Diversity, inclusion and equity policies are becoming a business norm and placing a premium on management professionals with the non-technical skills needed to foster a workplace culture that is fair and equal for all employees.
Those skills are principles of organizational behavior (OB), a subject of psychological study into how people interact with groups. Businesses are integrating OB into their management strategies to improve morale, support productivity, reduce regulatory risk and operate more efficiently.
The ability to apply those principles is advantageous in cases where employees “lack of direction … pacifying workplace conflict or creating a more amenable work environment, issues with training employees, poor communication or feedback,” according to Investopedia.
How Do Business Professionals Gain OB Skills?
A Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in Management, such as the one offered online by the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), prepares graduates for leading roles in management, enterprise ownership, executive operations and consulting.
Participants can broaden their professional knowledge through electives that include an exploration of the principles of organizational behavior, including:
Leadership. In its Workforce Experience By Design model, Deloitte identifies relational connections employees have with their work. It also notes that 21st-century workers expect their business leaders to address social issues and promote diversity, equity and inclusive policies. Leaders who incorporate those elements into their decision-making and policies “are more than twice as likely to align the day-to-day experiences of workers with the core value of the organization,” it says.
Conflict resolution. Disputes over tasks and expectations, differences in personality and work styles and values and beliefs are common in the workplace. Yet, Harvard Law School notes that organizations are typically unprepared to manage human resource problems at the onset. It has devised a model for diagnosing underlying causes of workplace conflict, designing and implementing interventions and evaluating outcomes. “Intervening quickly in cases of conflict can dramatically reduce the costs and time associated with dispute resolution,” according to HLS.
Motivation. Daniel Pink describes two typical strategies to motivate employees. Extrinsic motivation is more common than the other, intrinsic motivation. But Pink, who writes about organizational behavior, said businesses have that backward. Extrinsic motivation is a transactional style that rewards positive performance and penalizes negative. That, he says, discourages creativity and innovation. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is a relational strategy that empowers employees to solve problems and innovate independently. “What happens? Almost across the board, productivity goes up, worker engagement goes up, worker satisfaction goes up, turnover goes down,” he says, citing FedEx and Google experience in moving from transactional to relational motivation techniques.
Change management. Harvard Business School reports that about half of all organizational projects fail and miss business-critical goals to win in markets, manage constantly evolving regulatory risk and adapt to the Big Data revolution. Harvard’s model for managing change includes:
- Gaining early buy-in from stakeholders, employees and customers
- Setting strategic metrics for success
- Identifying members of the change team
- Implementing new policies or processes
- Monitoring cultural acceptance to prevent backsliding
- Measuring results
“To effectively manage change, managers and business leaders must thoroughly understand the steps involved,” HBS says.
Interpersonal communication. Organizational communication is a critical soft-skill asset that, when done well, enriches workplace culture, motivates employees and aligns the company’s offerings and capabilities with market demands. Indeed recommends what it calls “a meaning-centered” style built on the understanding that communication is an aggregate of interpersonal interactions. “The main reason to institute better organizational communication is to open channels of communication with your employees so they can be heard,” Indeed advises.
Al jobs require specific technical skills and expertise, but proficiency in the skills and principles of organizational behavior are relevant to any management or leadership role in any organization.
“Having strong behavioral skills can help you succeed in job interviews and at work,” according to The Balance Careers.