Industrial and Organizational Psychology

In an increasingly competitive world, many organizations are adopting methods aimed at maximizing all their available resources to effectively achieve their set goals. Industrial /Organizational Psychology has therefore been increasingly integrated into organizational management in recent years. Industrial and organizational psychology is a field concerned with workplace behavior. It applies psychology methods to increase productivity and to get the right people for work and product testing. Organizational psychology applies methods to either increase the well-being of workers, the organization, or both. In this paper, I will be discussing if industrial/organizational psychology is organizational behavior management or simply expanded human resource management. I will also consider if this is a bona fide career or not. (Wagner, 2008)

For me to consider whether Organizational and industrial psychology is simply an organizational behavior or an extended human resource, I will consider important aspects of organizational and industrial psychology about how it had been dynamic to change in the past years. This is meant to enable different stakeholders to adopt its methods appropriately in promoting the productivity of organizations. I will then relate these concepts to those in human resource management and organizational behavior. Regarding human resource management, I will consider an important concept that has been introduced in an organization and industrial psychology-strategic human resource management. I will also consider the career aspect of organizational/industrial psychology. (Macrae, & Bodenhausen, 2000, p.95) An important term that I have repeatedly used in this paper is cognition. According to Fiske and Taylor “Cognition refers to the mental process involved in thinking, including attending to information and ordering information to create meaning that is the basis for acting, learning and other human activities. Cognitive science has taught us that information processing capacities and mental processes shape and govern one’s perceptions, languages, and ultimately one’s behaviors. A focus on thinking highlights the importance of perceptions, assumptions and social cues.” (Fiske, & Taylor, 1984)

Behaviors observed in an organization depend on past behaviors as well as the anticipation of future behaviors. These kinds of behaviors including the people that are involved in these behaviors form a dynamic open system. Industrial and Organizational Psychology takes a system kind of approach where individuals are treated as systems within other systems like teams and workgroups, which are then nested in organizational systems. Organizational systems are open to the outside world through connections like customers, family members, and many other influencing factors on the behavior of the organization’s members. Open systems models, therefore, consider complexities that affect an individual’s behavior at work. However, Organizational and industrial psychology concentrates on the interaction of individuals with their immediate physical environment like tasks, jobs, working conditions as well as their interaction with their immediate social environment, which includes variables like superiors and subordinates. Moreover, it relies on the assumption that the beliefs, interests, behaviors, and feelings of interest groups within the organization are limited to those in which there is enough reason to believe that understanding such will help in improving effectiveness (Overskeid, 2007, p.592)

Organizational physiology focuses on individuals with an assumption that the interests of the organization and those of the individual are best served when there is a good correlation between the goals and expectations of the organization with those of the individual. Methods of obtaining a correlation are thus considered. One way of doing this is to consider the organization and the individual as separate entities. Characteristics of these entities are then considered with an aim of matching by selection. This is done by selecting people for the organization or changing people to fit in the organization. A common way of changing people to fit into the organization includes training and development as well as primary mechanisms. On the other hand, organizations can be changed through restructuring goals, policies, job design, and work rules practices among similar parameters. (Schein, 1968, p.10)

The fit is a dynamic interaction between the organization and people with multiple influencing factors. There has been considerable research in the past decades to develop a more explicit model of the people and organization fit. Gough defined aptitude as differences in individual characteristics and defined treatment as situations that are encountered by people. (Peterson, Janicki, & Swing, 1980, p.339) John Campbell argued that every industrial, as well as organizational psychology, is captured by treatments, aptitudes, and their interaction. Important variables that are important to the fields can therefore be captured by workgroup, individual, or team performance. An aptitude treatment and interaction model has been used and will continue to be used in Industrial and Organizational Physiology analysis. (Campbell, 1990, p.688)

