15 OD Interventions Every HR Practitioner Should Know

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15 OD Interventions Every HR Practitioner Should Know

Organizational Development (OD) aims to create long-lasting positive changes in an organization’s culture, structure, systems, and processes. You need to understand and be able to apply different organizational development interventions to achieve your goals. Let’s dive into OD interventions definition and examples of OD interventions.

Why does your company need organizational development?
What are OD interventions?
What are examples of organizational development interventions?

Why does your company need organizational development?

Before we jump into organizational development interventions, let’s briefly discuss why your business needs organizational development. 

There are many benefits to organizational development, but if we give it one central goal: businesses must change as often as technology, consumer preferences, and cultural needs require to stay competitive. OD ensures that your company offers product & service enhancement, employee development, and increased workplace communication to improve profits. 

This article is not an exhaustive list of OD interventions but aims to provide a practical overview. You can also learn more about organizational development in our article What is Organizational Development? A Complete Guide.

What are OD interventions?

Organizational development (OD) interventions are programs and processes designed to improve the organization’s functioning. These interventions aim to create activities that change leadership styles, organizational structures, or behavioral patterns. Successful development projects require specific planning to maximize the effectiveness and potential of both people and businesses. Organizational development interventions are not the same as ad hoc transformation efforts, for example, when a company makes change decisions once a problem arises and on the go. 

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Instead, an OD intervention strategy is a systematic, research-based sequence of steps that attempt to make organization-wide changes, ideally, before a problem arises.

Types of OD interventions

Organizational development is very complex, and the interventions are equally as intricate. According to Cummings and Worley (2009), there is no way to know how many different kinds of interventions exist. However, we can generally categorize OD interventions into four groups: 

  • Human process interventions are organization development interventions related to interpersonal relations, group, and organizational dynamics. These were the earliest form of interventions and are often aimed at improving communication within the workplace. 
  • Techno-structural interventions are targeted toward structural and technological issues such as organizational design, work redesign, and employee engagement. 
  • Human resource management interventions impact areas such as performance management, talent development, DEIB, and wellbeing in the workplace.
  • Strategic change interventions revolve around transformational change, restructuring, and uniting two or more organizations together during a merger.

There are different types of OD interventions that target various aspects of the organization on different levels. This will depend enormously on the issues being addressed, the number of people who need to be involved in the change, and the solution being used. However, an OD intervention strategy needs collaborative management and employees at different levels of the hierarchy to cooperate for the change to be successful. 

  1. Issues being addressed: OD interventions help companies solve a problem related to a root cause. An example is a high number of employees leaving a company. The present issue is a high employee turnover rate, but OD interventions look to solve the cause of high turnover. In the case of employees leaving, you can expect that in a small organization to be impacted entirely, on all levels by this issue. In contrast, a multi-national company will only be affected in the locations where turnover is high. 
  2. Number of people involved: The number of people who need to be involved in the OD intervention is an essential question to ask. The more people involved, the longer it takes to make a change. For example, a human process intervention with a small team will go through quicker than techno-structural interventions in a tech organization. 
  3. Solution: Solutions are created to address the root cause of an issue. But they might not be immediate. A solution can also refer to change efforts intended to create an ideal future for the organization. In the latter case, upper management and decision-makers are generally impacted more than the staff until the change has happened.
OD Interventions

What are examples of organizational development interventions?

When implemented properly, OD interventions help businesses meet specific goals, enable management, and improve the organization’s overall functioning.

As stated above, there are four main groups of OD interventions: human process interventions, techno-structural interventions, human resource management interventions, and strategic change interventions. 

Let’s dive into examples of organizational development interventions from each of the groups. 

Human process interventions

Human process interventions are the earliest and most well-known OD intervention types related to interpersonal relations, group, and organizational dynamics. It is important to note that, though concerned with improving workforce performance, organizational development strategy should not be mistaken for human resource development. HR development focuses more on an employee’s personal growth, whereas human process interventions focus on developing the organization’s processes to improve organizational effectiveness. There are many different human process interventions but let’s expand on four. 

1. Individual interventions

These interventions are targeted at the individual employee, often around improving communication with others. During this intervention, the individual will be given direction to better understand their own and others’ emotions, motivations, and behaviors. The employee may also have support to identify their career needs, set complementary career goals, and resolve conflict.

