Division of Occupational Psychology


This year's event saw 75 members of the Division come together at the British Medical Association in London to recognise the work and practice of their peers.

The October event is the main awards event in the DOP calendar, and is when the coveted Practitioner of the Year Award is announced. The awards look to celebrate and promote excellence in the practice of Occupational Psychology.

Guest speaking at this year's ceremony was psychologist, journalist and broadcaster, Geoff Beattie. Geoff is currently Professor of Psychology at Manchester University, and has himself been awarded the prestigious Spearman Medal by the British Psychological Society for 'published psychological work of outstanding merit'. He is regularly seen in the media and popular science arena promoting the discipline.

2011 Award Winners

Congratulations to this year's winners:

  • Laura Empey - Practitioner of the Year
  • Vicki Ashworth - Recognition of Excellence Award
  • John Toplis - Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Adrian Furnham - Academic Contribution to Practice

Also on the shortlist for the 2011 Practitioner of the Year Award were Anne Brackley, Jackie Cameron and Zoe Szuster-Stone, Stuart Duff, and Dr Nicola Elliott-Mabey.

Lifetime Achievement Award

John Toplis

John Toplis has had a long and varied career spanning the public sector, education, and consultancy, as well as a having had a leading role in our early history as an OP organisation. After graduating from Hull University he joined the staff of the National Institute of Industrial Psychology whilst continuing to study Occupational Psychology three evenings a week at Birkbeck College, London.

John then moved into education, as the founding director of Barking College of Technology's Occupational Psychology Unit. He then joined Royal Mail as Head of Psychological Services and then the Head of Consultancy Services in the Training and Development Group. 

Besides his impressive career, John has also given his time freely to the profession. He was Chair of the Occupational Psychology section, the predecessor to the current division, and editor of the Professional News Section of the European Journal of Work and Organisational Psychology. For 12 years he was Secretary/Treasurer of the International Test Commission. John continues to give back to our profession as a member of a professional development group in Essex.

Academic Contribution to Practice

Adrian Furnham

Adrian Furnham is one of the best known Occupational Psychologists in the UK today. Throughout his illustrious career he has successfully bridged the gap between academia, practice and the media. He has been Professor of Psychology at University College London since 1992. He has lectured widely abroad and held scholarships and visiting professorships at many other universities. He has written more than 700 scientific papers and 57 books. Professor Furnham is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and is on the editorial board of a number of international journals, as is a former President of the International Society for the Study of Individual Differences.

He is a founder director of the psychological consultancy Applied Behavioural Research Associates (ABRA), and has been a consultant to more than 20 major international companies. His particular interests are in top team development, management change performance management systems, psychometric testing and leadership derailment.

Practitioner of the Year

Laura Empey

Design and implementation of the Special Constable recruitment process for England & Wales

Laura Empey led this project to design and implement a standardised national approach to recruitment, to replace 43 different approaches being employed by different services. This involved co-ordinating initial client consultation, developing options for the client, leading the development of the selected assessment option (application form, situational judgement test, written exercise and competency-based structured interview), overseeing the design and delivery of supporting training materials, the roll-out of the assessment system across forces, and the subsequent ongoing maintenance and evaluation of the system.

Since April 2010, over 3000 Special constables have been selected through the new process, making significant steps towards meeting government target of having 20,000 serving Special Constables by 2012. Moreover, the diversity of the Special Constabulary has been increased markedly during this time. Early indications show that the process also predicts future performance. Predictive validity research has indicated that the process has an overall correlation of 0.48 (corrected) between assessment performance and subsequent probationary performance. General feedback received from forces has also indicated that the standard of recruits has improved since the introduction of the new system.

Recognition of Excellence Award

Vicki Ashworth

A new Situational Judgement Test (SJT) to assess professional attributes of all junior doctors in the NHS

Having completed training at medical school, approximately 8000 students apply annually for a junior doctor post in the NHS as part of Foundation Training. Here, medical students enter the world of employment and carry substantial responsibility for the healthcare of patients. This is a key career transition for doctors where they develop the competencies associated with being a practicing clinician. This is a high stakes setting with an array of stakeholder groups to satisfy ranging from patients, to the Regulator, through to NHS Employers. Vicki conducted a project to design and validate a new situational judgement test (SJT) to assess professional attributes (e.g. empathy, integrity, teamwork) and employability for junior doctors. The project was commissioned by the Department of Health and Medical Schools Council, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge.

