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Industrial organizational psychologists keep things humming
Adrian Thomas, far right, is the founding director of Roosevelt Universitys new industrial organizational psychology Ph.D program. (July 18, 2014)
Thanks to the generosity of alumnus Irwin Helford, Roosevelt University is starting a doctoral program at its Schaumburg Campus in industrial organizational psychology and has hired Adrian Thomas of Auburn University as the founding director. This is the University's first Ph.D. program. Plans are to begin admitting students in the fall of 2011.
Helford, who retired in 2002 as chairman emeritus of Viking Office Products and vice chairman of Office Depot, donated $1 million to the university.
"Roosevelt has had the largest master's-level IO program in the area for the past 10 years," says James P. Choca, director of Roosevelt's Psychology Department. "The Ph.D. sequence is a logical expansion of our program. It will be a student-centered, four-year program for highly talented and motivated students."
Thomas, who will be the Helford Professor of Industrial-Organizational Psychology, has an extensive background in this field doing everything from creating curriculum and teaching courses to mentoring students and acquiring funds.
"The program at Roosevelt will be based on the apprenticeship model used at some of the top IO programs in the country," he says. "This model emphasizes research, practicum, and internships in an effort to highlight real world experiences over classroom learning."
What is it?
According to Mark Kiel, associate professor at Argosy University, The Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology Inc. describes IOs as: " versatile behavioral scientists specializing in human behavior in the work place."
"Traditionally, the 'industrial' portion has focused on personnel, personal and engineering psychology issues; and the 'organizational' has focused on systemic issues, leadership dynamics, and organizational assessment and culture," Kiel says. "Both traditions use research and theory to inform workplace practices."
IOs are dedicated to applying psychology to people in the workplace, says Roya Ayman, professor and head of the division of Industrial and Organizational Psychology School at Illinois Institute of Technology, Institute of Psychology.
"No, they are not 'shrinks'," she adds. "Rather, their field of psychology tries to understand and measure human behavior to improve employees' satisfaction in their work, employers' ability to select and promote the best people, and to generally make the workplace better for the men and women who work there. They do this by creating tests and by designing products such as training courses, selection procedures and surveys."
What they do?
IOs apply scientific methods to topics ranging from hiring and employee selection, to socialization and training of workers, work life balance strategies, promotion and/or turnover of employees, to succession planning and associated issues, says Thomas.
"For instance, a company with a high turnover rate may be required to invest much time and effort in training and developing new personnel only to see them leave," adds Choca. "Such a company may benefit from studying the possible reasons for the turnover and the characteristics of the employees who stay with the company as opposed to those who leave. At the upper end of the employee hierarchy, the company's board may want to explore the different attributes of the prospective candidates in order to consider the advantages and disadvantages that each of the candidates may present for the company."
The field includes many roles. Some graduates work in organizations and some become consultants. Those within organizations work in a variety of capacities from human resources to training and development.
"I use the analogy of medical doctors," says Ayman. "We all need doctors to help us prevent illness and to help us find cures. Organizations need IO psychologists and their expertise to help prevent the organization from facing major challenges or to help the organization manage it.
"For example, we help in training the leadership of organizations to be more effective. We help employees and organization in work/family interface. And issues related to safety and productivity are topics of interest to us. We are also very concerned about the inclusiveness of the workplace both in the hiring practices, as well as the climate of inclusion and the factors that affect all this."