A real-world example is Amazon, which recently stated that its organization would “spend more than $700 million to provide 100,000 employees with new skills for the digital age by 2025,” according to an article from CBSNews. The number of companies investing in individual interventions will continue to climb to retrain its workforce to stay competitive in the changing economy. 

2. Group interventions

OD group interventions help teams and groups within a company become more effective. These interventions are usually aimed at the group’s content, structure, or processes.

For example, to understand more about the group, the department responsible for OD will ask team members to analyze their group’s performance, what the team needs to do to improve, and discuss possible solutions to any challenges they have. 

3. Team building

Team building is one of the best-known organizational development interventions. It refers to activities that help teams improve productivity, communication, performance, and employee engagement.

For example, according to an article by Harvard Business Review, when call center managers revised their employees’ coffee break schedules so that the team could socialize together, employee satisfaction increased by 10%, and lower-performing teams increased their productivity by 20%.

4. Intergroup relations interventions

Inter-group interventions are incorporated into OD strategy to facilitate collaboration and efficiency between different teams within a business towards a common goal. You can generally see these interventions in larger companies when departments need to fight for limited resources or are unaware of each other’s needs. 

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How does this work in an organization? First, different team leaders/managers are brought together to make sure they are committed to the intervention. Then, the teams make a list of their feelings about the other team. After, the groups will meet to share their lists with each other. And lastly, the teams meet to discuss the problems and to find possible solutions that will help both squads. 

Technostructural interventions

The significance of technology in business cannot be understated. Organizations worldwide rely on new technologies to help improve their competitive advantage and drive growth. Technostructural interventions focus on improving organizational effectiveness and employee performance by focusing on technology and the structure of the organization. 

5. Organizational (structural) design

Organizational design refers to how an organization is structured to achieve its strategic plan and goals. This structure is essential to how the company will operate. There are many different classifications of organizational structure, such as hierarchical, divisional, matrix, process, customer-centric, and network.

According to Deloitte, nowadays, “companies are decentralizing authority, moving toward product- and customer-centric organizations, and forming dynamic networks of highly empowered teams that communicate and coordinate activities in unique and powerful ways.”

Within OD strategy, organizational design is about reengineering and rightsizing. Therefore, an organization needs to rethink how it works and restructure it around the new business methods. 

6. Total quality management

Total quality management is also known as continuous process improvement, lean, and six-sigma. It is an approach that seeks to improve quality and performance by placing customer satisfaction at the center. To achieve this, there is a strong focus on complete employee involvement in the ongoing improvement of products, processes, and workplace culture.

Ford Motor Company is one of the best-known companies to practice TQM. They had a vision of developing better products, having a more stable environment, effective management, and increasing profitability. Ford’s Chief Engineer at the time, Art Hyde, used the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control) process to detect problems before selling the product to the consumer. 

7. Work design

Work design impacts an organization’s outcomes, with well-designed work contributing to improved productivity and financial growth. It can also affect how an employee feels about their job, such as if they feel motivated, engaged, bored, or stressed at work. 

Sometimes, an organization needs work redesign to achieve its goals. That’s where the techno-structural interventions come in. However, redesigning work doesn’t necessarily require company-wide changes to the way things are done. Instead, small changes to the way tasks are completed, or the way employees communicate at work can have substantial outcomes for both staff and the organization.

8. Job enrichment

According to American psychologist Frederick Herzberg, job enrichment aims to enhance job efficiency and employee satisfaction by creating a more significant scope of more challenging work, greater autonomy, better professional achievement, and recognition, as well as more opportunities for advancement and growth. 

Examples of job enrichment that you can implement in your business are: 

  • Variety of tasks. Give your employee new tasks or ones that go beyond their everyday duties. 
  • Giving autonomy. Empower employees to make decisions about their work.
  • Employee feedback. Make sure your team receives input regarding their performance, skills, and ability to work within a group.
  • Assigning meaningful work. Help employees make sense of their work by showing them how it benefits the company and how they contribute to overall organizational goals.
  • Creating incentive programs. Create recognition for a job well done through incentive programs like bonuses or extra days off. 

