Industrial-organisational psychology is the branch of psychology that applies psychological theories and principles to organisations. Often referred to as I-O psychology, this field focuses on increasing workplace productivity and related issues such as the physical and mental well-being of employees. Industrial-organisational psychologists perform a wide variety of tasks, including studying worker attitudes and behaviour, evaluating companies, and conducting leadership training.
The overall goal of this field is to study and understand human behaviour in the workplace.
The Two Sides of I-O Psychology
You can think of industrial-organisational psychology as having two major sides. First, there is the industrial side, which involves looking at how to best match individuals to specific job roles. This segment of I-O psychology is also sometimes referred to as personnel psychology.
People who work in this area might assess employee characteristics and then match these individuals to jobs in which they are likely to perform well. Other functions that fall on the industrial side of I-O psychology include training employees, developing job performance standards, and measuring job performance.
The organisational side of psychology is more focused on understanding how organisations affect individual behaviour. Organisational structures, social norms, management styles, and role expectations are all factors that can influence how people behave within an organization.
By understanding such factors, I-O psychologists hope to improve individual performance and health while at the same time benefiting the organisation as a whole.
How Is It Different?
While industrial-organisational psychology is an applied field, basic theoretical research is also essential. With roots in experimental psychology, I-O psychology has a number of different sub-areas such as human-computer interaction, personnel psychology, and human factors.
Six Key Areas
According to Muchinsky's book, "Psychology Applied to Work: An Introduction to Industrial and Organisational Psychology," most industrial-organizational psychologists work in one of six major subject areas:
Training and development: Professional in this area often determine what type of skills are necessary to perform specific jobs as well as develop and evaluate employee training programs.
Employee selection: This ``area involves developing employee selection assessments, such as screening tests to determine if job applicants are qualified for a particular position.
Ergonomics: The field of ergonomics involves designing procedures and equipment designed to maximise performance and minimise injury.
Performance management: I-O psychologists who work in this area develop assessments and techniques to determine if employees are doing their jobs well.
Work life: This area focuses on improving employee satisfaction and maximising the productivity of the workforce. I-O psychologists in this area might work to find ways to make jobs more rewarding or design programs that improve the quality of life in the workplace.
Organisational development: I-O psychologists who work in this area help improve organisations, often through increasing profits, redesigning products, and improving the organisational structure.