.

“When we feel good, we are more likely to be in touch with our values.”

Dave Shearon, journalist

Journalist Dave Shearon, who earned a Master’s in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, noted in 2007 that effective HRM benefits the employees, the employer, the organization and society as a whole. “When we feel good, we are more likely to be in touch with our values, find a purpose in our work, and have intrinsic goals in harmony with our purpose and values,” he wrote in Positive Psychology News Daily. “That also promotes the objectives of the organizations we work for.”

Most business experts identify positive psychology as a hallmark of successful company management. However, the term ‘positive psychology’ can manifest itself in many ways. Some companies promote health and wellness. SAS offers on-site healthcare, complimentary use of the company’s massive gym and summer camp classes for children, while Wegmans challenges employees to walk at least 10,000 steps every day.

Boston Consulting Group takes a philanthropic approach by urging employees to take part in its Social Impact Practice Network (SIPN), which promotes both community-based outreach and global programs like the United Nations World Food Programme.

Company perks also boost morale; REI, for instance, offers employees a discount of 50 to 75 percent on all merchandise. And for many companies, financial assurance during an economic recession has proven to be a pivotal step toward increasing employee satisfaction. Google recently boosted all worker salaries by 10 percent and offered them a $1,000 bonus for their services, while Camden Property Trust encouraged employee input during a recent effort to reduce costs by $6 million.

The success of all these companies is far from coincidental. They realize, just as business leaders and psychologists first intuited a century ago, that worker satisfaction and welfare is in many ways a company’s most prized commodity.


One thought on “The Crossroads of Psychology Programs, Management Programs and Motivation

  1. Pingback: The Crossroads of Psychology Programs, Management Programs and « About Psychology

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