Why I/O Psychology is Important in Higher Education Admissions

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Industrial-organizational psychology (I/O psychology) is characterized by the scientific study of human behavior in organizations and the workplace. The specialty focuses on deriving principles of individual, group, and organizational behavior and applying this knowledge to solving problems.

I/O psychologists are scientist-practitioners with expertise in the design, execution, and interpretation of research in psychology. Because the focus of I/O psychology is human behavior, the populations affected include individuals in business, industry, labor, public, academic, community, and health organizations. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 3.8% employment growth for I/O psychologists between 2021 and 2031. In that period, an estimated 100 jobs may open up. 

I/O Psychology in the Workplace

The sole determinant of a successful business is profitability. Profitability paves the way for growth but also depends on many factors, including good products, teams that communicate effectively, and employees that are motivated, well-trained, and committed to company goals. 

This is where I/O psychologists come in. In-house I/O psychologists are often utilized in large or global organizations that want to develop ongoing training programs or need long-lasting studies of workplace culture in various locations. 

On the other hand, I/O consultants are better for smaller organizations that look to study one particular area or department or need only limited information. 

I/O psychologists study a company’s culture and work processes to pinpoint an employee type who would fit into the business’s current framework. These practitioners may also help with hiring, including creating interview questions that help managers identify the best candidates for specific positions. 

I/O psychologists also use psychological sciences, principles, and research tactics to examine workplace decisions, effective communication, and how team members interact and collaborate. 

Then, they offer solutions for training and development needs, coach employees, develop criteria to evaluate the performance of individuals and organizations, and assess market strategies. 

Personnel Selection

Personnel selection has been, and continues to be, one of the central functions of industrial, work, and organizational (IWO) psychology. Selecting the right individuals for the right jobs constitutes a competitive advantage for organizations.

Individuals differ in skills, abilities, personality traits, and interests. Similarly, jobs differ in what it requires of the applicant. Personnel selection aims to identify personal characteristics related to job performance, measure applicants on these characteristics, and hire those with the required attributes. 

When done correctly, personnel selection can enhance organizational productivity and provide individual benefits to workers. 

Personnel selection is crucial to human resource management in creating and sustaining effective organizations. Therefore, organizations can best build a successful workforce by using systematic selection procedures that use methods from I/O psychology.

Most personnel selection research is concerned with how selection predictors can predict job performance and other job-relevant outcomes such as job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and intent to quit. 

Experts have widely researched and used these predictors in practice, including cognitive ability tests, personality measures, biodata measures, interviews, and assessment centers.

David Chan from the National University of Singapore researched personnel selection and concluded that people can decompose job performance criteria into distinct performance constructs, including typical versus maximum performance, task versus contextual performance, and routine versus adaptive performance.

Additionally, people can decompose job performance criteria into distinct performance constructs, including typical versus maximum performance, task versus contextual performance, and routine versus adaptive performance. 

Each performance construct could be construed in terms of multiple dimensions. For example, Chan notes that contextual performance can be understood as interpersonal facilitation and job dedication. A selection predictor's validity depends on the specific performance criterion variable in question. 

I/O Psychology in Higher Education

Admissions officers have historically looked to admit students based on academic performance. About 93% of Americans say high school grades should be a minor factor in admission decisions, according to an April 2022 Pew Research Center study

And while many colleges and universities recently decided to do away with standardized testing requirements, such as the SAT and ACT, experts still recommend submitting SAT and ACT scores if they fall within the 75th percentile for the college or university.

Although I/O psychology is the dominant influence on hiring in organizations, it has been less directly involved in college admissions, Michael Campion, Ph.D., Herman C. Krannert, Distinguished Professor of Management, said in a recent Student Select AI interview. 

“Selection into college has been historically most influenced by Educational Psychology and the almost exclusive use of past classes, grades, and academic achievement tests as the primary determinants of admissions,” Campion stated. 

“But in more recent years, I/O psychology has begun to play a bigger role in college admissions.  One influence is broadening the range of aptitudes considered beyond basic aptitudes (reading and math) and academic knowledge, such as social skills, leadership, motivation, and personality traits (e.g., conscientiousness or service orientation),” he continued. 

Conscientiousness is a fundamental personality trait- one of the Big Five- that reflects awareness, responsibility, hard work, goal-directedness, and adherence to norms and rules. 

Those who score highly conscientious are generally self-disciplined, detail-oriented, thoughtful, careful, and organized. In 2015, the National Education Association (NEA) stated that personality traits, including self-control, curiosity, grit, and conscientiousness, are “critical to academic success.”

We can also think of I/O psychology in terms of diversity in higher education. For years, organizational partners have studied diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). And I/O psychologists continue to work and create evidence-based practices to help institutions and students thrive.

A Nature Human Behavior analysis tapped three federal databases to find that current diversity rates in US higher education may never reach racial parity. Yet, colleges and universities could achieve equality by 2050 by diversifying their faculty at 3.5 times the current pace.

“Perhaps experts continue to research I/O psychology to understand better interactions between admissions procedures, the racial and gender diversity of the students selected, and how to create better procedures or make tradeoffs to optimize both the academic preparation and the societal diversity goals of the admitted student body,” Campion said. 

In conclusion, he asked: “How can universities create better procedures or make tradeoffs to optimize both the academic preparation and the societal diversity goals of the admitted student body?”

I/O psychologists generally study a company’s culture in the workplace. But in recent years, I/O psychology has begun to play a more significant role in college admissions by considering other aptitudes like social skills, leadership, motivation, and personality traits.


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