With a master’s degree in industrial-organizational psychology, one of the highest-paying master’s degrees, you could apply the principles of psychology to challenges related to work. How the mind works and how people naturally think and behave is often at odds with circumstances in the workplace, but that doesn’t have to be the case. An industrial-organizational psychologist understands how to put the concepts of psychology into practice in the workplace. Some of the tasks industrial-organizational psychologists perform include identifying opportunities for improvement and optimization in the workplace, developing hiring and training procedures and otherwise solving problems in the workplace.

Identify and Understand Challenges in the Workplace

A big part of an industrial-organizational psychologist’s job is understanding and analyzing what happens in a workplace to identify opportunities for improvement. This is no small matter. Work takes up a significant chunk of most individuals’ lives, adding up to an average of 90,000 hours, or approximately a third of a person’s life. Although the total number of industrial-organizational psychologists is small – just 1,100 in 2019, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) – the work they do holds plenty of potential for broad application.

Industrial-organizational psychologists may be brought in to address specific issues or for the purposes of general optimization. In either case, conscientiously gathering data from all sources – not just managers but also the workers with boots on the ground – is an essential step to understanding the full scope of a situation. Obtaining this data requires different forms of investigation, from observing what happens in the workplace to holding interviews with different individuals involved.

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An industrial-organizational psychologist must be a good listener and be prepared to ask pertinent questions to gather the information necessary to get a clear picture of the situation they’re aiming to address. Otherwise, they’re working off of incomplete, unreliable data.

Develop Procedures for Optimal Employee Hiring and Training

To perform to its full potential in whatever business it does, an organization must first be successful at recruiting and developing its workers. Staffing problems are common in businesses, often for reasons such as the person hired for a job being the wrong fit for the position or the company culture or leadership style failing to keep workers motivated to do their best.

Part of what an industrial-organizational psychologist does is look at how companies handle recruitment. If a company routinely posts job listings with nebulous job descriptions and makes hiring decisions primarily on a whim, these early failings may later lead to poor employee performance and high staff turnover rates. An industrial-organizational psychologist can apply the scientific principles of psychology to the hiring process to companies make better hiring decisions.

Fleshing out a list of the most important and relevant job requirements for a position is a good start to finding the right person for the job. Implementing reasonable employment tests that fit the role into the hiring process and methodically evaluating candidates based on prioritized criteria can help companies choose the best applicant.

Employee training is another aspect of an industrial-organizational psychologist’s job. Psychology is closely related to learning. The most effective training programs take into account the psychological principles behind how people learn and use those principles.

Solve Organizations’ Problems in All Aspects of Work

At its core, the field of industrial-organizational psychology focuses on optimizing workplaces by solving problems and finding opportunities for improvement. These problems vary in severity, scope, complexity and visibility, but what they have in common is that addressing them makes for a better work experience.

In workplaces where the principles of psychology are applied effectively, employees are likely to feel more satisfied with their work and have more motivation to reach their full potential. Putting into practice the solutions identified by industrial-organizational psychologists can help change company culture to a warmer and more comfortable social environment and improve worker performance. Of course, all of these improvements can help the company function better overall, in terms of profitability and productivity as well as the quality of life workers and managers experience.

Some aspects of the changes made through the efforts of industrial-organizational psychologists make the workplace safer, reducing the risks of work-related injuries, accidents and illnesses. Safety improvements protect workers while saving employers money.

Additional Resources

What Are the Three Most Important Fields of Industrial-Organizational Psychology?

What Personality Traits Are Best for an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist?

Is Industrial-Organizational Psychology a Field Where I Am More Likely to Be Hired as a Consultant Rather Than as a Full-Time Employee?

What Degree Do I Need to Be a Psychologist?