Present and Future of Work and Organizational Psychology in Colombia
María Constanza Aguilar
Santo Tomás University, Bogotá, Colombia
Wilson López López
Javeriana University, Bogotá, Colombia
Juan Pablo Gamboa
University of Valencia, Spain.
Work and Organizational Psychology (WOP) in Colombia has a key importance
because its applied developments have a strong effect on society in aspects such as
employment, work, organizations, market’s world and the socio-economic dynamic of
the country (Aguilar, López, Barreto, Rey, Rodríguez and Vargas, 2007).
WOP has had a long and important history in the Colombian psychology and has played
a key role in the development of psychology in Colombia, because of its early
applications in the attitudes measurement by Mercedes Rodrigo at The Applied
Psychology Institute of National University of Colombia in 1948 (Mankeliunas, 1993),
and the foundation of the first Laboratory of Psychometrics of Bogotá by the
Psychologist Ernesto Amador Barriga in march 22, 1950, which was oriented in
supplying tests for the improvement of selection processes.
Is important to note how in the sixties decade came to Colombia a mission of the
International Labour Organization (ILO) of United Nations to advice the Colombian
government in structuring the recently founded National Learning Service (SENA). In
addition, the main aim of the ILO mission was to advice the government in structuring
and carrying out the National Survey of Occupations and the application of the
occupational analysis technique (Ardila, 1993). From there, WOP in Colombia has
grown rapidly showing the same influences showed in other countries.
In general, advances in Colombian psychology in the last five years show a high
development in terms of several indicators such as the increasingly supply of degree
programs in psychology (around 120 in the country), and post-graduate, master and
doctorate degree programs (26 post-graduate specialization programs, 2 doctorate
programs, and some programs under approval process). In terms of research groups,
there are 79 recognized groups by the Colombian Institute for the Development of
Science and Technology. There are more than 30 scientific journals in psychology and
an increasing number of psychologists playing an important role in different fields of
the society (Enríquez and Rentería, 2007).
WOP in Colombia has not been away from that dynamic. According to Enríquez and
Castañeda (2006), there are two master programs focused in WOP, more than 16
research groups and one research network in the field. On the other hand, the
bibliometric analysis of the Interamerican Journal of Occupational Psychology (edited
in Colombia), carried out by López and Aguilar in 1997, showed high coincidence
between journal issues and the research network issues (work motivation, training,
organizational climate, perspectives in psychology, work life quality, work
environment, leadership, the role of work and organizational psychologists,
organizational values, application of qualitative analysis, among others).
Despite there is no studies showing the whole set of activities performed by
organizational psychologists in Colombia, practices in organizations developed by
undergraduate students and the employers’ demands for those students, show that work
and organizational psychologists are involved in activities such as organizational
assessment, recruitment and selection, training, career development, work well being,
occupational health, motivational and social issues, culture, climate and conflict,
leadership, performance, knowledge management and organizational learning,
competences management, retirement programs, mobility in the organization; and
managerial skills management such as communication, decision making, power,
authority and conflict, climate and organizational environment management, among
Nowadays, other areas are being explored beyond the above mentioned, such as
psychology, work and health, new employment forms, and the employment
relationships between labour market actors, which are analyzed deeply and critically.
Research in WOP in Colombia is specially focused on organizational learning,
knowledge management and competences models and management.
According to the social, political and economic characteristics of our context, issues as
organizational culture, change and conflict are related to the frequent reality in our
organizations, which are analyzed at individual, group, social and contextual levels.
Furthermore, that analysis emphasises the psychologists’ social responsibility in
organizations, and considers WOP practitioners like people who think about
implications of changes and unstable dynamic of the labour market.
Finally, economic and consumer psychology are ones of the most dynamic areas of the
Colombian psychology in terms of post-graduate programs focused both on the
understanding of consumer behavior, applied markets research, advertising products
analysis, strategic marketing and responsible consumption.
Our short description shows a promising future of WOP in Colombia. Public and
private organizations recognize the important role of psychologists in that field. On the
other hand, there is a significant number of teaching-research groups carrying out
important projects in different issues, an arising number of degree programs in
psychology, and an even more strong Colombian Psychological Association and its
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