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What Is Industrial Psychology?

Industrial psychology can be a valuable resource for your company, whether you’re a small local business with fewer than 10 employees or a large corporation with more than 1,000 employees. To leverage potential benefits, it’s crucial you understand what industrial psychology is and how it works.

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What is industrial psychology?

Industrial psychology is sometimes known as industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology. It’s a type of psychology that focuses explicitly on human behavior in the workplace. In their job, an industrial psychologist might:

  • Study, evaluate and problem-solve your company’s culture
  • Evaluate employee behavior (individually or as a whole) and offer suggestions for improvement
  • Study your work processes and provide insight into how they can be improved
  • Create, recommend or manage programs and practices that can improve organizational performance or employee productivity
  • Create more effective job descriptions or announcements

This isn’t an exhaustive list of duties. Some companies may use industrial psychology for more specific tasks or to solve problems specific to their organization and industry. To fulfill these duties, an industrial psychologist usually works with HR but may also collaborate or confer with executives, upper management and middle management personnel.

How does industrial psychology work?

Industrial psychology applies psychological principles and scientific research methods to provide your company with the associated potential benefits. The work done by industrial psychologists can be divided into three specific sectors: industrial, organization and human.

  1. Industrial psychology: This refers to using principles and research to efficiently describe job requirements and choose candidates who will best fit a position. The primary aspect of industrial psychology also focuses on developing better ways of training and managing employees after hiring.
  2. Organizational psychology: This type of psychology refers to how employee relationships affect employees and the organization. Examples of organizational psychology duties include studying and documenting worker motivation, satisfaction and commitment. Understanding the organizational structure, leadership styles and individual well-being also fall under this sector.
  3. Human-based psychology: This sector refers to understanding how people in your company interact with work tools. Through research and employee input, this type of psychology aims to improve safety, productivity and health through training, better tools and enhanced technology in the workplace.

Like other forms of psychology, I-O is a complex field with many moving parts. As a result, individual industrial psychologists may vary in the techniques, principles or methods they use to accomplish tasks.

How does someone become an industrial psychologist?

Becoming an industrial psychologist generally takes many years of training, which is accomplished through schooling and on-the-job experience. The first step is usually to obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology. During this first part of schooling, a future industrial psychologist can expect to take general education and introductory psychology courses. To finish their schooling, industrial psychologists will pursue either a master’s or doctoral degree in I-O psychology.

In some states, it’s necessary to require a license to begin practicing industrial psychology. Many also choose to become board certified to prove their credentials. Industrial psychologists also need several hours of real work experience to be considered for a leadership or senior role.

Potential benefits of applying Industrial Psychology in your workplace

The potential benefits of applying industrial psychology to your workplace range from improved recruitment practices to greater employee satisfaction levels.

Improved recruitment practices

Applying industrial psychology to your organization can improve recruitment practices at every stage. For example, developing job announcements or descriptions that are more detail-oriented, specific and selective can help bring in more suitable candidates to open positions. Creating and assessing selection assessments or interviewing procedures can help your HR department make more informed choices from their available candidates.

Increased productivity

A combination of performance management and organizational development can help increase productivity across your organization. This is especially true when employees also report greater satisfaction levels. Productivity is crucial because it means getting the most work done in the available time, which ultimately positively affects your bottom line.

Greater employee satisfaction levels

Using job analyses, industrial psychologists can help create better employee training and development programs. In a recent survey, only 25.8% of respondents strongly agreed that they had enough information to do their job well. The same survey showed that only 22.8% of people strongly agreed their talents were well used in their workplace and 17.3% strongly believed they had the resources necessary to do their jobs.

What do these statistics show us? That there’s significant room for improvement in employee training and development. If people are given the appropriate tools and information, it’s possible they’ll be more satisfied in their current roles.

Considerations when hiring an industrial psychologist

Like any other position within your company, you need to find an industrial psychologist that will fit your company’s unique needs and work culture. Fitting into your company’s personality is especially important in this role, as an industrial psychologist must understand your employees’ needs, wants and skills. However, the right personality fit isn’t the only hiring consideration.

Schooling, certifications and experience

You’ll want to consider how much I-O psychology experience someone has, including their schooling and any additional certifications. If you’re hiring for an entry-level position, this may not matter as much. However, if you’re hiring someone to lead your HR department or handle a large corporation, you may want to look for someone with an advanced degree, such as a doctorate, and at least a few years of on-the-job experience.

Industry-specific experience

You may want to find an industrial psychologist with experience in your industry. This is especially true if your industry comes with unique challenges. For example, the medical field has several unique challenges and legislations that must be adhered to when designing organizational policies.

Soft skills

Soft skills you may want to look for in an industrial psychologist include:

  • Active listening abilities
  • Strong problem-solving skills
  • Ability to identify and empathize with other people’s emotions
  • Eloquent communication skills
  • Strong desire to learn and teach others what they’ve learned
  • Natural ability to lead

Hard skills

Hard skills you may want to look for in an industrial psychologist include:

  • Data analysis
  • Strong writing and reading comprehension
  • Business acumen
  • Strong understanding of scientific principles
  • Strong ability to apply psychological ideals to the workplace

The role you need them to fill

Some companies hire an industrial psychologist who works with or manages the human resources (HR) department. Other companies prefer to keep the two separate from one another. Consider the role you need the person to fill and whether they’re a good fit for those duties.

An industrial psychologist’s primary role is to study and analyze human behavior within the work environment. Applying industrial psychology in your organization can potentially lead to several significant benefits. However, if you hope to reap the most benefits, you should choose the right industrial psychologist for your unique company.

FAQs about industrial psychology

What roles does industrial psychology play in the workplace?

Industrial psychologists usually work with your HR department. They’ll assist in recruitment, employee training, performance management and organizational development. Additionally, industrial psychology can help with improving employee satisfaction and development.

Why is industrial psychology important?

Industrial psychology is important because it helps establish and maintain a healthy work environment. Optimizing the efficiency of your employees and organization are also crucial reasons to consider using an industrial psychologist.

Should you keep an industrial psychologist on staff or outsource this work?

Whether you should keep an industrial psychologist on staff or use outsourcing depends on your company’s size and goals. If your company is smaller, has a limited budget and is looking for a limited change, outsourcing may be sufficient. On the other hand, an in-house industrial psychologist may be a better choice if your company is more extensive, has an appropriate budget and is looking to improve in all aspects.

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