Industrial/organization psychology consulting is the title within psychology used to describe professional consultants that work with companies to improve their internal operations. The complexity and nuance of industrial organization consultations aim to address individual performance and health while helping the company.
Simply put: I/O Psychology is a division of psychology that uses evidence-based management to deal with assessment and modification of human behavior in a work environment. If there are humans doing work, then an I/O Psychology Consultant can help navigate any current or upcoming challenges.
What is Industrial Organizational Psychology?
Industrial/Organizational Psychology got its start in the early 1900s making a name for itself during World War I and World War II working with factories and the military to develop assessments that would match the right person with the right position. From those noble beginnings, I/O Psychology has grown to experience people at work at every level of every industry. From working with the individual in capacities such as candidate screening, talent development, or coaching to working at the strategic level of organizations helping to shape policy and procedures, I/O Psychology has always relied on its foundational skills centered in the same evidence-based assessments and methods used in general psychology.
Just as the field of psychology covers a wide range of specialties, so does I/O psychology, with trained consultants working to improve workplace productivity and issues holding an organization back.
I/O psychology’s scope is relatively large to account for all the different elements that can impact an organization. While I/O Psychology has been known by many names (ex: Applied Psychology, Industrial & Business Psychology, Work Psychology), the current arrangement best summarizes the primary fields I/O Psychology concerns itself with: HR strategy (I) and people’s behaviors and experiences at work (O). I/O Psychologists are trained experts that work with an organization to improve design, documentation, implementation, and other workplace systems while also using psychological research to address the human elements. The psychological research helps consultants apply their findings to solve human and organizational issues. While industrial psychology and organization psychology both fall under the same umbrella, they have different goals, address different issues, and are not the same thing.
As odd as it may sound, industrial psychology applies psychological research and theory to the organization rather than the people. You can work with a list of experts, but all that work will be held back from its full potential if the organizational issues remain. Organizational and personal psychology is useful but when combined with the benefits of job analysis, process improvement, strategic policy formation, and ergonomics that industrial psychology brings, all parts of I/O consulting work together so you can enjoy the combined benefits and full success of a healthy organization.
The sub-set of organizational psychology focuses on how the organization affects behavior and what outcomes that creates. Organizational structures, organizational culture, management styles, communication expectations, work assignments, feedback, and more can all affect an employee’s behavior within the workplace. By looking at the organizational causes and effects, an I/O psychologist can work with individuals while benefiting the organization as a whole.
6 Common Topics I/O Psychologists Work On
Professionals in this field may also use psychological principles to help keep workers motivated. Motivation is a complex goal that can be derailed by a variety of causes, which an I/O Psychology Consultant can narrow down and potentially address with research.
Psychological principles and tests are often used by I/O Psychologists to help businesses select candidates that are best-suited to specific job roles. Assessment centers, behavioral interviews, and work simulations are some of the tools that can be utilized to see if an employee will perform well in a specific position.
I/O Psychologists may work to help leaders develop better strategies or train managers to utilize different leadership skills to manage team members more effectively. Leadership is not a given skill that comes with the title and many managers are reluctant to admit they could use some leadership guidance. I/O Consultants are uniquely qualified to offer leadership training and development using psychological principles that can help leaders improve their skills, which will improve the lives and productivity of employees as well.
Some I/O psychologists are involved in the development of consumer or workplace products. The psychological insights from an I/O psychologist may offer unique insights during the design phase that reduces the need for a repeat visit or outside help in the future.
Workplace diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging
Within the area of industrial/organizational psychology, professionals in this field may help businesses develop hiring practices that foster greater diversity as well as train employees on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. In addition, I/O psychologists can help ensure compensation and benefits programs, policies, and best practices are updated to support DEI&B initiatives. It is essential that you work towards true diversity rather than tokenism, which an I/O Psychologist can help with. Weed out unconscious bias, adverse impact assessments, or old habits to create a proper hiring process that is fair to all while encouraging diversity.
I/O Psychologists often study behavior in the workplace to design environments and procedures that maximize employee performance. An employee who has slipping performance may have an issue that an I/O Psychologist could address. Not every poorly performing employee is lazy or unmotivated, but by uncovering and addressing the root cause, performance can be improved across the organization. Performance tests are an important metric but understanding how to interpret and modify performance is also critical.
