Our psychological well-being takes its cue from the environment in which we live. The majority of us spend a significant portion of our daily lives in the workplace. As a result, our jobs can have a strong influence on our overall mental health.
Likewise, our state of mental health has a strong impact on how we work. Contented employees, and a happy workplace, often translate to productivity and profits. In short: you get back what you put in.
Industrial-Organisational Psychology (or I-O Psychology) is the branch which conducts and implements research into the mental implications of the workplace, and how these characteristics can be enhanced to optimise the outcome for employers and employees alike.
How is Industrial-Organisational Psychology useful?
The broad practice of psychology is not limited to couple’s counselling, or conversations on a futon. Large organisations will pay handsomely to ensure the smooth running of their operations; and one of the most efficient ways of doing this is to understand what motivates – or demotivates – their employees.
There are a range of factors influencing our workplace psyche, ranging from management structure to the office layout. Industrial-Organisational Psychology takes them all into account, with the aim of improving the overall picture. This includes how the evolving attitudes of the organisation’s employees can affect the workplace atmosphere, to how the working environment influences an employee’s mood.
By carefully controlling their organisational infrastructure, a company can be confident of reaching higher levels of productivity, maintained at greater consistency. Rather than focusing exclusively on individuals, this specialisation usually takes a broader perspective.
What does an I-O Psychologist do?
The role of an Industrial-Organisational Psychologist is to find solutions which allow the organisation to improve the quality of life, and thereby improve the quality of work. I-O Psychologists implement psychological research and principles in their study of employee working styles and productivity management.
Typically working alongside management and HR, they get a sense of the company and develop a plan for future action. The most suitable approach to utilise often differs from industry to industry, and from workplace to workplace. Whether this relates to motivating a workforce, helping to hire talented employees, easing a corporate merger, or assessing job performance, an I-O Psychologist should seek to foster a healthy atmosphere and benefit working environments.
This also includes stepping in to resolve workplace conflicts in a swift and effective manner. The role places a strong emphasis on communication; in order to first develop a plan, and secondly to implement it, you will be required to competently gather this input from others. To succeed in this position, it is also essential that you keep an up-to-date knowledge of ongoing research in the relevant fields. Some sources suggest that training in quantitative research or computer science may give you the much-needed edge to succeed in this role.
Is a career in I-O Psychology worth it?
Like most specialisations within the field of psychology, the profession of I-O Psychology requires that you partake in extensive study before you can apply your knowledge of human behaviour to the workplace. Whilst the option of a Doctorate is always there, you will commonly need a master’s in psychology, though you do not necessarily need a bachelor’s – this could be in another useful subject, such as business. To truly thrive in this role, you will benefit from some extent of business training or data analytics. But by succeeding in this role, you could assist others to succeed in theirs.
Commonly, many I-O Psychologists work independently as contractors or consultants. This position finds the most popularity with research and development roles, technical and scientific consulting, or government departments. Salaries tend to scratch the £80-100k barrier (£25k is typical at entry level), with demand for this job-role predicted to grow as organisations recognise and react to the benefits of greater work-life balance.
If you’re looking for a way to combine your keen business savvy with an understanding of the human mind, then why not learn more? Online courses such as MSc Psychology (BPS) or BA (Hons) Psychology & Sociology provide an ideal platform from which to broaden your horizons.
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