“Psychology cannot tell people how they ought to live their lives. It can, however, provide them with the means for effecting personal and social change”
Albert Bandura, Theory of social learning
The labor market is constantly evolving. The events that have taken place over the past two decades pose ever-changing challenges to organizations that are called to respond to this evolution through a process of continuous adaptation. This is demonstrated by the recent pandemic caused by the Covid-19 virus which, through the consequent lockdown situation that has stimulated the adoption of innovative solutions such as smart working; moving from the management of an emergency in the short to medium term, to the introduction of a telematic working dimension that will have stable effects on the working condition in the long term. The digitization processes and new emerging technologies, the consequent continuous training of staff and professional redesign, the new meaning taken on by work, and the related motivations, are all examples of changes in the labor market and new adaptive approaches in organizations.
In this context, applied research in organizations and in particular the cognitive, social, and emotional dimensions experienced by the people who populate them is the subject of study by APRESO ( Applied Research in Society and Organizations). APRESO is a group of researchers from the University of Verona that deals with conducting research and interventions in the field of work psychology in organizations and the social dimension. Specifically, APRESO adopts a scientist-practitioner approach in which research is guided by practical needs and the interventions are designed based on the models that have obtained valid and reliable empirical support.
The interests of the APRESO Research Group concern: the study of organizational behaviors, the role of individual differences in decision-making processes applied to work contexts, and social dynamics in the field of applied psychology.
In the field of basic research, the studies of the APRESO Research Center deepen the role of dispositional antecedents such as personality traits, risk attitudes, or decision-making skills about classic organizational models (eg, Job Demands-Resources model, Effort- Reward model, etc.). Examples are projects such as professional insertion and career decision-making processes, risk behaviors and individual differences, or the role of decision-making processes and individual differences in the JD-R model, the harmful combination between the use of the mobile phone while driving and work-related stress.
The applied research activity develops instead in the definition of training interventions and active policies to improve decision-making processes, organizational well-being, and work performance. Therefore, these are applied research projects where intervention from social and organizational realities is required, such as training interventions, business consultancy relating to the climate and organizational culture, assessment systems and questionnaires created ad hoc and supported by empirical evidence. Among the research projects previously followed, it is possible to mention: life-work and smart working reconciliation, organizational rewards and work commitment, psychological assessment in the management of human resources, lifelong learning and vocational training, debiasing interventions and job crafting, the process model of orientation towards the “GRRR” objectives: determination, resilience and recovery, NOTECHS and the human factor, the interventions to improve well-being at work, the FAMILY approach. As part of this type of research project, APRESO is responsible for collecting data – often while the designated intervention is being conducted – and involving the actors involved to arrive at a depth and scientifically supported knowledge of certain phenomena and processes.
Finally, in industrial research, the contribution of the APRESO researchers concerns the integration of cognitive and behavioral theories (for example Theory of Planned Behavior, Prospect theory, etc.) in the design of predictive models – based on agents – of social and organizational behavior. Among the projects followed, it is possible to mention: organizational policies, social simulations, and pro-social behavior, as well as studies on sustainable behavior.
APRESO works using both qualitative and quantitative approaches, as well as mixed methods, to conduct research and implement interventions, including scholars from within the various fields of social research. Using an approach of this type, while APRESO implements interventions within organizations, it collects data useful for scientific research and achieves its ultimate goal: the diffusion of scientific knowledge in the territory.
Nowadays, using the internet is very easy for anyone to access an almost infinite amount of information on any topic. However, when approaching scientific contexts, it often becomes difficult for the “non-expert” user to understand the results of research published in books and specialized magazines. Disclosure activities carried out by journalists, scientists, and scientific research enthusiasts play an important role as an interface between the world of research and the general public. APRESO aims to disseminate the progress of the psychological sciences applied to work, at the same time, to involve the public more both in the dissemination of research results and in its participation in achieving the results themselves.
Following the “Third Mission” of the University of Verona, which supports the enhancement of research and promotes constant dialogue with citizens and the territory, APRESO mainly deals with specialized dissemination through scientific publications, a fundamental aspect of the progress of the scientific community and for civil society. Many steps before the disclosure phase, the preliminary stage of the research itself during which the limits of the object to be studied must be defined is defined as a “research project“. APRESO also undertakes at this stage to ensure a profitable exchange between the parties involved, trying to limit the technical language to situations of exchange between specialists and instead preferring clarity on the occasions where it is most requested. APRESO undertakes dissemination via the organization of seminars, masters, and refresher courses.
The APRESO Research Group was created to support research concerning industrial-organizational psychology in all its forms. The research activities of the members of APRESO are conducted in the context of social phenomena and organizational processes, specifically, the approach adopted by APRESO is mainly of the research-action type. One of the main characteristic features of action research concerns the collaboration between a researcher and a member of an organization to solve a possible organizational problem. The goal is to use empirical evidence collected in the field to suggest strategic decisions in the context of organizational functions, such as human resource assessment, personnel selection, performance assessment, potential assessment, business training, coaching, etc.
The action study assumes that the labor market is constantly evolving and that research and the researcher are part of a change in the role of participating observers. The APRESO group is therefore a research partner in national and international projects whose interests are in the same area, encouraging collaboration with public and private organizations in the area in which they intend to contribute to the research activity.
Specifically, APRESO members mainly deal with assessment and evaluation operations, all operations that can be carried out in various organizational contexts such as schools, institutions, organizations, etc. for selection, performance evaluation, training, career development, etc. By “assessment” we mean a set of operations conducted to issue a judgment or make a decision. Another key point is the focus on employability. APRESO has developed, in the course of past interventions, an assessment system-defined: Employability Assessment System. It is a system for assessing the level of employability of a person within a specific territorial working context. This evaluation system was implemented starting from the analysis of the best European profiling practices to arrive at a global assessment of the person, in light of the characteristics and skills that are more or less expendable in the current structure of the job market. The APRESO research team has carried out several studies on burnout syndrome and the effects of work-related stress. Many studies have shown that workers who experience a feeling of lack of or insufficient preparation, with the consequent perception of a lack of control over the task performed, can easily experience the difficulty of adaptation in the organization and a deterioration of the commitment to work: typical features of burnout syndrome (work stress). As a solution, we propose the adoption of training interventions to invest in the worker by experiencing a condition of involvement and well-being. Carrying out training interventions, therefore, means aspiring to an advantage not only for the individual but for the entire organization. In all these cases APRESO offers its skills to fully develop the organizational and individual potential of the elements of the organization.