The Role of Industrial Psychology in the Workplace
Industrial/Organizational Psychologists have a large role in the workplace and must cover a lot of ground figuratively. An I/O Psychologist will commonly work with an organization’s human resources department and other departments to get a clear picture and feel for the organization. This observation and research period can include observing/interviewing employees while working, looking at workflows and processes, highlighting areas for improvement, and more. An organization’s complexity makes it so I/O Psychologists need a near-complete assessment before any part of the system gets changed. Things you may not see as related may be related from an I/O Psychologist’s perspective, so it is best to let the consultant get the big picture information they need to make the best recommendations possible. Below are just a few of the areas an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist may focus on.
Improved recruitment strategy and methods
I/O Psychologists work with everyone in the hiring process, from HR to managers, to refine the recruitment strategy. This includes refreshing job postings, redefining essential qualifications, assisting in succession planning, creating a proper flow during the interview and assessment process, and addressing the best diversity hiring practices. The process may include creating multiple hiring processes that suit different titles or types of positions.
Employee training and development
Industrial/Organizational Psychologists will also help you create onboarding and training and learning processes that both get the new hire up to speed and do not waste time for the trainer. The psychologist’s outside perspective will help eliminate existing issues in the training procedures, so there is no bias or outdated material left to confuse a new hire.
Employee satisfaction and work-life balance
Employee satisfaction is one of the most complex and challenging areas an organization can work to improve. With so many contributing factors such as interpersonal relationships, workflow/management, and job fulfillment, navigating employee satisfaction without an expert I/O Psychologist can be nearly impossible to get right. I/O Psychologists can identify the key factors that are most lacking and work with other leaders in the organization to design solutions that can usher in new levels of employee satisfaction and performance. For example, if managers are having a hard time connecting with staff or a communication barrier exists, an I/O Psychologist can identify the issues, get everyone on the right track, set new rules, and give everyone the skills they need to manage these situations in the future.
It can be easy to get stuck in a frame of mind and forget about other aspects you should be considering. Organizations can sometimes get trapped only viewing performance one way. One key component to performance and talent development is feedback. While there are many options for providing feedback, an industrial psychologist can help the company reframe performance and performance management to include feedback and talent development and adjust the environment and procedures to maximize employee performance now and in the future.
Organizational development and management
How a company is organized can significantly affect how functional the rest of the company can be. An I/O psychologist would come in to look at how efficient, productive, profitable, and overall happy the company is before suggesting tailored organizational development and management improvements. Corporate culture, organizational structural changes, and other suggestions are common areas of focus.
Benefits of Industrial Psychology to an Organization
- Improved recruitment strategy and methods help your organization attract and retain higher quality talent that will fit well in your company from their start.
- Efficient personnel selection keeps the hiring process from dragging on or leading to unnecessary places while quickly identifying the right candidate with smart assessments.
- Increased employee productivity comes from happier employees with straightforward ways to improve, better leadership, and feedback.
- Higher job satisfaction levels keep employees happier for longer, which also lowers an organization’s turnover rate.
- A better work environment is the culmination of other positive changes that create a place where employees want to spend time. You do not want employees to flee the building once the day is over, and I/O work can help you refresh the workplace environment to be more pleasant and welcoming.
- Work-life balance is an essential element in every worker’s life, but the tone or expectation around the balance is often set by managers or leadership. An I/O consultant can work with leadership to change the messaging to reflect better the actual stance that employees should not let work consume their lives.
- Greater workplace cooperation comes when employees are individually happy and then come together to work as a unified group to achieve a goal. Better interpersonal relationships and skills, which an I/O psychologist can teach, leads to better cooperation and teamwork.
What Our Industrial Organizational Consultants Do?
Organizations are complex machines with many moving parts that do not always mesh how they should. When it comes time to improve an organization, it is best to call a professional to help. Outside professionals, like Industrial/Organizational Psychology Consultants, can bring objectivity, evidence-based ideas, and a 3rd party view to an already trying situation. Rather than try to achieve your organization’s goals alone, call in a professional expert from SkillSource to help. No matter your organizational goals, SkillSource experts can help you fix the industrial and organizational issues at hand.