A look into the psychology behind employee development

Today, Alexa Thompson writes about the positive psychological benefits of certain actions in the the workplace that can make for happier and more productive employees. This article touches on the recent post aboutthe importance of finding a good mentor, which suggests that having someone to coach and guide you is essential in your personal and career development. You can find more of Alexa’s work on positiveorganizational psychology at the psychology education website to which she regularly contributes.The Psychology Behind Employee Development

A happier workplace equals a more productive workplace. We’ve heard that argument, but how can we measure employee happiness? Is it possible to quantify the additional work completed because an employee’s mood was better? This difficulty in measuring the returns on employee development and positivity results in many businesses glossing over these important matters.

Research by psychologists in employee retention is starting to help us understand this link between elevated employee moods and business success. Positive Psychology News Daily published an article in September 2009 discussing the benefits of positive psychology training on employees. This training program was designed to switch their modes of thinking to support a more positive outlook on their work. According to Positive Psychology News Daily, financial companies that utilize this type of training program saw a 66 percent reduction in employee turnover.

Employee positivity has a lot to do with why employees stay employed in the first place. Individuals often ask themselves the question, “Why am I doing the work that I’m doing?” Those who come up with more meaningful answers than “to pay the bills” will maintain a strong personal connection with their work. This leads to employees that are more dedicated and work harder to complete a job more thoroughly. Employee unhappiness, and the resulting turnover, often arises when an employee cannot connect with meaningful reasons to continue pursuing their work.

Those interested in improving workplace satisfaction for employee development should pay attention to the principles of industrial organizational psychology, the study of applying psychological theories to the workplace. I/O psychology, as it is referred to, focuses on how individuals fit certain roles within an organization and how the organization affects the individual’s outlook. One of the key areas within I/O psychology is training and development. Without effective training, employees have a difficult time keeping up with tasks, making it easier to become pessimistic at work.

Another key area of I/O psychology is work life. Employees spend significant amounts of their lives at work. Unless the workplace provides good returns in both money and personal satisfaction, employees will tend to reduce their expectations of themselves. Some employees may have personal concerns outside of work, like family, that can affect their productivity. Giving them time to address issues related to those can help reduce their anxiety at work and get their focus back on the job.

Keeping employees positive is one of the big reasons why music is played at the workplace so often. The trade journal Workplace Savings and Benefits reported a survey conducted by music publishers to determine the effect of music on small business. The article, published in June 2012, found that 77 percent of business owners found that music created a better working environment. 40 percent of business owners surveyed said that they believed that playing music resulted in a measurable business increase.

Keeping your employees productive hinges on their belief that the work is challenging and that they are an important part of the process. When adjusting your personnel practices, make sure that plenty of time is given to address their personal work concerns and ensure that their work lives are meaningful.


  1. says

    Wonderful article! One should not ignore the importance of higher compensation although it’s not the major determining factor. I think keeping the task challenging enough to keep employees interested and at the same time have continuous learning opportunities is critical.

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