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What Is the Importance of Studying Organizational Behavior?

written by: Michelle Shuler Key•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 4/21/2011

Organizational culture is more than just another buzzword. Learn about the origins and importance of organizational behavior and how to apply this knowledge to employee hiring, motivation and retention.

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    Why Study Organizational Behavior?

    The importance of studying organizational behavior is rooted in psychology. Noted behaviorist B.F. Skinner was speaking in a larger cultural context when he published his book, "Science and Human Behavior" in 1953, but his theories on how a culture is created and reinforced have since been adopted by the human resource profession to aid in understanding and adapting corporate culture to fit the needs of the industry.

    Skinner postulated that, "cultural practices which are advantageous will tend to be characteristic of the groups which survive and which, therefore, perpetuate those practices." If we translate this statement for the modern business world, we learn that companies which adapt to the prevailing culture of their industry thrive, whereas those that do not risk extinction.

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    Hiring Based on Organizational Behavior

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    When you hire based on a perceived organizational culture, beware that you are walking a fine line between hiring for your industry and falling victim to stereotypes. The fact that an industry is primarily populated by men -- the engineering field is one example -- should under no circumstances be interpreted as a reason for discrimination in hiring practices.

    What you can take from a field like engineering, though, is the strong drive toward aggression in research and development. Hiring managers in these fields who don't pay attention to the trends and hire less ambitious personalities will find their companies less successful than those who focus on filling positions with driven individuals.

    The importance of studying organizational behavior when hiring can be seen in the results. When you understand your industry and hire based on the most successful personality types in the field -- and those that best fit in your office -- your entire business will benefit.

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    Using Organizational Culture for Motivation and Retention

    Once you've learned your industry and populated your office with like-minded employees, the importance of studying organizational behavior truly comes into play. An equation by R.K. Dwivedi, author of "Organizational Culture and Performance," clarifies the issue. Dwivedi suggested that:

    Attitudes x Situation = Motivation

    The attitudes are taken care of by hiring based on the prevalent culture of your industry. The situation in this case is the one that best suits the attitudes you hired. In other words: don't populate your office with aggressive, ambitious types and then fail to set goals and direct that ambition. Provide bonuses, contests or performance-based pay. On the other end of the spectrum, if you've populated your non-profit with the service-focused individuals who are usually attracted to working for a cause, make sure to provide an environment focused on people.

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    The Bottom Line

    Above all, the importance of understanding organizational behavior lies in how deeply you are committed to the long-term success of your business. It can seem like a puzzle, but putting the pieces together is simple:

    • Know your industry's prevailing successful organizational behavior
    • Know your company's preferred cultural attributes
    • Hire based on the combination of these aspects
    • Provide the employees you hire with an environment that meets their expectations

    With those details in place, you create the perfect environment for a successful company filled with satisfied, motivated employees. It's all about creating the big picture you want by knowing what pieces work together most effectively.

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    References

    Skinner, B. F. (1965). Science and Human Behavior. Free Press. 0029290406, 978-0029290408

    Dwivedi, R. K. (1995). Organizational Culture and Performance. M.D. Publications. 818588059X, 9788185880594

    Image by Freedigitalphotos, digitalart