Instead they provide science-based guidance to organizations — from the federal government to universities, Fortune 500 companies and nonprofits — on how to improve morale and employee resilience in their workforce. Think of it as the application of psychology to the world of work.
They have worked with The Department of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Personnel Management and Department of State, among others, to help them recruit and select job applicants, train and develop employees, build effective teams, measure individual, team and organizational performance and identify and develop leaders.
But in addition to helping the federal government through furlough stress agency wide, they also help employers’ ability to select and promote the best people. They do this by creating tests and by designing products such as training courses, selection procedures and surveys.
One example is when an I-O makes sure testing questions for a department’s hiring and promotions are fair and comply with employment laws and Civil Rights Acts. They also ensure that the testing questions are legally defensible, designing ways to measure performance and understanding the implications and caveats for each performance measure.
“The work of an I-O psychologist is very different from that of a therapist with a client on the couch, ” said Tammy Allen, president of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology or SIOP, which was established in 1982 and has 8, 000 members dedicated to applying psychology to people in the workplace. “We are a completely different branch of psychology.”
Alyssa McGonagle, an assistant professor of Industrial-Organizational Psychology at Wayne State University in Detroit, studies worker health and safety on the job: what causes workers to be injured on the job (including safety climate, or how much managers and employees value safety over production) and what I-O’s can do about it to make workplaces safer.
“I also study some of the challenges working with a chronic illness poses to people and how companies can ease some of that burden, ” she said. McGonagle recently completed a three-month coaching intervention designed to help people cope with working chronic illness.
You might also like: