Applications in the Workplace

Industrial/organizational psychology, as the term implies, focuses on two broad areas; Linda Jewell and Marc Siegall, in their Contemporary Industrial/ Organizational Psychology (3d ed., 1998), demonstrate this by their arrangement of topics. Industrial topics include testing; job analysis and evaluation; recruitment, selection, and placement of applicants; employee training and socialization; evaluation of employee job performance; job design; working conditions; health and safety; and motivation. Organizational topics include a company's social system and communication, groups within organizations, leadership, and organizational change and development. Topics of overlap of the two areas include absenteeism, turnover, job commitment, job satisfaction, employee development, and quality of work life.

Testing in I/O psychology most often is done to assess peoples' aptitudes or abilities as a basis for making selection, placement, or promotion decisions about them. It may also be used for other purposes—for example, to judge the quality of training programs. The tests used range from ones of general aptitude (IQ, or intelligence quotient, tests) through tests of specific aptitudes, interests, and personality, although use of IQand personality tests remains controversial. Aptitude for success in academically related activity (as might be related to one's IQ) is often of only modest importance in work settings, but the folk wisdom "the best person is the most intelligent person" can lead to giving IQ tests routinely to applicants. Personality is a troublesome concept within psychology. Tests of it can be useful to clinicians working with mental health issues but are rarely useful as bases for employment-related decisions. When outcomes from personality testing are specific enough to be useful—for example, when they reveal serious personality problems—the same information is usually obtainable from reviews of work history or from interviews.

Along with other procedures related to making decisions about people in work settings, testing is often targeted as being unfair to some groups—for example, African Americans or women. If the use of a particular test results in decision making that even suggests unfair discrimination, companies must have available solid evidence that this is not the case, if they choose to continue using the test.

Job analysis determines what tasks must be carried out in a job. It serves as the major basis for deciding what skills successful job applicants must have or what training to provide newly hired workers. The evaluation of job per formances of individual employees must be based on what they should be doing, revealed by job analysis. Dismissal, retention, promotion, and wage increases may all be related to job analysis information. It is also a basis for job evaluation, the determining of what is appropriate pay for the job, although evaluation often must also be based on the availability of applicants, average wages in a geographic area, and other factors.

Recruiting, selecting, and placing refer to sequential steps in filling positions. Although some companies can let prospective employees come to them, many prefer actively to seek applicants. Recruiting may involve little more than announcing that a position is open or as much as sending trained representatives to find promising people and encourage them to apply for work. At least two considerations make vigorous recruiting attractive. First, it is often possible for companies to reduce training costs greatly by finding applicants who are already proficient. Second, when minority-group employees are needed to achieve fair balance in an organization, recruiting can often focus on members of ethnic minorities or women.

Although training may be unnecessary if a company is able to hire already-skilled people, training is generally advantageous after hiring and periodically over a worker's tenure. Promotion may be based on success in training, or training may follow promotion based on other considerations. Although "training" suggests the development or enhancement ofjob skills, it often also includes socialization, the bringing of new employees into the "family" of the company and the teaching of values, goals, and expectations that extend beyond carrying out a specific work assignment. Job design, working conditions, health and safety, and motivation are usually given separate chapters in texts, but often in work settings they must be considered as a set. For example, if a job, as designed, forces or even encourages workers to put their health or safety at risk, their working conditions are unsatisfactory, and when they recognize the nature of the situation, their motivation is likely to be impaired.

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