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 Spotlight on Global I-O

Lori Foster Thompson,1 Alexander E. Gloss, and M. K. Ward
North Carolina State University

(As always, your comments and suggestions regarding this column are most welcome. Please feel free to email us at lfthompson@ncsu.edu)

Greetings TIP readers, and welcome to the latest edition of the Spotlight column! As discussed in our previous issue, we have recently decided to shift our spotlight on I-O psychology to the “majority” world – that is, those countries that are typically thought of as “developing” and which house the vast majority of the world’s population. Croatia is a great way to transition to this new theme because it represents a country on the cusp of the division between the “developed” and “developing” worlds. Indeed, between the 2010 and 2011 United Nations Development Reports, it crossed that largely arbitrary boundary and is now regarded as having “very high” human development. As you will see below from the perspective of our guest author Helena Hanizjar, the current dynamics of I-O psychology in Croatia have been shaped by its recent progress toward peace and prosperity.

Industrial and Organizational Psychology in Croatia

Helena Hanizjar
College of Tourism and Hospitality, Zagreb

The Republic of Croatia is situated at the crossroads of Central Europe, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean. The Croatian population of 4.29 million people lives in a territory of 56,594 square kilometers (21,851 square miles). After the Croatian War of Independence and the breakup of Yugoslavia, Croatia became an independent country in 1991. As a result of the war, the economic infrastructure sustained massive damage, particularly the revenue-rich tourism sector, as well as the industrial and agricultural sectors.
Today, Croatia is an acceding state of the European Union, with full membership expected in July 2013. Croatia ranks high among Central European nations in terms of education, health, quality of life, and economic dynamism.

Development of Croatian Psychology: From the Laboratory to the Field

The beginnings of work psychology in Croatia can be credited to Zoran Bujas (1910–2003). From the early 1940s, he conducted groundbreaking studies of work and fatigue for which he developed a comprehensive and very influential interdisciplinary research program (Corkalo-Biruski, Jerkovic, Zotovic, & Krnetic, 2007). Unlike earlier research in the 1970s, which focused mainly on the problems of fatigue, work accidents, and ergonomics, work psychology in the late 1980s and 1990s was more oriented towards organizational dynamics. After the Croatian War of Independence, new research discourse responded to the privatization of the economy and to general social change. Privatization involved denationalizing the economy and passing state-owned enterprises into private hands. This proved very lucrative for the new owners, but in the vast majority of cases, this sell-off caused the bankruptcy of companies, resulting in the unemployment of thousands of citizens. Privatization also weakened employee representation structures (unions) and created a new source of negative attitudes among workers. Thus, work values, organizational climate and culture, organizational commitment, and the psychological consequences of unemployment have become the focus of work psychology research (Corkalo, 2004).

Education and Employment of Organizational Psychologists in Croatia

In Croatia there are five departments of psychology placed at the University of Zagreb (Faculty of Philosophy and Centre for Croatian Studies), the University of Rijeka, the University of Osijek, and the University of Zadar.  Entrance exams are mandatory at every university, and gaining admittance is very difficult due to the popularity of psychology as a field of study. Every year approximately 200 students are admitted and a little less than 200 graduate from these five psychology departments around the country.

In 2005, the traditional 4-year first degree in general psychology was replaced by the European Union’s Bologna educational process. In this process, students earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology after finishing 3 years of education. These 3 years are meant to provide a good general knowledge of fundamental and applied fields of psychology with a strong emphasis on methodology. With an additional 2 years of study, students earn a master’s degree in psychology. A significant number of optional courses enable students to direct their study according to their own interests. Courses in organizational and work psychology offer students direct communication with HR specialists and I-O psychologists in consulting firms.

In addition to a master’s degree, one can earn a PhD in psychology. The only PhD program is at the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb. There are no formal specialized postgraduate programs in psychology; that is, there are no distinctive specializations for I-O or any other subfields of psychology. However, based on the chosen module of courses and one’s doctoral thesis topic (work, educational, or clinical psychology), a psychologist with a PhD is expected to be a specialist in that specific area of study. The graduates of psychology departments in Croatia are allowed by The Law of Psychology Services to practice psychology without any official specialization. Psychologists who use tests and other standardized tools in Croatia must be licensed.

