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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 devise efficient hiring practices that comply with all applicable labor laws; recruit and screen employees who will be the best fit for specific positions and the organization on the whole; develop compensation and benefits practices; develop performance management systems, which typically include performance appraisal and employee development sessions; help to reduce absenteeism and behaviors that negatively affect workplace teams and the success of the organization; develop plans and programs that encourage teamwork and increase employee motivation and dedication; identify and train leaders; constantly seek to assess and improve organizational culture and climate; an, when necessary productively manage layoffs and mergers/acquisitions. In addition to these duties, I-O psychologists 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.

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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