What is Organisational Development, and Why Does it Matter?

Organisational Development Manager
When conversations about ‘organisational development’ begin at a managerial and board level, it’s generally a positive sign. At this point, a business is in a position to not only reflect upon its’ achievements but start looking towards taking ‘the next step’. Conversations will include areas like team building, career development, staff coaching and training, and developing the talent and leadership to ensure the business is in the best position possible to forge ahead[1].

Organisation Development (or OD) is a process and practice that has roots back to the 1940s and falls under the umbrella of human resources (or HR). Organisation Development, however, is far more focused on people than the old model many of us associate with HR. Recent research shows that more than 90% of employees consider appropriate training programs as a positive way of increasing their engagement in the workforce[2]. Interestingly, half of Gen Z employees are more likely to engage with training material than previous generations. In other words, it’s clear that properly defining future employment paths and providing the training to achieve them will help retain the most valuable members of any given workforce.

Organisational Development vs Human Resources: The critical differences

It wasn’t until the late 1800s that scholars and governments realised that employee wellbeing was good for business. The term ‘industrial welfare’ was coined to acknowledge that valuing people as a long term resource was necessary and could result in loyalty and longevity of tenure. Even so, it took another half-century before legislation impacting equal pay and civil rights put the onus on businesses to implement such measures. This was the birth of what would become ‘human resources’.

Since the 1960s and most notably in the past decade, that philosophy has taken a quantum leap into an area we now term ‘organisational development’ focusing on how a business wishes to ‘manage’ its’ workers. Essentially, OD moves beyond viewing employees only as a ‘resource’ and strives to create a holistic people-centric approach. In simple terms, ‘human resources’ focuses on hiring, onboarding, performance management and redundancies. ‘Organisational development’ is more concerned with planning and managing change, developing leaders and identifying opportunities for personal employee growth. It’s a far more ‘human’ way of doing business than simply ticking operational boxes.

Organisational Development Manager vs Human Resources Manager

The starting salary for a qualified OD professional in Australia is approximately $81,000, rising to $183,000-plus Click To Tweet

In contrast, a Human Resources Manager, will oversee the process of recruitment and hiring and be involved in finding the right talent needed to achieve the strategic goals of a business. The HR manager provides a link between management and employees. From here, the OD Manager ensures employees have the conditions to thrive in the workplace for the long term benefit of both the individual and the business.

What workplace issues does an Organisational Development Manager face?

All good managers, no matter their speciality, need to be good leaders. For an Organisational Development professional, leadership skills are central to their role, and their influence is business-wide. An ODM will shape and implement a raft of policies that apply to all employees. Developing appropriate workplace policies and procedures within allocated budgets requires a mix of good business sense and an understanding of people. Continuous monitoring and improvement are needed, so effective leadership and management in these respects are critical.

In modern workplaces, it’s also necessary to factor in sustainability in terms of environmental, financial and social impacts. Communicating and managing team effectiveness is critical while encouraging others to acquire and practise similar skills. The more innovative an OD manager is, the more likely they will lead a business towards best practice models that keep employees happy and engaged, thereby reducing costs. The key here is strategic leadership and innovation, skills available as part of the College for Adult Learning’s Diploma of Business (Organisational Development) (BSB50120) available as a Double Diploma with a Diploma of Leadership & Management (BSB50420).

What can I expect as an Organisational Development manager?

Given the pace of change in our modern business world, an Organisational Development professional’s role is becoming even more critical. The so-called ‘Great Resignation’, referring to large numbers of workers now leaving their jobs (or even careers) in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, is a case in point. Every lost employee will add costs to a business in terms of recruiting, onboarding and training.

One of the challenges for an OD professional is developing policies and initiatives to reduce this ‘churn’ rate and lower costs. In the early part of the 2020s, there are trends and challenges that an OD leader needs to face. A few key trends are:

  • The impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on learning and a greater focus on continuous development rather than ‘one-off’ procedural changes
  • The fact that roughly half of Millennials and Gen Z’s make work choices to align with their values means there is an increasing focus on employee engagement
  • The rapid acceleration and implementation of digital processes may cause some employees to fear for their future employability. Explaining the benefits of these processes (i.e., making people’s jobs easier) will be key

What does an Organisational Development career path look like?

The starting salary for a qualified OD professional in Australia is approximately $81,000, rising to $183,000-plus for the most experienced leaders. The median salary is $116,000. Like many great careers, a starting point is getting the right qualifications. CAL’s Diploma of Business (Organisational Development) (BSB50120) available as a Double Diploma with a Diploma of Leadership & Management (BSB50420), can give you the right start.

Once you are qualified, focus on finding a job in a business that aligns with your interests. Initially, that may not be an HR or OD role. However, learning the ropes while staying focused on a dream role you eventually desire is a great start. Identifying opportunities to implement organisational policies or improve existing ones will put you on any business leader’s radar for promotion. Getting certified and joining a professional association will also help develop your skills via contacts and mentorship. Simply keeping at your core the idea of continuous improvement will open up opportunities to create the career of your choice.

How to Start Using your Diploma Qualification Straight Away

In summary, Organisational Development might be considered the ‘HR of the 2020s’. The entire premise, while rooted in practises of old, is light years beyond its origins. The old-school idea of using workers as dispensable commodities isn’t only wrong – it’s expensive for business. A modern workplace understands that happy workers are productive workers. An OD professional is at the helm, ensuring this is the case.

A career at the forefront of organisation development is immensely satisfying. Going home at the end of a workday knowing that what you’ve done has helped people learn and be happy is an excellent feeling. If job satisfaction counts, then organisation development is undoubtedly a career worth pursuing.