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  • Shaneika A. Dilka

    What Is I/O Psychology?

    By Dr. Shaneika A. Dilka, Adjunct Faculty, Graduate Psychology Deparment

     Whatis industrial and organizational psychology, or I/O psychology? In the spring of 2008, I began my doctoral program in organizational psychology. In the years that followed, I have provided various answers to this question.

    “Business psychology…The study of human behavior in organizations…Psychology of the workplace…The same psychology you’re thinking of, just on a larger scale, in an organization, like at your job, for instance…”

    The situation in which the question was asked played a major role in which answer was given, how much detail was provided, and whether a real discussion followed. The unfortunate reality is that when  the question was asked in passing, time often did not, and does not, allow for the unique, diverse nature of the field of I/O psychology to be wholly explained and understood.

    As an organizational psychologist, my area of focus is somewhat narrow, but that speaks to the diversity of the field. I/O psychology, on a broad level, applies psychological principles to resolving a variety of issues that arise in the workplace or other organizational settings. What this means is that there are individuals, often working behind the scenes, to figure out the “what, why, and how” of the problems that exist in organizations. These individuals, I/O practitioners, I/O psychologists, organizational psychologists, consultants, etc., use scientific approaches based in psychological research and theory to examine common (and not so common) problems we see in our workplaces every day.

    The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), Division 14 of the American Psychological Association (SIOP, 2016) identifies the major areas of focus for I/O psychologists. In every stage of the organizational process, there is an active role for an I/O psychologist to affect positive change within the organization, in all sectors of any industry, including, but not limited to the following:

    • Recruitment activities (i.e. selection and assessment methods)
    • Employee development (i.e. training, coaching)
    • Performance management (i.e. appraisal, evaluation systems, reward systems)
    • Employee engagement issues (i.e. motivation, satisfaction, and pro-social behavior)
    • Organizational development (i.e. change management and reorganization)

    In January of 2016, SIOP launched an amazing informational campaign designed to provide those who are less connected with the field a broad scope of information related to I/O psychology, calling the initiative Science for a Smarter Workplace (SIOP, 2016). The video, which is slightly over 4 minutes long, is included in the references below and is recommended viewing.

    My experience in I/O psychology has had a different appearance. With much of my professional experience being in behavioral health services, a path was paved to working with a specific population, to whom I have been very committed. Fortunately, I was given opportunities to expand my skills beyond what might be considered general behavioral health work and was able to master competencies in organizational development, group facilitation, and training, research activities through administration, analyses, interpretation, and presentation of massive amounts of unit data and recommendations for change in various organizational levels. These were all experiences that enhanced my ability to become the organizational psychologist I am today. Concurrently, I was able to teach at the university level, specializing in psychology and business management, further honing those skills, encouraging others to seek their own unique “calling.” 

    Although much of my experience has been completed in the government sector and private, for-profit educational institutions, I/O psychologists and their counterparts exist and are change makers in all types of organizations ranging from corporate powerhouses to smaller, not-for-profit service organizations.

    The academic preparation afforded through an education in I/O psychology will either supplement an existing skill set or provide a new set of tools with which one can enter the workplace or any organization and accomplish the ultimate goal of any I/O psychologist or practitioner, to make the organization perform BETTER! 

     

    References

    SIOP. (2016). Industrial and organizational psychology. Retrieved from http://www.siop.org/history/crsppp.aspx

    SIOP. (2016, January 19). Science for a smarter workplace [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oG5ew9rhkBg  

     

    Shaneika A. Dilka is a professor at Kaplan University. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University.

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