An area of great concern to organizations is individuals’ performance in relation to their jobs. Many industrial psychologists have therefore tried to predict from known characteristics of an individual and their surrounding environments under which tasks/jobs are performed. However, the work performance model is not that simple to vary in a dimension of two variables alone from good to bad. To address this concern, Campbell working along with others developed a more comprehensive theory on work performance. They identified eight variables e.g. Core Technical Proficiency; Oral and Written Communication; Supervision and Leadership model that greatly characterized performance requirements. (Sackett., Zedeck, & Fogli, 1988, p.485) Earlier, Hunter had shown in 1983 that cognitive ability had a profound influence on job performance. He used meta-analyses that investigated relationships between job knowledge, task proficiency, and cognitive ability. Outerbridge added another parameter to this model in 1986, experience. Bozeman white working with his colleagues in 1991 added personality factors, behavior indicators that include things like the number of disciplinary actions, and rater-rate relationship factors to the mix. These variables increased significantly the variance that accounted for performance ratings.

The U.S Army Research Institute in affiliation with private consortiums conducted a large-scale personnel research project between 1982 and 1994. More than 366 organizational physiologists worked on the project at one time or another. In project A and a follow-up, two major validation samples were studied. One was a concurrent sample while the other sample was predictive. The concurrent sample allowed the study of performance based on a range of predicting variables. The second sample provided validation results that were based on performance during training, first tour job performance, and second tour performance as a non-commissioned officer supervisor. Approximately 9,500 soldiers participated in the first tour performance while another 45,000 recruits participated at the beginning of the longitudinal research. (Simutis,& Johnson, 1999,p.33)

A predictor battery measured a variety of individual difference variables that included measures that were specific and those that were general in relation to cognitive abilities, personality, vocational interest, and biological information. An important approach that was considered during this research with an intention of coming up with general results was to emphasize variables and structures rather than emphasizing methods like ratings or particular measures like the biodata survey. This strategy showed job performance to be consistent with a five-factor structure that includes core technical proficiency, effort and leadership, general soldering, personal discipline, and physical fitness. Each of these factors was represented by particular methods. For example, the effort and leadership factor method had components of the number of attained administrative awards and certificates. Moreover, latent variables like personal perception were also considered. (Sackett., Zedeck, & Fogli, 1988, p.486)

Another important consequence of this study is that the two-dimensional criterion was discarded as an approach to measuring performance. Divergent criteria and criterion measures were necessary to measure performance accurately. For example, job knowledge and work samples were used to test maximum performance on elements of job performance which was a primary element function of human abilities, whereas, on the other hand, ratings considered elements that were more driven by motivation. Moreover, project A proved the fact that cognitive ability is the most significant element that can predict job performance across all jobs. The results also indicated that an available wide range of predictor and criterion variables that can be selected to capture uniformity across jobs in all domains of jobs understudy will ultimately lead to differences in prediction across jobs. (Simutis, & Johnson, 1999, p.33)

Industrial and organizational psychology has contributed greatly in developing classification taxonomies and structures for describing work. However, there have been changes in the works where the world economy has matured and shifts in the kind of jobs performed have occurred. This is especially true in developed countries. This has created the need for the development of new systems that can be used to characterize work and the demands that it places on people and organizations. A dictionary occupational title was the system that was used to describe jobs. This used a three-dimensional approach that considered three important variables that include human characteristics needed to perform a job, physical characteristics of the job, and the way in which data were handled in the job. This was a very useful method of determining job requirements to work efficiently and effectively. A new content model was developed in 1999. The idea in this model was to build taxonomical descriptors in different areas to score each target occupation on each of the descriptors. For example, in the abilities domain, the intention was to develop a fully comprehensive model of all the abilities that are relevant to work with an intention of obtaining ratings of the occupation based on how each ability was needed to accomplish work. After obtaining ratings for every descriptor in the content model like occupational ability, skill, and general work activity among others, requirements were then numerically defined making it possible to apply these results practically. (Simutis,& Johnson,1999,p.33)

The overall aim of this model was to apply it to every job in the United States economy. Different researchers have developed various dimensions in this model. For example, the model of abilities is based on Fleishman’s research in 1988 commonly referred to as the O*NET model. There is further research that is going on to populate more fields in this new model. (Peterson, G.N, et al.2006, p.455)