Human resource management interventions

Human Resources Management interventions aim to improve an organization’s performance and efficiency through improving the team members (individual & group) performances, dedication, and flexibility. This is done primarily through methods that focus on managing the individual.

Check out our Learning Bite to learn everything you need to know about HRM interventions!

We can break this down into four categories.

9. Performance management

Companies use performance management (reviews) to support employee training, career development, compensation decisions, and promotions, among other things. Generally, the performance management process includes setting clear expectations for each employee and providing frequent formal/informal feedback.

Adobe is probably the best-known business case related to performance management revamps. The company estimated that managers were spending about 80,000 hours on performance reviews per year, but their employees still felt undervalued. That led to a significant number of employees leaving. So decision-makers at Adobe decided to start training managers on conducting more regular check-ins and offering actionable direction. One of the consequences was a 30% decrease in involuntary turnover

10. Developing talent

According to a study by McKinsey and Company, 87% of companies across the globe know that they have a skills gap or expect to have one in the next few years. As a result, your organization needs strong talent management practices to stay relevant and competitive in the changing landscape. 

Some examples are as follows:

  • Individualized career planning
  • Internal or external coaching 
  • Task/job rotations.
  • Educational budget
  • Mentorship programs
  • Internal or external workshops
  • Conferences 
  • On-the-job training
  • Leadership training

11. Diversity interventions

Diversity in the workplace refers to a company comprised of people of different races, ethnicity, age, religion, gender, physical ability, sexual orientation, and other characteristics. Because diversity drives innovation, productivity, and overall revenue, OD intervention strategies aim to increase diversity in businesses. 

Athena Swan is a popular conference on diversity interventions designed explicitly for professionals to “share best practices, discuss emerging innovations, and exchange personal experiences designing, implementing, and evaluating interventions and action plans.”

12. Wellness interventions 

A wellness intervention combines strategies developed to create behavior changes or improve health status and wellbeing among individual employees or the entire staff. Organizations need to understand their teams’ specific needs. It is vital to pinpoint which wellness interventions would best serve their needs and allow the individual to learn to manage their own health and wellbeing. 

Many companies implement wellness interventions, and many more companies offer wellness to other businesses. Some examples of mental and physical wellbeing services include:

A focus on total wellbeing is one of the key HR trends of 2023, as organizations realize that ensuring employee wellness is the right thing to do, and it helps business continuity as well.

Strategic change interventions 

Strategic change interventions are processes a company takes to move away from its present organizational structure and way of operating towards another one to increase its competitive advantage. The organizational development department plays an essential part in executing these changes. There are many strategic change interventions but let’s discuss the three broad classifications.

13. Transformational change

Transformational changes are those you make to thoroughly reshape your business strategy and processes, which often results in a shift in work culture. Some examples of transformational change are

  • Restructuring: Changing your business’s structural chart by adding, removing, or combining departments. 
  • Retrenchment: Decreasing employee headcount by closing an office or division of the company. 
  • Turnaround: Replacing all top management within a failing business to turn things around.
  • Outsourcing: Hiring another company to complete tasks for your own company. This is common in customer service departments. 
  • Spin-off: Breaking up a company into distinct, smaller companies. Google is well-known for this when it created its umbrella organization, Alphabet Inc., and now owns many household name companies such as Nest and YouTube. 

14. Continuous change

This intervention encourages companies to improve gradually over time by making small changes. The best-known example of continuous change is a learning organization. Businesses that shift from the top-down hierarchical structure to a learning model have a higher chance of collaboration, risk-taking, and growth and are more competitive in the ever-changing work environment.

In addition, this technique places importance on experimentation and learning from mistakes and failures rather than punishing them.

15. Transorganizational change

Transorganizational change involves interventions that include two or more organizations. This can be in the form of mergers or acquisitions but also businesses working together to achieve their objectives.

Allied companies can be an effective way to boost product awareness and break into new markets without taking 100% of the risk. Some examples of this transorganizational change are:

A final word

If you want to create lasting change within your organization, you need to tailor your approach to your business’s needs and implement relevant OD interventions based on that. Then, you’re on the right path to long-term organizational success.

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