October 9, 2020  |  Gabrielle Blackman, PhD

Companies and organizations are experiencing unprecedented shifts in how they perform business, with many implementing alternative work arrangements, such as remote work, to function. Using evidence-based practices, industrial and organizational (I/O) psychology professionals help organizations establish high-functioning, healthy, and safe employees and work environments, even in times of crisis.

I/O professionals support workplaces in areas such as employee selection, training and development, and leader development. They help organizations and managers address critical matters such as navigating remote work, increasing diversity and inclusion, and strategically adopting emerging technologies. Here are three ways I/O psychology is helping workplaces adapt.

1. Remote Work

Recent polls conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic showed a rising trend in remote work as organizations throughout the United States increasingly offered flexible working arrangements. I/O psychology professionals have been providing thought leadership on remote work for years, developing best practices and interventions to increase its effectiveness. During the pandemic, the rising trend became a workplace norm. Organizations responded to lockdowns, health concerns, and restrictions using remote work solutions.

A recent Gallup poll showed that 60% of employees reported working remotely at least sometimes during the pandemic. A study by the Society for Human Resources Management showed that 71% of employers are having difficulties adjusting to remote work. Despite its widespread use, organizations need guidance on how to implement remote work and other flexible work arrangements.

I/O psychology professionals have continued to update their guidance for organizations shifting to remote work arrangements due to the pandemic. For example, Anita Keller, Caroline Knight, and Sharon Parker suggest four strategies organizations and managers can apply to increase job performance when working remotely:

  • Ensure that employees have the proper equipment and support needed to work remotely. Make sure employees feel that the organization cares about and supports them.
  • Establish opportunities for employees to support each other (e.g., virtual downtime and social events for employees to connect).
  • Help employees develop time management strategies, such as guidance on how to plan their workdays.
  • Encourage employees to engage in leisurely activities and take breaks to reenergize.

Organizations can learn more about how to manage remote work, lead virtual meetings, effectively communicate remotely, and ensure employees manage work-life balance by visiting the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology’s (SIOP) resource portal.

2. Diversity and Inclusion

I/O psychology professionals help organizations establish diverse, inclusive work environments. For example, in a recent report, McKenzie Preston and Sumona De Graaf explain the benefits of sociocultural diversity for businesses, including:

  • Enhanced collaboration across teams and workplaces
  • Increased variety of perspectives that promote preparedness
  • Enhanced leadership capabilities

Professionals in I/O psychology encourage organizations to consider staffing strategies that widen their applicant pools, rely on evidence-based practices (e.g., job analyses), reduce opportunities for biases to interfere with selection decisions, and determine compensation based on market values.  

I/O psychology researchers and practitioners also help organizations to reduce racism, discrimination, and harassment. SIOP and the SIOP Foundation provide guidance on anti-racism and recently established an Anti-Racism Grant program. In August 2020, they announced the first grant winners, who will conduct five research initiatives related to anti-racism in workplaces.

3. Advanced Technology and the Workplace

I/O psychology professionals maintain a pulse on technological advancements, as emerging technologies are used in practice and in work with organizations that incorporate technologies into their business activities. For example, Personnel Decisions Research Institutes (PDRI) provides services based on I/O psychology research. They integrate advanced technologies to help organizations reduce the time it takes to hire new employees, reduce turnover, and increase revenue. They develop measures and selection tools that use technology to improve accuracy.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a particularly hot topic in I/O psychology. A recent McKinsey survey showed that 47% of the companies surveyed used AI for business purposes, with an additional 30% experimenting with AI. Organizations are integrating AI into functions that I/O professionals support, such as recruitment, employee selection, and training. For example, organizations are increasingly using virtual reality systems to train and develop employee competencies, such as communication abilities.

According to Neil Morelli, I/O professionals can assist organizations with making smart AI choices. They guide organizations on how to choose AI services related to talent management and to apply AI effectively and ethically.

Explore I/O Psychology

Effectively navigating remote work during a crisis, increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and adopting advanced technologies require careful planning, effective strategies, and evidence-based solutions. I/O psychology professionals support organizations in addressing these and other critical matters in today’s workplaces.

If you’re interested in these trends, learn more about I/O psychology and explore Purdue Global’s online bachelor's degree in I/O psychology and online master's in psychology with a concentration in I/O.*

Below is more to explore in the world of I/O psychology:

About the Author

Gabrielle Blackman, PhD

Gabrielle Blackman is a faculty member in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Purdue Global. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of Purdue Global.

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*The professional practice of psychology is regulated by each state, and the degree requirements of this program do not guarantee or prepare you for licensure in any state upon graduation. It is important to note that, while earning a master’s degree in psychology may qualify you to work in the helping professions, a doctorate degree is required to become a psychologist and a medical degree is required to become a psychiatrist.