What is the Role of an Organizational Psychologist?

The overarching goal of industrial and organizational psychologists is to ensure the employees within a workplace are happy and healthy while simultaneously achieving maximum productivity for their employer. Attaining this win-win situation, where both employees and management are pleased with the work of the company, is very much a balancing act and requires careful attention.

Successful industrial and organizational psychologists report immense job satisfaction, perhaps because the important work of those in this occupation makes a real difference in workplaces spanning all industries. This could be why industrial and organizational psychologists will experience the highest rate of growth (53 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) of any other occupation between now and the year 2022.

A Day in the Life

Because the work is so diverse and can include a wide array of tasks, a typical workday for someone in this occupation will vary. Many times they will work within the human resources office of an organization. On a daily basis they’ll apply principles of psychology and research techniques to help solve problems and improve the quality of life within all divisions of a company – administration, management, sales and marketing and more. Below is a breakdown of some common tasks an industrial and organizational psychologist may carry out.

Employee screening

This can include observing and making notes on employee work styles, then interviewing employees to get a feel for workplace morale. It can also mean conducting employee performance assessments and making recommendations based on the results. Personality tests can be implemented to get an idea of which employees might work best together. Sometimes screening current employees will lead to a psychologist’s recommendation to hire new, better-qualified employees. In those circumstances, hiring practices will be observed and perhaps modified.

Training and development

Training sessions for employees are evaluated, then tweaked if necessary to obtain more desirable results. New training programs may be developed in areas such as management, teamwork, leadership or instruction on new policies. An industrial and organizational psychologist will advise on how to best motivate the workforce based on earlier steps (like employee screening and interviews).

Policy planning and revision

Where necessary, industrial and organizational psychologists may recommend changes to current policies and procedures that are found to be ineffective or lower morale among employees. In some cases, they may help rewrite certain policies or completely overhaul the entire company handbook.

Organizational restructuring and planning for the future

This may include working with management to make changes within the company that improve worker productivity. Top-down restructuring, where officials and management are placed in new roles based on successful business models at other companies in the same industry may be necessary. Once a new plan is implemented, psychologists are tasked with helping communicate it to employees and aiding in the transition itself.

Industrial and organizational psychologists who work as consultants may be given project work. This can run the gamut in terms of scope; they may be hired to simply observe, interview employees and make recommendations. Based on those suggestions, they could be brought on to help carry out a larger plan. Sometimes they are hired to ease major transitions, such as when corporate mergers take place.

As you can see, the role of an industrial and organizational psychologist is diverse. Every day presents a different set of goals and challenges, which is likely a reason why this occupation is so interesting and growing so quickly within the broader field of general psychology.

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