I am interested in the field of organisational development and human systems. What qualifications, experience and skills do I need to specialise in this area?
Peter Sell, joint managing director, DMS Consultancy
Start by gaining some experience in a generalist HR role. If you already have a degree, the next step is to enrol on the CIPD professional development programme.
Organisational development is all about understanding how people think and work in relation to business objectives. It is important that you learn how to design development programmes that meet both the individuals' aspirations and the organisation's needs.
The people aspect can be covered by a qualification or reading in psychology. Textbooks based around the work context are particularly relevant.
Understanding business is a combination of learning in the work environment and academic reading. The skills required are difficult to quantify, but a logical and business focused approach to organisation issues is definitely a good start. Highly developed interpersonal skills will also enable you to deal with the people issues.
John Baker, head of practice, Macmillan Davies Hodes
OD as a function within HR is often misunderstood. In essence, it is the name given to those practices in the life of a company which seek to improve the way it works - not from a process or technical point of view, but through the human system and inter-relationships within the company.
It focuses on the interactions between people, and has a major role to play in cultural change programmes. In a number of cases, external consultancies are used by major corporations to provide external expertise for such projects.
As for entering this specialisation, I recommend acquiring an OD based qualification, such as an MSc in Organisational Behaviour. This will make you more attractive to both the corporate and consulting markets.
You could also approach organisations directly, as well as through recruitment consultancies - particularly the larger employers, as they often have a dedicated function for this specialism.
If you do have previous HR experience, you may find the transition easier by seeking an internal move to an OD based role within your current employer, to gain the experience necessary.
Victoria Wall, managing director, Victoria Wall Associates