5 Responsibilities of an Organizational Psychologist

What Does an Organizational Psychologist Do?  

  • Improve Hiring Process
  • Address Human Resources Issues
  • Advise on Policy Decisions
  • Seek Ongoing Professional Development
  • Optimize Workplace and Processes
An industrial organizational psychologist (IO) uses psychological principles and research methods to solve issues in the workplace.  Other titles for an IO psychologist include:
  • organizational psychologist
  • organizational counselor
  • industrial psychologist

IO psychology can be a lucrative career. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the mean annual wage for an I/O professional as $111,150/year.

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When did the discipline of industrial–organizational psychology emerge?

IO psychology is a relatively new field, undergoing rapid growth right after World War I.

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What does it take to become an IO psychologist?

IO psychologists can take on many essential roles. They may work in a:

  • company
  • non-profit
  • government organization

At the bachelor’s degree level, an IO psychologist job description might include duties as a support role to an HR department. They might coordinate training activities or conduct environmental assessments.

If you are planning a career in IO psychology, a bachelor’s degree usually won’t be enough to advance.  Careers in this discipline typically need a master’s degree or doctorate. With years of experience and an advanced degree, senior positions will be available. IO psychologists who completed a doctoral program can get board certification from the American Board of Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology. This is a member board of the American Board of Professional Psychology.  In IO psychology, both a master’s and doctoral degree can be considered a terminal degree in the field.

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The Industrial Organizational Psychologists Job Description

What are psychologist responsibilities? An industrial psychologist job description likely includes a variety of different responsibilities within an organization.  IO psychologists use a variety of scientific methods to apply psychological principles to areas like:

  • human resources
  • administration
  • personnel psychology
  • learning and development

IO psychologists must have a high degree of emotional intelligence.  They also must have a strong understanding of different psychological research methods and strategies. They can then apply these to IO psychology.  The industrial organizational psychologist’s job description doesn’t fit the framework of a typical psychologist. They use their knowledge of thought and human behavior to create value for their employer and solve problems.

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The Five Responsibilities of an IO Psychologist

IO psychologists can expect to take on these five responsibilities once they’ve been hired by an organization.  The organizational psychology job description varies. IO psychologists can expect their responsibilities to align with the following mentioned below.

Improve Hiring Process

One of the main reasons big companies hire an IO psychologist is to improve the process they use for hiring and retaining employees. They understand the types of candidates their organization needs to fill job openings.  For example, they may help design the initial screening process. This can improve the suitability of candidates who make it to the interview. The organizational psychologist’s job description might include responsibilities like:
  • work on new employee integration strategies for training programs
  • help new hires learn key job responsibilities
  • engage in the company’s social culture and stay productive

Address Human Resources Issues

Most HR departments can benefit from the insight of a qualified IO psychology professional. In some settings, a personnel psychologist help employees facing a stressful work life.  They can advise employees struggling to deal with a coworker. A company psychologist with IO experience helps employees improve their professional value. They do this by identifying training and development needs.  They can also assess performance gaps that will help employees grow and add value to their organization.

Advise on Policy Decisions

Successful business leaders know that good advice is indispensable! This is especially true in areas outside of their professional scope. IO psychologists establish and maintain interpersonal relationships with department leaders within their organization.  Some IO psychologist responsibilities include:
  • brainstorming,
  • researching
  • delivering informed counsel to company leaders
They anticipate the potential impact that each decision may have on:
  • employee morale
  • productivity
  • overall satisfaction at work
IO psychologists can advise leadership on the potential impact a policy or set of policies could have on organizational effectiveness. They may also do follow-up research. They can observe workplace activities or talk to individual employees to gauge their reactions.

Seek Ongoing Professional Development

The IO psychology profession is constantly expanding and evolving. New studies, theories, and practices emerge every year. Experts have to keep their skills sharp to stay ahead. According to the American Psychology Association (APA), to better serve their employers  IO psychology professionals must stay in touch with:

  • new strategies
  • techniques
  • other developments

Optimize Workplace and Processes

In commercial environments, industrial psychologists are valuable because they can increase the employee’s productivity and job satisfaction. They recognize how employee mental health correlates to job performance and worker productivity.  Many of their typical duties do this indirectly. Some psychologists optimize workflow throughout the company. They may test different office floor plans. They may find ways to improve communications and team collaboration among different departments.

Industrial Organizational Psychology and the Employment Lifecycle

The Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology (SIOP) frames the role of the I/O psychologist in terms of the employment lifecycle.  There are five parts of the lifecycle:

Strategy and Measurement:

An experienced IO psychologist can be a key resource.  IO psychologists understand that talent strategy and planning are key. They need exceptional critical thinking skills to create a business strategy that aligns with their organizations’ vision. The IO psychologist may meet with leadership to create measurement elements for their mission or vision.  They use scientific, research-based strategies to develop methods. These methods will measure desired outcomes and evaluate performance.
Organizations undergoing (or planning to undergo) change, can use an IO psychologist to help create organizational development plans.  IO psychologists can help plan ahead by identifying future workplace talent needs.


At the heart of every organization is its staff.  An IO psychologist can help an organization develop a personnel recruitment system that aligns with its culture and hiring needs.  They can:

  • create a job analysis or task analysis to identify critical competencies
  • develop prescreening assessments to weed out applicants who don’t meet the minimum qualifications
  • conduct interviews or train others on how to use a standardized interview process that reduces bias
  • identify and address legal risks in their employee selection system.

Learning and Development:

Once you’ve hired the right people, you need to train them and develop their skills.  IO psychologists can help by:

  • identifying training needs
  • determining skill gaps to prioritize the content of training programs
  • design and deliver training content that aligns with the organization’s mission and goals.

An IO psychologist can develop programs that build leadership skills and help individuals and teams learn and grow.  They may create a performance management plan to create metrics to assess an individual’s work behavior.

Talent Management:

Succession planning is key when it comes to talent management.  An IO psychologist can help reduce costs. They can identify and prepare employees to fill key positions and leadership roles.  They may create a development process to transition employees to new leadership roles.

Performance Management: 

IO psychologists have the skills to develop and maintain a quality performance management program.  They can create performance appraisal tools. They can ensure all supervisors have the same understanding of the rating system.  They train performance raters to reduce bias so the ratings are fair and accurate.  IO psychologists can help:
  • maximize employee motivation and job performance
  • create performance goals that map an organizations’ strategic goals based on scientific evidence
  • develop compensation systems that support organizational values and culture
  • identify the incentives that are most valued by employees.
Although IO psychology is a newer discipline, practitioners use proven strategies to support workplace leaders.  They can improve job satisfaction and help preserve the bottom line. IO psychologists play an important role in the long-term success and efficiency established organizations.

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