Industrial psychology is concerned with people at work. It is also called personnel psychology. A closely related field is known as organizational psychology. Traditionally, industrial psychologists have assessed differences among individual workers and have evaluated individual jobs. Organizational psychologists generally seek to understand how workers function in an organization, and how the organization functions in society.
The distinctions between industrial psychology and organizational psychology are not always clear. Thus, the two areas are often referred to jointly as industrial/organizational psychology, or I/O psychology. I/O psychologists work for businesses, consulting firms, government departments, and colleges and universities.
Both industrial and organizational psychologists help determine fair pay scales, generally based on the levels of skill and education a job requires and any hazards it poses. I/O psychologists also research causes of and ways of reducing industrial accidents.
Industrial psychologists typically help employers find the best person for a job, evaluate job performance, and train employees. In developing a system for matching an individual to a job, an industrial psychologist must first determine what special knowledge, skills, and abilities the job demands. The psychologist then designs a selection system to judge an applicant's qualifications for the job. The objective of such a system is to predict a person's performance in the workplace. Commonly used selection tools include interviews, letters of reference, work samples, and tests of aptitudes, abilities, knowledge, interests and personality.
Developing methods of evaluating job performance is a major function of an industrial psychologist. Psychologists often create a numerical scale to use in rating an employee's performance. To have value, a system should maximize the accuracy with which people rate performance, and minimize bias.
Industrial psychologists commonly develop training programs. This function involves identifying performance or technical needs of employees that can be met by training. It also deals with evaluating the effectiveness of the training program. Training needs may include ways to (1) help new employees get used to the organization, (2) update technical skills of current employees, and (3) prepare employees for new responsibilities. Techniques used in training include classroom lectures, work simulators, computer-assisted instruction, and role playing.
Industrial psychologists devote much time to job satisfaction. They investigate factors that have been found to relate to satisfaction, including employee turnover, absenteeism, age, pay, and attitudes toward unions. Industrial psychologists also study motivation because evidence suggests that both motivation and ability are necessary for employees to succeed in their jobs. Thus, psychologists develop systems for rewarding good performance, and...