When many people think of psychology, they think of a one-on-one counselor, or a group therapist, helping people deal with issues faced in their lives. The term Industrial Psychology may confuse many people, due to the fact that they can’t fit the notion of a counselor with the idea of how a business works. However, Industrial-Organizational Psychology or I-O Psychology has been around almost as long as the field of Psychology. But according to Student Pulse the first mention of I-O Psychology appeared in text in 1910. The first I-O Psychologist, Hugo Munsterberg, created the field of study due to conflict between colleagues at Harvard. However, being around over 100 years has not made it a well known field.
So what exactly is I-O Psychology? WiseGeek describes it as the study of behavior in the workplace. It can include employee behavior, performance, and interaction. They study such topics as conflict resolution, improvement of productivity, employee morale, and other topics that reflect human interaction. They do research on such topics as abuse and bullying in the workplace, how employees are affected by the environment they work in, and how people work together.
But a business may ask how this could help their business. As with many scientific fields, I-O Psychology can be used to predict future behavior based on past performance. This ability to predict future behavior can help businesses avoid many pitfalls before they occur by knowing how employees would probably respond to changes. But this is not the only way that they can help a business. The KippReport lists six specific areas in which an I-O Psychologist could help improve a business:
- Improve efficiency – improvements to efficiency can be found by looking at how tasks are completed, clarifying individual work roles, clearly defining responsibilities, employee satisfaction, and improving the work environment.
- Fine-tune hiring – developing the right hiring process to ensure that the people who best fit the company, as well as the needs of the job can improve performance, production, and employee retention.
- Developing leadership – by identifying and facilitating those employees who show the skills and desire to fill leadership roles, a business can place people in key positions to improve the business.
- Managing change – one of the biggest reasons that new initiatives, changes, and improvements fail is due to lack of employee commitment to the change. A well developed plan to implement the change can be developed with the help of an I-O Psychologist.
- Building successful teams – Awareness of personalities, work styles, and conflict management can help to build successful teams.
- Improve business performance – marketing and consumer behavior are all based on Psychology. Being aware of how, what, when, and why consumers make purchases can all be measured and understood through I-O Psychology.
These are just some of the major ways that an I-O Psychologist can help a business. There are also times when very specific needs of a company can be helped by bringing in assistance. Some companies face challenges specific to their industry, such as factories, high-stress jobs, challenging work environments, and jobs with risk of mental issues. In those types of industries, an I-O Psychologist can implement their specific skills to create productive, safer work environments for employees, as well as help management create practices to deal with issues that may arise.
But whether your business has special needs, or is just looking to improve function and understanding of employee behavior, an I-O Psychologist can be an excellent asset.