Career Center

Here's a wrap-up of some of the services psychologists offer in organizational settings.

  • Executive coaching-a combination of skill enhancement and personal counseling as it relates to the client's work life. This service is shedding its stigma and becoming an accepted, even "bling" service among business types. As such, it's also attracting more consultants, including those without doctorates or any particular training in this area, notes Rosanna Ventrone, PsyD, of BeamPines, a national human resources consulting firm. Psychologists pursuing this application should therefore advertise their beefier credentials, Ventrone advises.

  • Hiring and selection-the development and use of hiring practices, such as structured interviews, psychological testing and skills assessment to recruit employees that best fit the needs of an organization. Examples include pre-employment screening for law enforcement and security personnel and competency modelling-assessing current employees to identify the qualities of top performers and using those competencies to recruit employees with a similar profile.

Companies need psychologists' help in this area because traditional hiring methods don't reveal personality variables that can make or break a hire's success. A star bank teller will differ markedly from a star salesperson, for example, and stars in those positions also look different from company to company, depending on the company's personality, says Jeannine Tell, PsyD, of Tell Psychological Services in Columbus, Ohio.

Tell makes a point of giving companies extensive before and after feedback.

"If we can show a significant dollars-and-cents difference between those who have been carefully selected for a job and those who haven't, it makes an impact," she says.

  • Program development-creating tailored programs to meet company goals, desires or needs. At BeamPines, for example, Ventrone is designing a women's leadership program for executive-level women who want to strengthen skills such as their executive presence or negotiating techniques.

  • Ventrone's project-a pilot that will be tested and then tailored for individual companies-includes assessment, coaching, workshops and even a learning lab aboard a tall ship, in which the women take risks related to their perceived weaknesses.

  • Succession planning-the grooming of candidates via assessment, coaching and other techniques to fill upcoming leadership positions. The idea is to minimize the chaos of leadership transitions, and indeed, such input can make a significant difference, notes Amy Katz, PhD, director of training at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) National Center for Organization Development. The VHA, for example, faces the pending retirement of a large percentage of its senior-level managers, so coaching people to take those positions-in part by tapping the wisdom of those senior managers-will smooth the functioning of the organization, she says.

  • Legacy coaching-helping retiring executives combat feelings that they've lost their life's purpose-a common experience, according to psychological research. Coaching can help senior-age executives through this impasse by assessing their previous accomplishments and discussing future hopes, Ventrone says.

  • Crisis intervention-anything from overseeing the termination of a troubled employee to putting programs in place to respond to workplace violence. Tell, who does this kind of work for about 75 companies, says prevention should be a key part of this service. For example, she coaches managers on how to terminate someone in a way that maintains that person's dignity. "The best crisis work," she says, "is done prior to a crisis."

-T. DeAngelis