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Industrial-Organizational Psychologists

The Job

Operating a business is a high-stakes endeavor, and poor employee performance, ineffective training and development programs, low employee retention percentages, and unhappy, or even toxic, work environments can stifle business growth and hinder profits. Many of these issues can also affect government agencies and nonprofit organizations—negatively impacting the delivery of services and resources to those in need.    

According to the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, “I-O psychologists work in many areas that contribute to organizations’ success, effectiveness, and bottom line.” They help organizations:

  • recruit and screen employees who will be the best fit for specific positions and the organization on the whole
  • develop and retain the best employees
  • devise efficient hiring practices that comply with all applicable labor laws
  • develop performance management systems, which typically include performance appraisal and employee development sessions
  • reduce absenteeism and behaviors that negatively affect workplace teams and the success of the organization
  • develop programs and protocols to eliminate sexual harassment, all types of discrimination (race, religion, weight, physical attractiveness, disability, etc.), and other types of negative behavior
  • create plans to maximize employee productivity and efficiency
  • develop plans and programs that encourage teamwork and increase employee motivation and dedication
  • identify and train leaders
  • develop compensation and benefits practices
  • productively manage layoffs and mergers/acquisitions
  • assess and improve organizational culture and climate

To help organizations meet these goals, I-O psychologists use quantitative and qualitative research and evaluation methods to identify solutions to problems and help employees to work more effectively. These include observing employees, workplace teams, and manager-employee interactions and developing and conducting surveys to identify policies, work practices, and work relationships that are effective, as well as spotlight those that need improvement.

After they gather information, I-O psychologists meet with company executives in person and prepare detailed reports that provide suggestions on addressing various issues.

I-O psychologists work as a freelance consultants or directly in the human resources departments of organizations. Others work as college professors—either in a department of psychology or a business school. They conduct basic and field research on psychological issues in the workplace and teach the next generation of industrial-organizational psychologists.

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