Zannatun Nayeem completed her BBA from a reputed university and joined an advertising agency as an office executive. She toiled for one and a half years for the organisation and was recognised and appreciated by her boss.
However, when it was time for her appraisal, the employers started to delay the process. Finally, when Zannatun got the evaluation after four months of waiting, she was flabbergasted by the amount of pay raise.
Zannatun felt emotionally drained and felt cheated, considering the amount of work she had been doing at the office. She began to detach, which reflected on her performance. Her dedication to the company vanished overnight, and she started to look for other jobs. Eventually, she resigned from the organisation.
Even though she was an engaged employee, she had to leave the company because it could not ensure her financial wellbeing. Now she is working in a better position at another company with better pay.
This is not a story of an individual employee. Thousands of employees in the country leave their existing workplaces with a feeling of being undervalued, underpaid and overworked.
Then, employers recruit new members, and it takes time to train new ones. And if they continue the same practice they have to go through the same process repeatedly, which can slow down a company's natural growth.
The idea of industrial and organisational psychology
In 2017, American analytics and advisory company Gallup, Inc revealed shocking findings after conducting a study on 155 companies. According to the survey, only 15 percent of employees on average have dedication towards the organisation they are working with, while 67 percent are not engaged, and 18 percent are actively disengaged in their work and workplace.
The scenario is more severe in South Asia, where 21 percent of employees are estimated to be actively disengaged.
Experts say this is enough to rob a company and a candidate of their desired and deserved progress.
Industrial and Organisational (I-O) psychology – a branch of psychology that became popular at the beginning of the 20th century – stepped in to solve the puzzle.
I-O psychology implies that a company can get a lot better results if they opt for scientific and logical procedures, starting from recruitment and selection.
Industrial psychology basically refers to the process of applying traditional psychological theories on an organisation to understand the tendency and behaviour of the employees and employers, to bring out the best interest for both parties.
In the era of the fourth industrial revolution when the entire world is dependent mostly on industries, experts emphasise taking care of three crucial areas – organisation performance management, leadership and workplace climate for ensuring employee engagement and wellbeing (wellbeing includes physical, financial and environmental) – to get the best out of any circumstance.
When a company fails in any of these areas – be it in recruitment or leadership or ensuring wellbeing – the employees become psychologically disturbed and stressed.
Then incidents like that of Zannatun Nayeem keep happening, which disrupts growth for everyone.
How can a company apply I-O psychology from the very beginning?
A fresh graduate, Nabil watched a job circular for content writers in an IT firm. He applied for the job as the job circular only emphasised proficiency in English language.
However, it was after joining that Nabil came to realise that technical knowledge of software was essential for doing the job, which he lacked. Consequently, he had to switch jobs within three months.
The work experience was of no use to him as it was not his area at all. On the other hand, the company lost three months of quality work and had to take up the recruitment procedure again.
Nabil feels if the job description in the advertisement were more specific, it could save both the parties from wasting their time and energy.
This is precisely the issue that I-O psychology recommends addressing.
It suggests that the recruitment process be precise. Other than just general tests, it encourages taking aptitude and personality tests to figure out which post fits which candidate the most, according to their interest.
When you put someone in the right place, you get their best performance. This paves the way for identifying leaders who are able to engage their teammates better and make a company more productive and organised.
First-ever I-O psychology conference in Bangladesh
Even though companies in Western countries have been applying I-O psychology for quite some time now, the concept is still somewhat new in our country. Very few of the well-recognised companies apply all the methods of I-O psychology to their businesses.
However, Enroute Development Centre – a sister concern of Enroute International Limited – recently arranged the first-ever I-O conference in the country.
The Industrial Organisational Psychology Conference 2020 held on August 17-18 this year was participated by many experts and researchers on this topic.
Dr Ashique Selim, lead psychiatrist and managing director of Psychological Health and Wellness Clinic (PHWC) was one of the panelists in the sessions arranged by Enroute.
The Business Standard wanted to know from him how I-O psychology is essential in our country.
Pointing to our changing economy, he said we used to be an agricultural country in the past, but now our economy is equally dependent on the manufacturing sector.
"The service industry is set to become more popular with the new wave of industrialisation. But most of our workforce still prefer working as a super shop manager in foreign countries to doing a more decent job inside the country. This is because our job sector does not secure their dignity," he said.
After a pause, he continued, "Our job sector is full of malpractices which we need to change if we want to give a fair fight in the global market. And for long-term profits, there is no better option than applying I-O psychology to change the existing practices."
In our job sector, in most cases, employees do not change their job because they do not like the job, rather they change their boss as they fail to be inspiring leaders, said another keynote speaker Md Shahinoor Rahman, assistant professor, department of psychology, Chittagong University.
"To be honest, in Bangladesh, we do not practice I-O psychology in our companies. But we have the potential to set an example if human resource management departments in our companies work in collaboration with I-O psychology experts," he argued.
He, however, pointed out that all the theories that Western companies apply to their businesses might not always be applicable in our context.
While everyone emphasized on employee wellbeing, Shahinoor mentioned that sometimes too much comfort can also reduce productivity, as wellbeing without engagement may interrupt the sense of responsibility.
"Balancing wellbeing with adequate amounts of engagement has proved to be the most productive tool for a company," he said.
And if, in any case, employees become stressed, there should be scope and opportunities for resolving those issues within the organisation. It can be done by introducing stress management methods in companies.