Project A and O*Net, therefore, represent significant large-scale developments in organizational and industrial psychology. These have increased advancements in thinking and practice. There are also other breakthroughs that have been developed in industrial and organizational physiology. This includes the level analysis issue. Historically, organizational and industrial psychology has focused on the individual. However, there has been an increasing integration of the individual with the broad environment in organizations that include work teams and other large units. It, therefore, became important and necessary to include this behavioral construct that occurs at different levels in the organization. Let’s consider the cognitive ability for example. When this is applied to an individual, it can measure his ability to perform some tasks effectively. However, there might be a need for the organization to consider teams and workgroups since there could be an interest for the organization in the cognitive ability of this workgroup. Yet, even at the team level, each individual possesses cognitive abilities to vary degrees. (Peterson, G.N, et al.2006, p.456)

In this case, what is the most important parameter that can be used to measure the cognitive ability of the workgroup? On the other hand, is it the average cognitive ability of the whole group from the highest to the lowest? This question does not have a clear answer. What can be shown, however, is that there is a difference in cognitive abilities at the individual level in a workgroup. The best way of representing a workgroup’s cognitive ability is through the use of a theory in which the abilities are embedded. For example, if the task includes a performance in which all members of the workgroup bring forth their ideas, and work with some autonomy, then the average method may be appropriate. (Peterson, G.N, et al.2006, p.457)

Although the fact that people are increasingly working in groups has been known for many years, research on this phenomenon had not been done exhaustively to come up with breakthroughs that have been recently discovered. A trend that has been adopted is one whereby researchers have been more specific concerning the levels that they are interested in and the levels that they wish to generalize. An important outcome that may come from this approach is that more than one level is operational to come up with the best prediction. For example, in an effort to understand work safety, individual differences are important in predicting workplace safety. It is however true that things like the safety behavior of for example the safety boss is also involved. Since the effects of the behavioral results are involved, one is therefore required to think both in terms of multiple effects and also in terms of intertwined levels. Similarly, Zaccaro and limoski concentrated their study on senior leadership in an organization in order to capture the effects of individual executive team members in the organizational level of functioning. They also recognized the fact that what happens at the leadership level would have first-order e.g. structural design effects and second-order e.g. communications and inflow effect. Another approach that has arisen in this research is the need of specifying the process in which we believe that we are operating. In most cases, when we characterize individuals, we normally add sub-cognitive like habitual processes, cognitive and affective processes. It is very likely that these processes will come in handy at the highest level of analysis. For example, organizational behavior is very dependent on the sets of individual people that such processes are controlling. The challenge is to decide when to move to an upper level in order to attend to other processes. Alternative processes like social (group and team), interpersonal and political factors can be included. (Simutis, & Johnson, 1999, p.33)

Industrial and Organizational psychology has been characterized by a concentration on individuals. With time as discussed in this paper, there was a need to include groups that also form important components in organizational behavior. During the 1990s, there was a lot of interest in areas and issues concerning the needs, expectations, and desires of individuals. For example, forces that determine the entry of applicants have been modeled by several researchers. Others have modeled on the forces of the first few weeks or months at the workplace. Researches have been guided by the seminal ideas of Louis(1980) to understand how individuals view their new working environments by both passive and active methods. More renewed interest in individuals has seen issues of fairness and justice often related to the development of optimal performance at the workplace. Besides, investigators have developed powerful mechanisms that can determine how individuals offer themselves self-regulation at the workplace. Moreover, studies have been done on leadership and how this influences workers, especially those that are new in an organization. The individual approach has also seen it integrated with recent studies that consider the effects of practices performed by the personnel. These include things like training, testing, and performance standards. (Lewis, 1997, p.212)

In the 1990s, there was the continued use of meta-analytical techniques for coming with summaries of multiple data. Schmidt () argued that these meta-analytical techniques offered all solutions to provide knowledge of all relationships between variables. These methods used human capacity to gather information and data. Modeling techniques that have been developed make use of computer models theories for testing assumptions, which have been obtained from observations, made at the workplace. Although these models do not appear in industrial/physiological literature, they are found extensively in social sciences and organizational studies of cognitive behavior. (Schmidt,1992,p.1178)

