Industrial and Organisational Psychology definition

Industrial and organisational psychology (IO psychology) is the use of psychological knowledge and techniques to better understand how businesses work and how employees function in the workplace – what drives them, motivates them, angers them – in order to develop a more engaged and productive workforce.

Organisations hire industrial psychologists in order to drive productivity and efficiencies in the workplace through the latest scientific research and knowledge.

Industrial and organisational psychologists may be hired to perform a range of tasks in the workplace, including job analysis, recruitment and selection including psychometric testing, talent and performance management, motivation improvement, cultural change and improving team behaviours and function.

IO psychology uses a range of scientific methods, including quantitative and qualitative research.

Leadership is also a common focus for industrial psychology, particularly helping senior executives become better leaders to drive company performance. There are three main strands of IOP with regard to leadership:

  • Leader-focused: a trait-based approach underlined by a belief that effective leaders have certain qualities that less-effective leaders lack
  • Follower-focused: underlined by the methods leaders use to motivate and enthuse employees
  • Contingency-focused: behavioural approach underlined by a belief that effective leaders are more able to assess a situation and adapt their behaviour to meet the situation’s needs

An emerging sub-discipline in IO psychology is occupational health psychology (OHP), which is specifically concerned with mental, physical and emotional wellbeing in the workplace.

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