Why Industrial-Organizational Psychology Will Make You Happy

Kelly Bielonko   Contributing Writer

Dr. Bachiochi, professor in Eastern’s Psychology Department, started the Industrial-Organizational Psychology (IO) concentration in 1998 when he first began at Eastern. He has been an active member of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology with a recent conference presentation at the annual meeting in Washington D.C. on Employee Resource Groups, Intent to Quit and Occupational Health Outcomes. Over 20 years later, Dr. Bachiochi is here with us to shed some light on the IO field and, in particular, IO at Eastern.

What does IO Psychology mean to you?
For me IO psychology is about making people’s work lives better, given that people spend a third of their life at work, it’s important that part of their life is as positive as it can be.

How would ‘you’ define IO?
The application of psychology to the workplace with applications to how you recruit and hire employees to then how you keep employees satisfied and motivated while they are there. Keeping employees satisfied and motivated is related to making sure they are treated fairly, have a healthy and safe work environment and making sure they have leaders who are trained to do what they are supposed to do. Ideally making sure the right people are doing the right job.

What was going on in the world of IO at the time when you joined Eastern?
At the time IO was dominated by selection testing which is more of the I side of IO. This has shifted greatly over the past 20 years to focus more on legal and fair hiring practices in relation to testing and selection of employees. I was always more of an organizational psychologist (the O side) interested in equity, diversity and inclusion, and occupational health which are now the biggest sub-areas of IO.

Where were you working before Eastern?
I worked at IBM in Human Resources research on company wide employee satisfaction surveys. During my second year at IBM we surveyed 250k people in two months. Surveys on employee engagement and work life balance became a big interest back in mid ‘90s.

What was your first IO project at Eastern?
A lot of the early research focused on recruiting minority employees, factors that minority employees might uniquely find attractive such as how to tailor job ads. We looked at how affirmative action could be framed in recruiting materials to make a company more attractive and then looked at perceptions of the fairness of affirmative action practices.

Who in the Psychology department have you collaborated with on IO projects?
Organizations outside of Eastern?
The biggest collaboration was looking at how we were assessing our research methods courses in which several members of Psychology department were involved. The results were published in the journal: Teaching of Psychology. Other applied projects include work with Reliance Health in Norwich as well as with the Access Agency in Willimantic.

What have you learned by starting the concentration?
What’s been reinforced is that we can train undergraduates to get a good job with a bachelor’s degree. Some of our students who have graduated from the concentration have gone on to get jobs, master’s and doctoral degrees, or are leaders in HR around the state. Especially within the last couple of years, students have been doing their own research projects, presenting and submitting for publication.

What is your favorite IO class to teach at Eastern?
They are all fun, but hardest one to teach is probably the diversity seminar. It’s the most unpredictable one, you don’t know where discussion is going to go and it changes depending on who is in the room or class.

If you could design one ‘dream’ IO experiment, what would it be?
A cross-cultural and multi-national survey on workplace happiness. I still go back to roots of what got me interested in IO—what makes people happy at work. There have been some job satisfaction projects, but nothing like on the scale of the Globe Project for leadership. I do think happiness is really a core area of IO and it gets operationally defined in a lot of different ways. We may be studying different constructs but ultimately it comes back to the extent to which those factors influence whether someone is happy at work. Work life balance relates to if you are happy, leadership is do they make others happy, and so on and so forth. Happiness is a foundational piece.

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