Psychology in HR – Too much of a good thing?

We are very caught up in the psychology of HR at the moment.  A recent article in the Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources included commentary on the disciplines that make up the HR mix. Great HR is a mix of psychology, economics, finance, social science and industrial relations just to name a few. But what we are seeing right now is a real dominance of psychology, especially when we start to talk about engagement, recruitment and talent management.

….much research into people management continues to be psychology driven (and US-centric), generating simplistic ideas about the universal effects of workplace relations practices (pg. 395).

No doubt psychology provides us with an excellent way to approach business and people management, but if we get to caught up in one thing we miss the bigger picture. Let’s take the example of employee engagement. There is a lot of talk about the psychology of connection and commitment to organisations. But engagement is about economics and the broader business landscape as well.

…insights about the behaviour of individuals in organisations need to be placed in a broader social, legal, political and institutional context (pg. 395).

The key point here is that we need to make sure we are approaching things in a balanced and rational way. The psychology standpoint the flavour of the moment but there is more too it. HR as more than an administrative and discipline function has a long way to go and I reckon what’s key is ensuring we don’t get swept up in the latest trend and keep our eyes on the prize!

Further Reading

Kasyanenko , T., Nevado , P., Rimmer , M., & Eduarda Soares , M. (2014). The psychologisation of workplace relations: why social context matters (Vol. 52). Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources .

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