Moreover, another important shift that has occurred in industrial and organizational psychology is the admission of the fact that at the end of the day, what is done in industrial/organizational psychology must be adopted to fit into the business. This partly explains why the concepts considered so far have been changing and will continue to change more in order to recognize this reality. Although some sections that underlie it have been around for a while, the term strategic human resource management is relatively new. For example, the idea of utility in personnel selection has been used for more than 50 years. This was used to demonstrate how a selection method and when a selection method would be used to show value aimed at improving the quality of the workforce when compared with the one that is currently in place. Likewise, the logic behind utility and cost/benefit analysis is now the basis used for determining the value of any intervention measure that can be taken to solve any issue affecting the organization. What is significantly different however is concerning the unit of analysis. (Schmidt, 1992, p.1179)

This is not primarily a pool of personnel (like a training program for example) and applicants, but rather it is the whole organization. Therefore, the main aim of strategic human resource management is to ensure that the organization as a whole succeeds in the marketplace. Wright and McMahan define strategic Human Resource as “the pattern of planned human resource deployments and activities intended to enable the firm to achieve its goals.” (In this regard, several contemporary writers are interested in modeling how the management of human resources can contribute to such things as matching personnel activities to business strategies, forecasting manpower needs (given certain strategic objectives), or finding ways to align personnel practices to strategy and structure” (Huselid, Jackson, & Randall, 1997,p.175)

Can Industrial and organizational psychology, therefore, be considered to be simply expanded human resource management? In order to look at this question better, it may be important to remind ourselves what is human resource management. Human resource management can be considered as the clear and planned application of management tools in an organization to people that work in the organization in order to achieve the objectives and goals of the business. It is concerned with empowering workers, developing their capacities, employing people, maintaining workers, rewarding and compensating workers among other issues that relate to workers. We can therefore see that while a human resource manager is trained and is involved with management aspects of his/her workers, he/she is not directly involved in physiologic factors that determine the performance of his/her workers like an industrial/organizational psychologist. (Ward, Eastman, & Ninness, 2009, p.21)

While it is possible for an expanded human resource to deal with some of these physiological issues, this approach presents problems for the human resource manager that may be difficult to overcome. First, he is the impulse to view his workers in terms of productivity with the tendency of applying methods that suit the company to compete in the business world rather than concentrating on the individual like an industrial and organization physiologist. This is primarily because for the human resource manager, the priority is always on the organization that has employed him to harness the human resources in the organization for the benefit of the organization rather than on the individual. Moreover, human resource managers are relatively unqualified to tackle issues that relate to individual workers’ physiology. They are trained to govern workers and carry out procedures that relate to workers in the company like salaries and the like but they are not trained to handle aspects that focus on individual employees. Their main goal is always to meet the company’s objectives, which hardly concentrate on the individual unless it is on aspects that meet the company’s objectives like increasing profits for example. Once they achieve these objectives they are considered as well human resource managers. The conclusion that I can make here is naturally, industrial and organizational physiology cannot be considered as simply an expanded human resource management. (Huselid, Jackson, & Randall, 1997, p.177)

However, in my detailed discussion on concepts of industrial and organizational psychology, an observation that can be made is that the new methods are increasingly being integrated into human resource management. Consider Strategic human resource management that has been adopted into physiological studies of organizations for example. Moreover, since a lot of research has already been done on individual behaviors at the workplace as has been discussed with the development of computer modeling techniques, human resource managers do not need to understand the physiological factors in the organization for them to make decisions that factor in these behaviors. They can use computer models that factor in these considerations. In addition, industrial and organizational psychologists have bowed to the pressure of accommodating organizational interests in order for them to stay in the market. Their work objective is therefore coinciding with the objectives of human resource managers who have traditionally focused on companies rather than on the individual. The discussion on industrial and organizational behavior psychology showed that these organizations have been adapting new methods with the primary aim of staying marketable to organizations that hire their services. (Ward, Eastman, & Ninness, 2009, p.22)

This includes the new O*NET-intended to help human resource managers to hire the best workers model and other new concepts that I have discussed. “Taking a strategic perspective has allowed practitioners in our field to relate in meaningful ways what they do professionally to the most senior organizational leaders. Not only are they able to better empathize with their clients, but they are also capable of making a business case for what they do. When they accomplish this goal, there is a greater likelihood that the research and findings of industrial and organizational psychologists will be given the same credibility and weight as is given to the work of consultants with backgrounds in other fields such as engineering and economics. ” (Huselid, Jackson, & Randall, 1997,p.178)The conclusion here is therefore that overall, organizational and Industrial physiology is increasingly becoming integrated with human resource management.

