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Organisational Development; A HR Perspective

What is Organisational Development?

Organisational Development is a planned effort for a work group or the organisation, it is managed by leadership and supported by employees to increase the organisations effectiveness through planned changes in processes and systems.

The CIPD defines organisational development as the ‘planned and systematic approach to enabling sustained organisation performance through the involvement of its people’.

The term organisational development came about in the 1960’s to describe managing and developing the behavioral aspects of people in organisations.

The Purpose of Organisational Development

Organisational development is important to ensure effective growth and durability. Essentially it is the process used to improve the overall effectiveness of an organisation. It is vital to have systems in place to allow change and analysis of real data to implement further changes in the future as needed.

Businesses may already be doing some organisational development without realising it. This is done through everyday tweaking of systems to improve effectiveness or resolving problems that occur.

The common traits of organisational development include:

  • Making changes to the structure, strategy, system, department, work group, individual, role or job.
  • Manage planned changes in a flexible way which allows further changes to be implemented in the future
  • Institutionalises change to reinforce change
  • Improves the effectiveness of the business
  • Improves the communication with the business

How does Organisational Development work

Organisational development is where behavioural science is applied to business and system issues to align strategy and capability. It enhances the effectiveness of systems through the provision of interventions that build capacity and capability to achieve collective goals.

There are Five stages of Organisational Development

  1. Birth
  2. Growth
  3. Maturity
  4. Decline
  5. Revival

Characteristics of Organisational Development and how applied in the workplace

There are many characteristics of organisational development, the top 7 characteristics include:

Training aligned to goals

For an OD program to be successful then employers must ensure that the training is consistent with the businesses’ mission, vision and goals. Development and growth will not meet the business objectives without alignment to these.

Commitment from leadership

Organisation development begins at the top, if the leadership team of the business is not committed to the change process then they cannot expect their employees to be committed. Executive coaching can help to get leaders on board which will allow them to support the process through the business.


Effective communication is vital at all levels; being able to communicate what is needed to reach the business goals is essential. Communication should cover all employees and can be done via written, spoken and video methods. Businesses should ensure that communications are consistent, clear and targeted to the different departments and positions, allowing employees to know and understand where they fit with the development of the business.

Quality of Training and Coaching

A high level of coaching and training will be crucial to move a business forward with changes. Many training programmes can be dull and not effective at teaching people to develop their skills and improve themselves.

Long Term Vision

Businesses need to ensure they not only focus on the short-term goals, but that they focus on the long-term goals also. Meeting short-term goals is good, but if a business takes a longer view this will allow them to have more growth over time.

Organisational Culture

For organisational development to work and be successful, the culture of the business must be understood, the assumption that the same solution or change can be applied to the problems for all businesses is not used within organisational development. The culture has to be understood for the changes to be made and be successful.

Team Building

One of the basic objectives of OD is to build better teamwork throughout the business. OD tries to bring the workgroups and departments of a business together to ensure effective teamwork will improve the overall performance of the business.

How Has Organisational Development Concept Developed Along The Times

Organisational development originally was considered a post war response to the dehumanizing effects of scientific management practices of the likes of Taylor 1911, Gantt 1929, Fayol 1949. Work used to be fragmented into small tasks, designed and monitored by management, usually via time and motion studies. Workers had no autonomy and were easily dismissed.

The humanistic approach or organisational development then came in with natural images of body and health and drew on behavioural science to suggest how people systems and technology could be organised more effectively. The key humanistic values included training and development, employee feedback, action research and systems thinking.

Changes to leadership styles to engage employees developed and due to the growth of strategic alliances the demand is now for leaders to be able to work collaboratively across boundaries and cultures and draw on diversity to enable new ways of working.

HR and Organisational Development

HR professionals play an important part in organisational development, as it is a constant process of evaluation and change. HR and OD both need each other to the same extent as an OD effort without HR expertise to deliver it could be ineffective. HR activities and organisational development activities overlap in a lot of ways.

HR collect and analyse data that allows for organisational development to take place through people management target monitoring and assessment. The HR function will explain why a change is being brought in and how it will benefit employees, how it will help the company and what rewards or recognition there might be as a result of the new system and also collate feedback from employees on the changes.

HR can gain insight into how employees feel about any proposed changes and work with them to prepare them for the changes that are to be implemented and help them be more receptive to them.

How Businesses Benefit From Organisational Development 

Organisation development gets businesses to look at the bigger picture and address the changes that are needed to drive progress and the changes. It looks at business objectives, strategic direction, culture, and structure and helps to create processes for a sustainable long-term future and success.

Businesses benefit from organisational development by:

  • Continuous development
  • Employee growth and development
  • Increased productivity
  • Increased profit margins
  • Problem diagnosis
  • Planning
  • Increased communication
  • Product/service enhancement

Organisational Development and Small Businesses

Organisational development can be used in small businesses, it may seem like an abstract concept for a small business but usually it is not as difficult or time consuming to implement. It is mainly having and preparing a strategic plan for the business.

Businesses should take time out to consider:

  • Where the business is now
  • Where do they want the business to be in x amount of years?
  • How will the business get there?
  • How will the progress be measured?

Once these have been answered then the business can start to develop an organisational development plan.

An OD Plan should include the following:

  • Objectives
  • Activities or change needed
  • Staffing resources
  • Timeframes for the changes and implementation of the changes
  • Ways to monitor the progress and outcomes
  • Standards needed to be achieved


If you would like further guidance or support on organisational development, please contact Clover HR on 0121 516 0299 or email us at info@cloverhr.co.uk

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