Companies routinely make both minor and significant operational changes. These changes can occur during turbulent periods like a pandemic, or more common business disruptions such as a restructuring. Companies must adapt to a host of factors, including demographic shifts, competitive pressures, and technological advancements, to best serve their customers and remain profitable.
Organizational development consultants are uniquely equipped to help companies deal with change, whether transformational change or the more routine incremental change that keeps a business on the right course. These professionals have the knowledge and tools to help companies navigate extreme disruptions and bring order to chaotic business transitions.
What Is an Organizational Development Consultant?
Sometimes called OD, organizational development is a process that helps companies identify and make changes that improve their effectiveness. Organizational development consultants use their background in applied psychology or a similar field to understand and measure human behavior and assess company management, analyze workplace culture and develop employee programs based on data drawn from that research.
Organizational development consultants look at the company’s culture and identity, from its mission statement to its business strategy. They assess operations, leadership development and communication. They may focus particularly on employee management, from talent acquisition to employee satisfaction, training and team building. They then present their findings based on interviews, surveys and other data culled from their research.
For example, a company may want to assess how best to move staff members who have been working remotely due to the pandemic back into an office. An organizational development consultant would survey employees, see what they need to make a return to the office effective and welcome and make recommendations to company leaders on how to achieve or adapt that goal.
One of the most important aspects of organizational development is that it is ongoing and iterative. The organizational development consultant gathers research, assesses the data and makes recommendations — and then continues to gather data on the new processes and initiatives, assesses that data and makes new or updated recommendations.
What Does an Organizational Development Consultant Do?
The goal of OD is to identify areas in which companies can make strategic changes to grow and innovate, improve employee engagement and enhance resilience and change management. Organizational development consultants will create surveys, gather data from employee performance evaluations and conduct interviews as part of their assessments and recommendations.
Their duties may include designing programs to boost employee engagement and retention, establishing or revamping training initiatives to improve outcomes and updating business processes and workflows. They will evaluate the data from the results of these projects to recommend iterative changes going forward.
For example, a company may be undergoing a merger. An organizational development consultant can be part of the decision-making process on how to retain employees and mitigate disruption and can build the process for how to manage the transition.
Whether an organizational consultant is internal or brought in as an outside consultant, their training makes them suitable for a variety of roles within a firm. They use their background in the science of applied psychology to drive research and change in all areas of the organization. Some of their roles include management consultant, human resources leader, talent acquisition specialist and UX (user experience) researcher looking at human-technology interaction.
Trends in Organizational Development
Organizational development consultants are often on the front lines of the most pressing issues that companies face today. They are charged with identifying how companies must meet these issues and accommodate them. In recent years, some of the newest trends that are driving OD have been related to culture, change management and employee engagement.
Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives
The Boston Consulting Group Henderson Institute has been studying innovation for some 15 years. In a 2021 study, it concluded that companies don’t just happen to be naturally innovative and diverse, but rather are “innovative because they are diverse.” This correlation is likely becoming evident to employers as well, as they are increasingly placing value on diversity and inclusion. Creating these programs and guiding this transformational change is part of the role of an organizational development consultant.
The pandemic accelerated the shift to remote and hybrid work environments, although the trend started long before and will continue long after. In fact, according to a 2020 Gartner survey, 74% of surveyed finance leaders plan to permanently move at least 5% of their workforce to remote work post-pandemic. An organizational development consultant can help guide organizations through such transitions, including hybrid work environments, in the coming years.
Similarly, some employers are moving toward a contract model for workers. Using data gathered from their research, organizational development consultants can identify the best way to train, develop and manage a contingent workforce.
Increased Use of HR Data
Organizational development consultants are analyzing human resources data more than ever to identify trends. Besides providing information on turnover and retention, this data can help determine what employees need to work to their fullest potential, be that professional education, technology or a change in the working environment.
Organizational development consultants use employee engagement surveys to gather data about employees’ emotional connections to their companies, managers and jobs. This data can then be used to support initiatives that help boost engagement and improve retention and performance, especially during tough economic times. According to research by Gallup, favorable job attitudes are strongly correlated to positive company outcomes during recessions and other difficult periods.
With a background in applied psychology, organizational development consultants are uniquely positioned to help identify leadership deficits and propose initiatives that enhance leadership soft skills.
Resiliency vs. Efficiency
Gartner research, companies that aren’t shifting to an employee- or human-centric work model are damaging employee resilience, well-being and performance. The traditional office-centric model, which is less flexible and less empathetic, will not work in an increasingly virtual, remote and hybrid work environment. Helping build resilient and flexible organizations is one of the responsibilities of the organizational development consultant.
Organizational Development Career Outlook and Salaries
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for management analysts, such as organizational development consultants, in 2020 was $87,660. Demand for management analysts is expected to grow 14% from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average growth of all occupations combined (8%). As companies strive to enhance their operations and organization, they are turning increasingly to experts with a background in psychology to help with decision-making and strategic initiatives.
Help Businesses Navigate Change
Are you ready to drive transformation? Want to help employees meet their highest potential? Are you intrigued by how data can be used to boost employee engagement and improve diversity and inclusion? USC’s online Master of Science in Applied Psychology is an excellent step in developing your skills, advancing your career and becoming an organizational development consultant. Find out more today.