Blogger: Kelly Therrien, M.S., BCBA
This is a common question of behavior analysts when first introduced to the application of behavioral science in the workplace. Stepping out of the clinic and into fixing organizations seems glamorous to some. But, “doing OBM” doesn’t necessarily mean consulting; in fact, where it’s most needed might be in one’s own organization. Kelly Therrien, a seasoned consultant, and behavior analyst says to start small and she offers a few suggestions.
OBM on the Job
ABA companies are rapidly expanding and with growth comes challenges both great and small—employee retention, timeliness, and accurate billing, to name a few. No matter the pain point, all roads circle back to human performance affecting company profit and quality of services. So, how can you start small and with an impact?
Within your own organization, look for an area that needs tightening up. Do you need to improve employees’ billing compliance? Think of something meaningful and ask your manager if you can tackle it. Low-risk projects are the best way to start as you learn to navigate the new scene of assessing and intervening on company-wide issues. Approach the issue systematically by identifying the key performers, selecting specific behaviors to measure, and performing diagnostics to select appropriate interventions.
Beyond Your Organization?
After working on an internal issue, consider whether you wish to “do OBM” in a setting other than your current workplace. If you do, job boards are a place to start. But, OBM jobs rarely appear under that name, and instead are housed as organizational effectiveness, performance management, or human resource consultants or industrial engineers. Make note of these, and the required qualifications and educational levels. Understand whether you need to pursue another degree or complete complementary certifications, such as Project Management or Lean Six Sigma.
Types of OBMing
Full-time work in OBM take many forms:
- The OBM Consultant. Most consultancy jobs require travel and a further-developed skill set to work with different organizations and cultures. A few OBM consulting firms, such as ALULA and Aubrey Daniels International, work exclusively with business organizations and typically seek experienced rather than novice consultants. The same goes for behavior-based safety consultancies, including Quality Safety Edge and Dekra.
- The Internal Consultant. If you peruse the job descriptions of larger companies, you’ll find departments and job roles that tackle the perennial issues OBMers address. Aside from the titles mentioned above, different organizations have different positions—job descriptions will tell you some of the what and how. Translate these into OBMease.
- Broader dissemination—teachers, first responders. Sometimes, behavior analysts wish to disseminate more widely. Though not what I would consider “doing OBM,” doing so requires the skills of developing solid training materials, understanding environmental contingencies, and selling yourself to a specific audience. Of course, this wouldn’t require a separate degree in OBM; rather, it could be achieved through readings, practice, and feedback.
Develop a Network
Meet other OBM professionals. Start with the OBM Network, an OBM-based special interest group of ABAI. Look for mentors willing to share their experience and help you find your footing in new ventures.
Develop an Elevator Speech
Learn to talk about what you do. Convincing and succinct ways to communicate with your audience helps you gain traction. Add the accomplishments of your in-house OBM project to your portfolio and practice describing that experience and contribution. Value shines through experience and expertise.
Take the Risk
Putting yourself out there is never easy, but it lays the path for growing as a professional. Take a chance and let us know how it goes. What will you learn along the way and how can your story inform others? Send us experiences, tips, names of other OBM opportunities, and more.
Next Steps: The OBM Certificate
ABA Technologies, Inc., in partnership with Florida Tech, offers an Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) certificate program. Participants learn OBM essentials and develop skills to design, implement, and evaluate an OBM project within their sponsoring organization. No better choice is available for supporting organizational needs in a customized, targeted way.
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