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How the world of work has changed

The demands of psychology and human resource management (HRM) in our places of work has changed much over time and today both are even more relevant than ever.

Written by Lucy Bodenham |

Human resource meeting
The MSc Organizational Psychology is accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS) which give students options to become chartered.

Mark Stringer, Programme Director of Organizational Psychology and Human Resource Management (OPHRM) from Birkbeck, University of London, shares insights into research and the career prospects for both of the programmes we offer in these two fields.

”The way in which we think and perform ‘work’ has changed dramatically over the last four decades. Through the advent of technology, the evolution of free-market economies and globalisation to name but three areas, what people do as a ‘job’ and what organisations require from people in doing those jobs requires a more nuanced and critical interpretation and understanding.”

How organisations think about their employees as a resource has become even more apparent as this provides a competitive edge, avenues for increased creativity and allows organisations to be innovative in how they differentiate themselves from others.

In studying these fields within the OPHRM programmes, there are opportunities to access Birkbeck’s research through lectures and papers used though out the different modules. Students can work with supervisors on their own research for the MSc. This is particularly relevant for those wanting to bring something of value to their organisation.

”Some of the newer research projects in the field of HRM at Birkbeck look at intersectionality at work, LGBTQ and Trans rights within policy and process. Elsewhere in Organizational Psychology (OP) there is work on healthcare professional’s management of stress and depression, the journeys of aspiring female leaders and the accessibility of careers within the arts and cultural sectors,” says Mr Stringer.

Real life problem solving is provided by a mixture of academic materials across the programme modules. Students are encouraged to develop a critical mind set in interpreting organisational life in their own contexts, now and in the future. Where they apply value, case studies are used on the modules and learning. A popular place for case studies is the student learning forums. The global reach of our students sees a diverse array of examples brought into the weekly discussions.

The programmes are particularly suited for professionals who want to develop their existing roles or who want to move on into differing careers. Others look to become consultants to help support organizations in delivering psychological help for delivering change, the selection or assessment of employees or to investigate the wellbeing of a workforce. There are also options for those to progress up the HRM ladder or to specialise in the fields of organisation development and employee relations. These options are made possible by developing focus, the tools and critical thinking in the programmes - all constructive to managing your ongoing career.

Mr Stringer says the research project on the programme is a highlight for students at MSc level and mentions some of the recent projects students have undertaken in their studies towards their own careers.

Within OP, we had a project this year on how individuals re-enter work having been incarcerated and the impact of work and wellbeing on airline pilots. Within the HRM field, we have had a project looking at issues for women aiming to return to work following child birth and how leaders have coped in decision making within a Covid related context.

The current Covid-19 pandemic has created several pressures particularly for healthcare workers on the frontline providing services. These programmes can prepare students towards careers in managing the welfare of these key workers.

“Whilst the pandemic has made the issue of welfare or well-being become clearer, OP has spent the last twenty years growing the research into these areas. For those studying HRM, this can be seen through the lens of the psychological contest for example. Thus, students on either the OP or HRM programmes are exposed to many instances of this. Whether speaking to this directly via work and well-being itself on OP or through policy and practice from within for HRM, the needs of both employees and organisations are brought into question continually.”

Given the current global context surrounding Covid-19, many organisations may decide not to return to the traditional office workplace, and regular working patterns may change. This interesting time provides opportunities for human resource professionals to evolve to support organisations to create a more level playing field for employees.

“This could be around flexible working or the trust that comes with that to allow workers to manage their own productivity in a more nuanced and mature fashion. The era of command and control will not disappear entirely of course. But cultures in organisations will in many cases have shifted.”

Of course, we need to remind ourselves that many people haven’t had the luxury of being able to work from home. The pandemic is going to provide HRM and OP students with fertile ground to investigate and support organisations through a period of great tumult.

Online learning is particularly coming into its own now because of the pandemic. On the programmes, students become fully versed in accessing materials on the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). In it are recorded lectures, journal articles, and podcasts. There are also running sessions in each module each term for students and tutors to get together online to discuss the content and focus. It has proved popular for students get to see each other and meet others from across the globe.

The MSc Organizational Psychology is accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS) which give students options to become chartered, which can be a significant benefit towards career progression. The MSc Human Resource Management is in the process of being accredited with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). This is due to begin from September 2021.

Much like any profession, being accredited by the governing body provides a seal of approval to those either wishing to hire you or to utilise your services. It means that you can get access to the support networks from the BPS and a chance to share and develop your own knowledge through continuing personal development.

For more information about both programmes and full details visit: