At its simplest, Industrial and Organizational Psychology (I/O) is the study of what makes a successful business tick. At its most complex, I/O helps safeguard a company’s bottom line and competitive position in a global marketplace. I’m predicting that I/O will be as commonly known a business term by 2020 as IT is today, and I’d also suggest that knowing when and how to employ I/O may be the most strategic decision your company makes. To better understand what I/O actually does, here are the four top topics in 2016 I/O media:
The Changing Workplace
I/O has long been in the business of predicting new-hire job performance by creating testing instruments to weed out the better performers or more logical thinkers. However, those testing models are based on permanent, full-time workers who perform in a defined space under defined conditions, such as in an office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. within an established workplace culture. With globalization, the acceptance of “virtual” or remote workers, the increased reliance on contracted employees or consultants, and the popularity of flex-time and work-life merge opportunities, all bets are off. Also problematic: a study by the Corporate Executive Board found that 25 percent of employer-identified “high-potential” employees plan to leave the company within the year. The top 3-5 percent of employee talent — the superstars in the corporation — is highly recruited. In response, I/O is trying to validate both high-potential identification systems and retention reward structures for key employees.
Online Recruitment, Selection, and Evaluation Options
Organizations transitioning to Internet recruitment, screening, training, communication and evaluation tools are still considering the implications of that change. In addition to drafting, adopting and measuring the results of new employment and training options, I/O practitioners must now, by legal precedent, work within ever-changing H.R. laws and best-practice boundaries.
Innovating to Customer Expectations
More often today we’re seeing both an I/O psychologist and a computer programmer being invited to join the CEO and CFO and the VP of Operations to determine what innovative initiatives the company will support. In the past, consumer demands were fairly static – a phone was a phone and call forwarding or video conferencing was an add-on feature. Today, consumers expect a phone to also take pictures, movies, give directions, play music, light up, make purchases and track appointments. The next phone, to capture the marketplace, needs to offer more – but what? This is where “big data” comes into play. More than data mining, companies need to be able to construct sophisticated operating systems that ask the right questions to the right target audience.
Proactive Employee Health Measures
Given the staggering cost of business health care coverage, health and productivity management programs are quickly gaining corporate favor. This attitudinal change to providing preventative care calls for evidence-based wellness programs with tangible and attractive employee incentives to become healthier. I/O has partnered in every facet, from creation of assessment tools to defining measurable outcomes.
We could easily add four more challenges/opportunities to the list for I/O psychologists. Based on today’s speed of technological change, and the ever-flattening global marketplace with an ever-expanding competitive field, it isn’t a matter of if you will need this expertise, but when.