What about organizational behavior? can we say that industrial and organizational physiology is the study of organizational behavior? I will consider this by first defining organizational behavior. According to analysts, “Organizational behavior is a broad area of management that studies how people act in organizations. Managers can use theories and knowledge of organizational behavior to improve management practices for effectively working with and influencing employees to attain organizational goals. The field of organizational behavior has evolved from the scientific stuffy of management during the industrial era, administrative theories and the manager’s role, principles of bureaucracy and human relational studies of employees.” (Ward,Eastman, & Ninness,2009,p.22)

As can be seen from this definition, organizational behavior is very closely related to industrial/organizational psychology to an extent that one can easily conclude that they are one and the same thing. Both fields consider the psychology of individual workers, groups, and the whole organization and how they impact the organization’s performance. However, there are some significant differences. First, unlike organizational behavior as it can be deduced from the discussion on industrial and organizational physiology, industrial and organizational psychology has clear concepts approach methods, and procedures that can be followed in its study of the behavior of workers and the organization itself. Some of these concepts include the mentioned level approach, O*NET among others. Besides, Organization and Industrial physiology focus on an individual rather than on the organization. In general, nearly all the approaches employed by industrial and Organizational behavior that have been discussed earlier are not employed on organizational behavior approaches. (Peterson, G.N, et al.2006, p.460)

These are more accurate techniques of determining behaviors in an organization as has been shown say in Project A. Another significant difference is that, unlike organizational behavior, industrial and organizational physiology uses a system approach and considers an open system. The individual is considered as a system of other parameters that had been mentioned earlier like family for example. This individual then forms part of the organizational system. The conclusion that I can make here is therefore that as much as Organizational behavior studies and industrial/organizational behavior is almost concerned with the same thing with the same goals, the approaches used are different. However, since organization behavioral studies employ methods of analysis from other fields, it is bound to interact heavily with industrial and organizational physiology. On some scale, organizational behavior may employ industrial/organizational methods although not as a whole. This however can change in the future especially if these methods are found to be most accurate. (Ward, Eastman, & Ninness, 2009, p.24)

On some level, organizational and industrial psychology may be considered a genuine career. Many organizations intend to maximize their resources to have the most positive results in achieving their goals. This is where they need the help of organizational/industrial psychologists. Besides, there are many organizational/industrial psychologists working with a good income. This is a specialized area of study with good returns. A more important thing is that organizational/industrial psychologists have been adapting to dynamic changes in the market. This has been well illustrated in the earlier discussion, which has shown important concepts that have been introduced into this field to meet changing needs of customers and address changing parameters like the need to redefine a worker’s attributes in the new content model that had been discussed earlier. On the other hand, the fact that organizational/industrial physiological studies are not well isolated from other fields like those on human resource management and organizational behavior clearly may indicate that this is not a bona fide career. Moreover, this career does not start precisely after doing a specific undergraduate course. One can start this career on a master’s level from a wide array of undergraduate courses. (Huselid, Jackson, & Randall, 1997, p.180)

Organizational/industrial physiology is a dynamic field that has been adapting to changing customer needs and changing environments at the workplace to maintain models that can be used to optimize companies. This has also led to a situation where this field has greatly intertwined with other fields that it is becoming difficult to cut a distinguishing line that can uniquely differentiate it from other professions. There has however been an increasing market for such people as professionals in organizational/industrial psychology something that has continued to create a market for these professionals although they are facing competition from other professionals with almost similar skills. This calls for these professions to even distinguish themselves even further from other professions that may compete with them even more in the future.


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