Industrial and organisational psychologists must make a difference

Annette Willemse -- Tue, 03/29/2016 - 09:05

Industrial and organisational psychologists must make a difference

“Industrial and organisational psychologists (IOPs) can make a difference, have an impact and create value, or at least that is how we sell it to students and interns. Yet, incongruences exist as to the nature, scope, span, and impact of the skills and abilities IOPs bring to the table,” says Prof Llewellyn van Zyl, chairperson of the Society for Industrial & Organisational Psychology of South Africa (SIOPSA) and researcher at the Vaal Triangle Campus of the North-West University (NWU Vaal).

Professor Van Zyl is also a sub-programme leader (Optimising potential) within the Optentia Research Focus Area.

“Are we really making the impact which we know we could? Are we adding value to the areas which need our expertise the most? Do we even know what these areas are? And more importantly, are we actively contributing to building a flourishing society?” These are the questions, according to Prof Van Zyl, which need to be answered in both the discipline and the profession. It is Prof Van Zyl’s opinion that IOPs have become complacent and as such accept mediocrity. “We have become comfortable in the normal ebb and flow of the status quo. We promulgate personal growth and development to our clients; yet we are stagnant in our own professional development. With the exclusion of a hand full of individuals in our field, we are not actively, collectively building out our value proposition nor are we investing in the growth, transformation and development of South Africa.  However, we have the skills, abilities, competencies and energy to make an active change in the way in which South Africa functions”. 

18th annual SIOPSA Conference

In September 2015, US President Barrack Obama issued an executive order titled “Using behavioural science insights to better serve the American people” in support of the work which Industrial Psychologists are doing in the USA”. This order formalised and permanently established a task team of prominent industrial psychologists and behavioural scientists to aid in enhancing the functioning of its government and the impact it has on society. This report encourages federal agencies and departments to apply the principles of behavioural science insights, measures, methods and models in order to strengthen relationships with the community and to aid in making “better decisions about policy”. He is quoted as saying: “Where federal policies have been designed to reflect behavioural science insights, they have substantially improved outcomes for the individuals, families, communities, and businesses those policies serve.”

Through this executive order, the unique value which IOPs can contribute to the development, enhancement, growth and sustainability of a country’s federal programmes and policies was formally recognised.  This order further acts as an accolade for South Africa as to the impact which we as IOPs can make within society.

This noble idea, is what lies behind this year’s 18th annual SIOPSA Conference (19 - 21 July 2016). Through the conference, the organisers will aim to stimulate debate around how IOPs can better serve society, how the profession can impact policy development and how practitioners can build South Africa into a thriving interconnected community. The conference aims to further develop strategies as to how IOPs can add value and impact individuals, communities and the country.

Prof Llewellyn van Zyl