Vicki demonstrated outstanding consulting skills ranging from interviewing patient representatives, through to observing junior doctors on the wards, and in effectively navigating relationships with senior stakeholders. The project was open to a high level of scrutiny including independent peer reviews from top academics. Vicki's work led to several publications (e.g. British Medical Journal) and conference presentations. This project led to significant policy changes in how junior doctors are selected in future. Finding new methods to measure important professional attributes

Shortlist for Practitioner of the Year

Anne Brackley

RAF Morale Risk Pulse Survey - Development of a rapid turnaround morale risk monitoring technique in a changing organisational climate

Anne Brackley, a senior member of the RAF Occupational Psychology Team, proposed an innovative morale risk monitoring technique to provide the ability to track changes in the morale and attitudes of RAF personnel during a period of substantial organisational change. Also known as the 'RAF Pulse Survey', the technique employs frequent collection of key personnel metrics, offering rapid turnaround between data collection and presentation of findings, to enable rapid application of results. The technique uses a longitudinal design that is administered bi-monthly and will continue to be conducted until at least the end of 2011. Eliciting a combination of quantitative and qualitative data, presented in pictorial form in a one-side A4 report, the RAF Pulse Survey provides a highly effective 

means by which to continuously monitor attitudinal changes. The data obtained is used for early identification of emerging concerns and trends for further investigation, and to ensure that appropriate mitigation measures can be better targeted.

Jackie Cameron and Zoe Szuster-Stone

Human factors review of evidence of a friendly fire incident for the MoD

Following a Military Service Inquiry into a fratricide (friendly fire) incident, the nominees were tasked to conduct a human factors review of the evidence collected by the Investigating Branch. Evidence, including witness statements and audio recordings, were thematically analysed and cross referenced against other supporting evidence such as policy documents, maps and training records. The study identified human factors themes that were then classified as Unsafe Acts, Preconditions, Supervisory and Organisational Influences that were believed to have contributed to the accident. These findings were used to generate 16 risk management recommendations relating to training, equipment, procedures and operational roles, which have been taken forward by the Ministry of Defence. The Coroner also used the final report as a key piece of evidence during the Inquest. It was consistently used as the framework for witness questioning and provided the basis for several of the Coroner's final recommendations.

Stuart Duff

BG Group Global Talent Management

BG Group is a dynamic growing business with operations in more than 25 countries over five continents. This project was to support BG Group in taking talent management processes from a subjective, inconsistent approach to one that could provide a foundation for systematic and wellfocussed individual development, as well as inform promotion and progression, lateral moves and diversification. The solution had three core strands: 1. The development of a new leadership framework. 2. The design and delivery of a series of individual and group-based leadership development centres. 3. Analysis and external benchmarking of participant data.

The subsequent reduction of costs from re-employment within such a critical group of future leaders has been considerable. Roger Minton, head of programme at BG Group, states that 'the Group is now able, for the first time, to tailor the content of subsequent development programmes for high potentials, based on a real understanding of personal needs'.

Dr Nicola Elliott-Mabey

Placing RAF Occupational Psychology in its broader context: External scanning and INFOSIS

Dr Nicola Elliott-Mabey is a member of the RAF Headquarters Occupational Psychology Team. She introduced and developed two methods to help inform decisions about the application of Occupational Psychology in the RAF. 'External scanning' involves locating, collecting, collating and presenting reliable factual and empirical data on social and economic trends, and significant events occurring in the wider contexts within which RAF personnel work. From this work Nicola recently completed a comprehensive review of social and economic factors and trends which enables the economic well-being of RAF personnel to be compared with national norms (now and historically).

Nicola says: 'The objective of INFOSIS is to provide a comprehensive and coherent picture on particular personnel issues drawn from multiple data and information sources.' The first INFOSIS explored what made RAF personnel feel 'valued' and 'undervalued'; this exposed issues with individual morale and commitment to, and engagement with, the organisation. This report became a significant input to the 2011 Personnel Plan, which includes 67 actions that should contribute to making RAF personnel feel more valued.