Industrial and organization psychology is also referred to as personnel psychology, I/O psychology, or work psychology, is the science based study of workplaces, organizations, and employees. In this branch of psychology you will likely be working with an organization in order to contribute to their successful performance and the overall well-being of their employees. It could be your responsibility to conduct research in order to identify how different behaviors and attitudes of a particular company can be improved upon. For instance, the company could incorporate training programs, systems to obtain feedback, and hiring practices that would all work to improve upon the company’s overall success. In addition, you may find yourself administering help to a company as they transition through new changes, new programs, or new developments that are being implemented.
It is common for industrial and organizational psychologists to conduct research or practice in areas such as: personnel recruitment and selection, job performance, job analysis, educational selection and assessment, psychometrics, performance appraisal, judgment and decision making, compensation, employment law, human resources, occupational health and safety, the balance of work and life, training evaluation, and team performance. Keep in mind, because this branch of psychology is based on scientific theories and methods, there are many other avenues of research or practice that you could choose to pursue. In addition, this branch of psychology is directly related to the area of occupational health psychology.
The career path of an industrial and organizational psychologist functions under two major sides. The first area of focus is the industrial side of the career, which identifies ways to match an individual to a specific job that will appropriately fit their goals. It is not uncommon for this focus area to be referred to as personnel psychology. In this focus area, it may be required for you to evaluate the characteristics of employees and to then appropriately match an individual to a position that would be appropriate and fulfilling, to train employees, to measure job performance, and to develop job performance standards that would be used to gauge employees. The second focus area of this career path is the organizational aspect of psychology.
This area is more focused on being able to understand how an organization can affect an individual employee’s behavior. For instance, social norms, role expectations, organizational structures, and management styles are all factors that can influence how employees behave or perform within a company setting. As an industrial and organizational psychologist, you will be hoping to study these factors and to use what you know about them in order to improve individual employee performance and health. Of course, improving the entire organization as a whole will be your ultimate goal; it is just common for you to approach this by working through each employee and their contributions.
The six key areas that you will focus your work on is one aspect that separates this branch of psychology from other branches. However, since most industrial and organizational psychologists work within large corporations, it is most common for them to work within one of the six main areas. For instance, you could work within the employee selection department where you would be screening potential employees to determine if they are an appropriate fit for specific positions. Or, you could work within training and development, which would require you to determine the necessary skills employees need. Should you work in organizational development you will focus on improving the organization by tackling specific aspects, such as the profit margin. It would also be possible for you to work in areas of work life, performance management, or ergonomics.