Croatia has grown economically in the past few years, and it has also undergone important social changes. Organizational psychology has been influenced by these changes mainly because Croatian businesses have recognized the importance of human capital and the role psychologists have in enhancing business performance. Most of the I-O psychologists in Croatia are employed in large business organizations and deal with worker productivity, employee training, assessment, and other human resource issues. Some of them are hired by specialist consultant firms that provide personnel recruitment and selection services for their clients.

I-O psychologists who earn PhDs typically work at the university or take research positions in institutions. Overall, research in the field of I-O psychology is at a relatively early stage of development. A major reason for this is the limited opportunity for research funding—a general problem for scientific research in Croatia.

Networking and Organizing

Because it is a small country with a small community of I-O psychologists, networking opportunities in Croatia tend to be unofficial. A first place where I-O psychologists get together is at meetings of the Organizational Psychology Section of the Croatian Psychology Association (HPD). At this moment, this section of the HPD has 100 members consisting of both academics and practitioners. The HPD organizes a variety of educational events, lectures, and workshops for its members and students and occasionally for the general public. 
Besides the HPD Organizational Psychology Section, practitioners and academics can get together at the Croatian Work Psychology Conference that meets approximately every 3 years. It is a great way to bridge the divide between academics and practitioners in I-O psychology. The last conference was organized in 2010 at the Department of Psychology at the University of Zagreb. There were 17 lectures delivered by both academics and practitioners and one by psychology students. Almost all of the participants agreed that the most interesting part was the roundtable session where participants discussed not only the present state of I-O psychology in Croatia but also its likely future directions.

The Future of I-O Psychology in Croatia

With the increasing importance of human capital in organizations in Croatia, there will be even greater demand for psychologists with expertise in the selection and development of employees. In this interdisciplinary field, psychologists are faced with new requests to expertly assist management with organizational development. They help organizations understand their employees and learn how to motivate them by conducting leadership skills courses. In addition, using statistical methods, they evaluate the outcomes and effectiveness of workplace programs. As outside associates, I-O psychologists also provide their services assisting management in personnel recruitment and the selection of new employees.

Sales, marketing, and public relations are new aspects of I-O psychologists’ work in Croatia. Compared to other professionals, psychologists stand out because of our knowledge of research methodology and statistics. However, with a greater understanding of business processes, marketing, and economics, I-O psychologists could capture an even larger piece of the market.

The future of I-O psychology in Croatia looks promising mainly because more and more companies continue to seek the advice of psychologists. From an academic point of view, things will look even more optimistic when I-O psychology is considered an independent field of study at the graduate level.

Concluding Editorial

So there you have it! I-O psychology in Croatia, although not as distinct a discipline as in some countries, is emerging to tackle the modern issues of an increasingly globalized and privatized economy. Interestingly, we see I-O psychology in Croatia emerging into the fields of sales, marketing, and public relations and growing in response to a need to develop human capital. We also see I-O psychologists grappling with issues like unemployment and job security, which have gained prominence in the last few years around the world. Hvala (thank you) to Helena for giving us this fascinating look into I-O psychology in Croatia!

Literatura

Corkalo, D. (2004). From the laboratory to the field, from senses to social change: Development and perspectives of Croatian psychology. Psychology Science, 71, 37–46.
Corkalo-Biruski, D., Jerkovic, I., Zotovic, M., & Krnetic, I. (2007). Psychology in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia. The Psychologist, 20(4), 220–222.
United Nations Development Programme. (2010). Human development report 2010: The real wealth of nations—pathways to human development. Retrieved from http://hdr.undp.org/ en/reports/global/hdr2010/
United Nations Development Programme. (2011). Human development report 2011: Sustainability and equity—a better future for all. Retrieved from http://hdr.undp.org/en/ reports/global/hdr2011/