As a discipline, organizational development explores the examination of a business or other organization, its strengths and deficiencies, actions to address problems and evaluation of the cures. The practice of organizational development involves pushing for necessary changes and equipping employees and managers with the knowledge and tools to perform their roles. OD, also known as organizational development specialists, are the primary facilitators of assessing and improving, as necessary, the effectiveness of organizations in meeting their missions. The following job description explains the responsibilities, talents and background necessary for these specialists to fulfill their calling.

What Does an Organizational Development Specialist Do?

The job description of an organizational development specialist may be akin to a physician or mechanic. A physician diagnoses and treats patients and mechanics identify and repair defects in cars or equipment. Organizational development specialists diagnose the illnesses or defects in an organization, identify their causes and prescribe treatments in order to enhance efficiency and productivity. The development role also includes devising training and team-building tools.

Organizational Development Specialist Job Responsibilities – Resume

  • Research and compile information on entity’s organizational system and structure
  • Survey employees and management on subjects such as work environment, skills, relationships with others in organization and job satisfaction
  • Identify types, sources and causes of dysfunction, conflicts and gaps in skills of personnel
  • Assess the current effectiveness of departments or systems in organization
  • Propose reassessment, additions and modification of organizational goals
  • Review descriptions of job duties and qualifications for positions
  • Design systems and define criteria for evaluating performance of employees, management, departments and systems
  • Implement action plans and strategies for improving performance and effectiveness of personnel in organization
  • Coach and consult management and others in supervisory role on leadership development, conflict resolution and other management skills
  • Create organizational charts and revise descriptions of job positions and duties
  • Update training manuals and programs

Organizational Development Specialist Essential Skills

Analytical. Organizational Development Specialists must determine the presence of conflicts, ineffectiveness and other problems based on survey data, anecdotes from staff or managers and the specialists’ observations. Analysis is necessary to spot the causes of and solutions to problems and to measure the effectiveness of the fixes.

Communication. A specialist’s communication skills consist of listening to comments, concerns and feedback from those in the organization and the ability to clearly explain findings, conclusions and suggestions. Organizational Development Specialists must be able to write reports and descriptions that clearly explain the state of the organization and expectations for those in it.

Interpersonal. The job description of an Organizational Development Specialist includes the ability to mediate and resolve disagreements among personnel. Specialists need to display understanding of employees’ and supervisors’ views and concerns.

Persuasive. Organizational Development Specialists must encourage and implement changes in the structure of organization and the work and responsibilities of personnel. This involves the ability to show personnel the necessity and benefits of changes. Specialists may also persuade by drawing on financial data and other indications of poor company performance and linking the performance to problems in organizational structure and culture.

Becoming a Organizational Development Specialist

Organizational Development Specialists garner their background and expertise through collegiate-level education and working in business or within structured organizations. The education and experience prepares specialists for addressing challenges within organizations and handling personnel and their concerns.

Education and Training

The educational prerequisite consists primarily of a bachelor’s degree. For some employers, a master’s degree is a requirement.

Those seeking specialist jobs should major in psychology, business administration, or human resource management. For work in a particular industry, the specialist might need some coursework relevant to that industry. As an illustration, specialists for hospitals might want to take classes in healthcare administration or minor in it to have exposure to the structure and roles of professionals in hospitals or other medical organizations.

The strong presence of technology in the workplace may necessitate specialists’ having familiarity with computer science or information technology.

Business administration majors may have organizational development or organizational behavior as part of their curriculum. These courses may involve case studies or case projects requiring students to practice skills and tasks involved in organizational development.

Work Experience

As a rule of thumb, organizational development specialists should possess prior experience in organizational development, personnel supervision or management, and training. Work in the employer’s particular field may be preferred or helpful. For instance, school systems may require or strongly prefer applicants who have managed personnel in school settings. These may include personnel directors, principals, assistant principals or professionals who train teachers.

As training is a part of organizational development, teaching experience may prove helpful especially when combined with experience in human resources or administration of staff or employees.

Work Schedules

Full-time work describes most work schedules for organizational development specialists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly one in five “Training and Development Specialists” put in more than 40 hours per week.

Typically, these professionals hold daytime hours during weekdays. Depending on the employer, such as a school system, the development specialist may travel to multiple sites to train or meet with staff. Some sessions or retreats may be held in evenings or on weekends.

Career Prospects

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, as of May 2014, “Training and development specialists” numbered 252,600. By 2024, the field is projected to have an increase of 18,900 positions, or a seven-percent rise.

Technology should spur much of the growth, especially on the training side. Development specialists are needed to orient workers to the use of email, social media and software applications. Those developers with a command of digital, mobile and information technology stand a strong chance of finding positions especially among technology-dependent organizations.

However, the value of organizational development for business and organizations go beyond skills enhancement. Companies may rely on organizational development to become more efficient in operations and avoid the conflicts that stifle productivity and, in extreme cases, expose organizations to lawsuits based on mistreatment of employees.


The practice of organizational development requires a strong understanding of an organization, its values, goals, structure and its shortcomings. With the proper grasp of the circumstances, organizational development specialists can harness their skills and background in training, psychology, education and business to effect change and improve the quality of the workforce.