What Do I/O Psychology, Foot Pedal Trash Cans, Refrigerator Door Shelves, and the Movie Cheaper by the Dozen Have in Common?

I O Psy 210Funny you should ask. The title topic links back to one person, Lillian Gilbreth, who earned the first Ph.D. in I/O Psychology. She was also an engineer whose consulting led GE to create the foot pedal trash can and put shelves in refrigerators. She and her husband had 12 children, two of whom wrote the movie Cheaper by the Dozen. So what does an I/O Psychologists do and why do you need one?

Jack of All Trades

First, I/O, stands for Industrial Organizational, for those unfamiliar with the term. I/O Psychologists perform different functions than I/O Engineers  However, both disciplines have a focus on developing and improving people, knowledge, and processes. Further, both disciplines concentrate on saving resources including time and money. I/O Psychologists use a scientist-practitioner model while addressing functions around people, and it may seem, at first, that they are a “jack of all trades” when it comes to people. Here are a few areas I/O Psychologists address in helping organizations be more profitable, experience growth, and build strong cultures.

Job and Task Analysis

Truly, no job description or hiring event should start with these tasks that I/O Psychologist perform:

  • Administer surveys on jobs
  • Collect and compile data on what skills, knowledge, and attributes are needed for the job to function at its optimal level


A good place to start is at the beginning. Hiring the best talent and ensuring they are in the right jobs is an essential practice for any organization pursuing excellence and success. I/O Psychologists typically help with screening applicants by:

  • Helping organizations hire more qualified workers
  • Using scientifically based assessments
  • Developing necessary tests
  • Ensuring the organization is utilizing the best recruiting practices
  • Creating better interview questions
  • Improving the hiring process

Creating Better Cultures

Some I/O Psychologists conduct research around people and work. One of the important research topics is what makes people happy at work. Everyone benefits from these studies as it helps organizations to create environments that both attract and retain top talent. In this area, I/O Psychologists help ensure:

  • That employees are happy and healthy (“healthy” includes health and safety)
  • The organization has a strong infrastructure
  • Conflict is being effectively handled
  • That work is challenging and meaningful
  • That stress is low


One of the top attracters of good talent to an organization is the promise of development. Both millennials and Generation Z are eager to learn, develop, improve, and grow. I/O Psychologists contribute to your development program in several ways.

  • Coaching helps business owners, executives, and others in an organization reach their full potential.
  • Training helps employees keep up with and often stay ahead of trends while helping advance skills and expertise.
  • Instructional design focuses on organizational structure and implementing learning systems.
  • I/O Psychologists help plan, guide, and manage change initiatives.

Performance Appraisal Systems

While many managers and employees dread the performance review, it is an essential tool to help the employee, the manager, and the organization to grow and thrive. Most likely the dread of this activity comes from a lack of training and not understanding how to both participate in and conduct them properly. I/O Psychologists help with endeavor by:

  • Measuring employee performance
  • Creating and implementing fair employee assessment systems

Talent Management

Managing talent consists of everything above, but also helping to measure attitudes of employees. Scientifically driven data collection helps to understand what is going on in the “unofficial” communication system known as the grapevine. The data can then help confirm or correct information circulating through the grapevine. Therefore, in this area, I/O Psychologists

  • Develop surveys to collect data on employee attitudes, perceptions, and real irregularities
  • Conduct exit interviews to help determine why people leave and develop better retention systems


Typically, people don’t associate money and psychologists, however, this has to do with fair and equitable pay and reward systems. I/O Psychologists can

  • Survey the marketplace to ensure your pay scales are competitive
  • Design pay systems within your organization to help ensure a fair wage for a fair day’s work
  • Establish reward systems for high and low employee performance

It is difficult, at best, for a small HR Department to handle all these activities. Brining in outside help in the form of a consultant, coach, someone for a long- or short-term project can prove to give you the cutting edge you need to compete with the competition. If you need a new trash can or your refrigerator redesigned, I’m not your best choice. However, if you want to have a chat around any of the other topics, Let's get started

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Business Growth, Talent Management,, I/O Psychology