Industrial/organizational or I/O psychology is concerned with individual, group, and organizational behavior in work settings. Industrial-organizational (I/O) psychologists contribute to an organization’s success by improving the performance and well-being of its people. An I/O psychologist researches and identifies how behaviors and attitudes can be improved through hiring practices, training programs, and feedback systems. I/O psychologists apply their knowledge of human personality structures, social motivational processes, and statistical measurement to tasks such as selecting people who fit a given work environment or designing more effective organizational structures. I/O psychologists often focus on improving the motivation, performance, training, and job satisfaction of individuals
Industrial/organizational psychology has its historical origins in research on individual differences, assessment, and the prediction of performance. This branch of psychology first began during World War I, in response to the need to rapidly assign new troops to duty stations. After the war, the growing industrial base in the United States furthered the need for I/O psychology. I/O psychology continued to gain popularity after World War II, influenced by results from the Hawthorne studies.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists industrial-organizational psychologists as the #1 Fastest growing occupation: with the highest percent change of employment between 2012-22.
What I/O Specialists Do
An industrial-organizational psychology specialist helps develop strategies that build better organizations. An I-O psychologist can help you with staffing, workforce development, and workplace climate issues.
- Recruit people that best fit your organization.
- Hire better people.
- Retain the best people.
- Develop fair, legal, and efficient hiring practices.
- Improve the skills of the people you already have.
- Create a diverse and qualified workforce.
- Develop performance management systems.
- Minimize absenteeism.
- Eliminate harassment and discrimination.
- Foster a team environment.
- Increase motivation and dedication.
According to the Department of Labor, those who've earned a master's degree in psychology can work as industrial organizational psychologists.
Where I/O Specialists Work
- Testing: test development, including tests of job knowledge, skills, reasoning, personality, and physical abilities; assessment centers; certification testing; multimedia testing (Web-based, video, etc.); interpretation of test results; test fairness; test-taker perceptions
- Selection and Promotion: recruiting; hiring; structured interviews; succession planning; performance appraisal and management
- Training and Development: computer-based learning; executive coaching, management development, mentoring, and leadership; competency modeling; team design, and training; measuring training effectiveness
- Employee Attitudes and Satisfaction: involvement and empowerment; retention; job satisfaction; burnout, conflict, and stress management; aging and retirement; gender issues; resignation and voluntary turnover
- Employee Motivation: factors that motivate employees to perform effectively
- Change Management: mergers and acquisitions; group processes; process reengineering; productivity and quality improvement; strategic planning
- Surveys: climate and culture
- Job design and evaluation
- Organizational structure
- Team building
- Workforce planning (downsizing and rightsizing)
- Cross-cultural and diversity issues
- Impact of technology in the workplace
- Customer service issues
Human Resource Management: I/O psychologists can provide scientific research that HR managers can use in developing strategies and decisions.
- Legal: analysis of issues and expert testimony on EEO/AA, ADA, OSHA, and other issues; discrimination; jury decision processes
- Workplace Health: ergonomics, human factors, and safety; overcoming stress; workplace violence
- Compensation and Benefits: pay, perks, rewards, and recognition
- Employee Behavior: harassment; absenteeism; discipline
- Employee Issues: union and labor relations
- Work–Life Programs: flexible work arrangements, quality of work life, work–life balance, working parents, and telecommuting
- Performance Evaluations and Assessments: design of job performance measurement systems for feedback and performance improvement
- Research design and methods
- Data analysis and statistics
- Statistical models
- Data privacy, confidentiality, and ethics
- In-depth knowledge of the research on employee attitudes and behaviors as they relate to organizational performance