Industrial and organizational psychology (I/O) is an important facet of modern HRM. It concerns itself with the connection between human behavior and working processes (Conte & Landy, 2019). Purposes of I/O include improving recruitment rates, job performance, motivation, and job satisfaction. The science also concerns itself with turnover rates, work/life balance, training, career transitioning, and finding appropriate candidates to specific roles within the organization (Conte & Landy, 2019). Nowadays, there are 17 specific I/O specialties all vetted by the American Psychology Association (APA) that are available on the market, indicating a demand for the profession in all areas of industry (Conte & Landy, 2019). The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the evolution of the science, its implementation in HRM, and the role of research and statistics in its practices.
Evolution of I/O Psychology
Industrial psychology as a science started developing in the late 19th-early 20th centuries in the industrialized nations, such as the US, UK, Netherlands, Germany, and Australia. The science went against the popular contemporary belief that differences in work performance were attributed solely to human errors. Instead, they researched how individual differences and assessment could predict future work performance. This part of the science managed to crystallize itself during and after the First World War, which saw a significant increase in production in all industrialized nations to supply the war effort. It was also widely implemented in the US army, which utilized aptitude tests to select individuals more suited for command roles.
The organizational side of things was introduced later, during and after the Second World War. Once more, the military and production facilities were the primary beneficiaries of the emerging science, as they were used to test mental capabilities of the applicants to prevent unstable cadres from receiving high-stakes or highly-sensitive jobs and assignments. After the war, more attention was given to work-life balance, personal satisfaction, and compensation as methods of improving productivity. Recent developments in I/O psychology focus on turnover rates, levels of stress, and pressure as factors that contribute to employee burnout.
I/O Psychology in HRM
I/O psychology and HRM are interconnected fields that focus on making the workplace a more attractive environment for the employee. The purpose of I/O is to study employee behavior and determine what would make employees as productive as possible (Jex & Britt, 2014). HRM, on the other hand, is a direct beneficiary of the knowledge produced by I/O, as they utilize it to generate systems of reward and punishment to motivate workers to do their best, thus improving productivity (Jex & Britt, 2014). Same goes for other aspects of I/O, including job satisfaction, personal qualities and abilities, psychological resistance to stress, and other areas.
Factors Influencing Employee Performance
Factors influencing job performance, which are the subject of I/O studies, include the corporate culture, the digital and physical work environments, day-to-day duties and workflows, the employee experience, and working relationships with others. Corporate culture stands for values of the company, its mission, and its treatment of individual employees in relation to these values (Spector, 2021). Digital and physical work environments revolve around their quality, availability, and planning in relation to individual working goals. Duties and workflows are factors that affect employees on a daily basis, contributing to factors such as loyalty or fatigue. Working relationships with others determine how well-connected an employee is to their managers and fellow workers (Spector, 2021). All of these factors contribute to the employee experience, which in turn affects productivity.
Organizational aspects of I/O include the optimization of working environment, training and professional development, organizational structuring, process flaws, and customer service. Focusing on improving each of these allows companies and organizations to achieve higher organizational efficiency (Spector, 2021). They are needed for ensuring growth and competitive advantages. Optimization of the working environment specifically considers itself with finding ways to make the place of work more efficient from a process and psychological perspectives (Spector, 2021). It often involves designing the place in a specific way, providing or removing various options, and optimizing movements and paths for greater efficiency. Training and professional development revolves around improving the qualities of HR available to the company. Organizational structuring can help remove unnecessary positions and provide clarity of purpose and command (Conte & Lande, 2019). Process flaws and customer service are similar in that they provide a product in the end, with the differences being that processes often result in tangible results, while customer service is often rated by how the customer feels about the encounter (Conte & Lande, 2019). Overall, these aspects outline the organizational development domain of I/O.
Role of Research and Statistics
I/O practitioners implement research and statistics as a basis behind their analysis, with a preference for scientist-practitioner methods. The tools implemented for acquiring quantitative data include surveys, experiments, quasi-experiments, and observations (Spector, 2021). The former provides subjective data, human judgments of personal performance, whereas the latter add to historical databases available for longitudinal assessment (Spector, 2021). These are added by objective measures of work performance, in order to help construct validity for a variety of job-relevant metrics.
Some of the statistical methods implemented in quantitative I/O studies include correlation, multiple regression, and variance analysis. Additional tools available to researchers include structural equations, hierarchical linear modeling, logistic regressions, and meta-analysis (Spector, 2021). These elements are utilized in the part of the studies concerning quantifiable ways of measuring employee performance (Spector, 2021). When it comes to more abstract concepts concerning employee psychology and capacity, the preferred psychometric methods include generalizability theory, classic tests, and item response theory.
As it is possible to see, statistics and research play a defining role in I/O, as the entire science revolves around these concepts. The purpose of I/O, as it was mentioned before, is to provide HRM with the data and tools necessary for effectively implementing programs and solutions to organizational and industrial matters concerning employees and processes. Since statistical data provides answers that are easier to interpret and measure, it serves as a basis for I/O as a science.
I/O is an important research field concerning itself with aspects of employee performance, motivation, and process efficiency. The idea is almost as old as psychology itself, but it transformed into science in the late 19th century, and has since found its ways into many aspects of organizational and industrial processes. Nowadays it is a discipline that relies on quantitative and statistical methods to provide tangible results in improving different aspects of personal and organizational performance. Large corporations typically have their own specialists, while medium and small businesses can benefit from I/O organizations working as 3rd parties, providing services in employee, process, and customer service improvement.
Atatsi, E. A., Stoffers, J., & Kil, A. (2019). Factors affecting employee performance: a systematic literature review. Journal of Advances in Management Research, 13(6), 17-24.
Conte, J. M. & Landy, F. J. (2019). Work in the 21st century: An introduction to industrial and organizational psychology (6th ed.). Wiley.
Jex, S. M. & Britt, T. W. (2014). Organizational psychology: A scientist-practitioner approach (3rd ed.). John Wiley & Sons.