Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Industrial Psychologists

“In peace time, why and how often are Human Factors professionals hired?” (February 23, 2005)

Human Factors in Engineering (Article #6)

In peace time, governments of modern countries are the major employers of Human Factors engineers and industrial psychologists either directly or indirectly.

Many of government’s contracts with private companies attach clauses that require involvements of these professionals in their projects and so they get hired in order to secure bids.

In peace time, which is rare, companies have the luxury to select who they think are the best qualified candidates from the vast pool of job applicants locally and internationally.

People assume that the hired applicants are mostly the best qualified technically and the best trained for the jobs.

Most of us are very skeptical about that assumption of hiring the best qualified applicants, especially in underdeveloped countries.

It seems that this skepticism is applicable everywhere and for good reasons:

When you have to interact with coworkers every day for 8 hours a day, it stands to reason that you prefer people whom you think are compatible to your idiosyncrasies and general ideology.

So far, this approach might be considered rational emotionally and bearing many elements of common sense and good judgments.

On the other hand, how could any one test his incompatibility of living and interacting with someone else based on his discrimination on sex, race, color and religion, if the opportunities to meet with them is an impossibility or at best the interactions are fleeting?

Under social and political pressures, governments have enacted laws that prohibit discrimination on the jobs, unless the applicant is proven unqualified by well documented facts for specific requirements.

Obviously, a law is not much of a law if no painful penalties are attached to it and no enforcement mechanisms are contemplated or an appropriate budget allocated for an independent agency and inspection agents.

So, how could an enforcement agency go about clamping down on these companies that discriminate unabashedly and with no impunity?

The first main tool is to collect data and analyze the proportions of the population hired in order to uncover tacit and biased discrimination tendencies.

A more serious analysis would compare these proportions within each department, especially in the higher levels jobs.

Any critical discrepancy in these proportions will trigger a red alert for direct inspection of the non abiding firms and legal actions taken.

By the by, the enforcement agency would learn to set priorities in their enforcement endeavor and learn what categories of companies are most inclined to discriminate for closer targeting.

So, what other job descriptions can be applicable to the training of Human Factors graduates in peace time?

A few of the design training in sound curriculum offer capabilities for designing instruction manuals, job aids, training programs, evaluation of systems on criteria of safe usage, ease of operation, ease of maintenance and repair, acceptability and retaining products.

Many of these jobs are taken by other graduates who have narrow multidisciplinary training and knowledge but are not described as engineering jobs and evidently lower wages are offered and gladly accepted.

Another job opportunity is designing workstations, not only in manufacturing facilities but also computer workstations for institutions and private use. And educating the consumers to the various safety and health problems related to sedentary and repetitive jobs.

Note:  The version of a student to my article gave the impression that discrimination to jobs is prevalent only in underdeveloped countries.  I believe that perception is not correct since only a continual and persistent application and enforcement of the anti discrimination laws can hold discrimination behavior to a reduced level and check its spread among the companies and institutions.

“Okay, who can afford to hire Human Factors professionals?” (Article #5, February 22, 2005)

Who in his right mind hires Human Factors professionals?

This is a very interesting question that even the developed countries have been pondering for three decades.

I can conjecture, or frankly I am offering an expectation, that in the last five years, the Human Factors profession has managed to get the message through:  Mainly, that many job descriptions apply to the technical skills and training of the Human Factors graduates.

This article is basically targeting the students in the less developed nations, where the Human Factors discipline is unheard of or the knowledge is so minimal that major universities are still reluctant to include even one course in their engineering curriculum.

In Lebanon, only one university offers a single Human Factors course required for the industrial engineers and optional for a few other engineering disciplines.

Actually, it is the only university that offers industrial engineering as a discipline.

In general, there was a perception that the main tasks assigned to Human Factors engineers (formerly known as Industrial Psychologists and currently Ergonomics) required experimentation, testing and evaluation of systems.

Systems used by mankind are evaluated for performances based on errors committed, safety usage, reaction times, health effects, subjective feeling of acceptability, reliability and usability.

Most of these assignments are geared toward the cognitive aspects of the users, which are basically the domains of psychologists because they are better trained to designing experiments based on human responses, collecting data, setting the proper questionnaires and selecting the right statistical packages for the interpretation of the results.

Many of these assignments are similar to the marketing professionals for generating users’ likes and dislikes, the acceptability and tendencies of users for any new products in the design stage.

This time-consuming discipline is not very appreciated by short-term profit minded companies.

So, who hires the thousands of these fresh graduates and why major companies agree to hire a few of these professionals?

Why are governments the main sources of retaining these graduates?

Prior and during major wars powerful countries badly need human factors professionals.

Why? Here is the story.

The main reason is that every able body has to be recruited for the war effort.

Running extensive psychological, physical and mental tests to allocate the right person to the appropriate task, equipment and department are not feasible financially under “profit” time constraint.

The army and the nation need these able bodies to interchangeably fill the losses anywhere and any place.

One excellent option is to design equipments, tasks and procedures so that almost every soldier can perform his duties without extensive training or the need to go about selecting soldiers with the appropriate characteristics.

The other reason is that women had to fill the gap in the industries when the men are out to waging wars.

For production to be efficient, such as error free with minimal accidents, it was good sense to redesign production equipments, machines and workplace to fit women who have different capabilities and limitations physically and cognitively


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