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The Future of I-O Psychology: A Survey of SIOP Members

Elizabeth Lentz, Matthew D. Tuttle,
Tammy D. Allen, Stphane Brutus, and Charles Handler

To coincide with the 20th anniversary of the SIOP conference, the Sunday Session subcommittee of the 2005 SIOP conference program (Tammy Allen, Margaret Barton, Stephane Brutus, Charles Handler, and Chris Lovato) developed a Sunday morning theme entitled, The Future of I-O Psychology Research, Teaching, and Practice: What Lies Ahead for the Next 20 Years? As background for one of the invited sessions,1 we surveyed SIOP members to collect their thoughts on the future of I-O. This article highlights selected results of the survey that may be of interest to SIOP members.2

1This session entitled, Panel Discussion: The Future of I-O Psychology can be heard through audio streaming available at the SIOP Web site, www.siop.org
2A complete copy of the report can be obtained by contacting Elizabeth Lentz at emlentz@helios.acomp.usf.edu or Tammy Allen at tallen@shell.cas.usf.edu

The survey consisted of a total of 12 questions and was conducted through the Internet. A link to the survey was placed on the SIOP homepage and was publicized in TIP. A total of 264 individuals accessed the survey and completed the first background information question. Of those, 99 completed at least one survey question. Background information for the sample is provided in Table 1.

Table 1. 
Primary Area of Emphasis Within I-O Psychology
Primary Area                                                                                      N

Research and/or teaching
Research & practice
Graduate student
Upper management

N = 99

Responses were grouped by background. Specifically, responses from research and/or teaching participants were reviewed and analyzed separately from the practice/applied responses. Because of the small number of participants representing the other category, they are not included in this article. 

Each set of responses was reviewed by one of the researchers, and general themes or dimensions were identified. Because our focus was identifying common themes among participants, dimensions represented by only one response were combined into a miscellaneous dimension. Many participants provided responses that contained multiple themes or skipped a particular survey question. Thus, the number of individual responses varies by question. These themes, as well as the frequency of response and an example response for each dimension, are presented in the following tables.

Question 1. How do you see what you do as an I-O psychologist changing in the next decade?

Table 2a. 
Research and/or Teaching Emphasis
Factor                          N                                            Sample Comment

No change 8 Only the names will change
Business-oriented/applied focus 7 Greater need to understand business and how we contribute to it.
Increased value and responsibility 3 Strategic partner of the organization, especially on human capital.
Competition/marketability 3 Moves to business schools.
Less of the I side 3 More concerned with organizational than industrial issues.
Technology advances/ online processes 2 It will become more technology driven.
Integration/interdisciplinary 2 Cognitive and biological psychology being applied more and more to issues of interest to I-O psychologists.
Miscellaneous 7 Becoming more a chaser of grant money than a scholar.

= 31; Responses = 35

Table 2b. 
Practice/Applied Emphasis
Factor                     N                                            Sample Comment

Technology advances/
online processes
14 A majority of my responsibilities revolve around online assessments. Because this seems to be the most efficient way to collect data, I see that there is a significant need to increase skills related to technology.
applied focus
13 Greater need to show connection between I-O practices and organizational bottom-line results.
Increased value and responsibility 9 I-O psychologists will be counted on at the higher levels of management to develop strategy based on organizational metrics.
8 Becoming more competitive. Other fields are already participating in the same activities but with a different set of skills. Recognition of why an I-O psychologist can provide higher quality in our areas of expertise is essential.
7 We are going to have to be able to work in broader areas. Being too specialized is going to become more problematic over time.
No change 4 Dont see much change in the core focus areas.
Less of the I side 3 I will die and the O will live.
Statistical tools 2 I anticipate incorporating more advanced statistical tools.
Miscellaneous 8 Not sure, but diversity awareness/training and employee engagement are currently hot issues for organizations. I wish I could predict what the next fad will be!

= 53; Responses = 68

Question 2. What do you see as the single biggest issue facing our field in the coming decade?

Table 3a. 
Research and/or Teaching Emphasis

Factor                                        N                           Sample Comment

Competition with business schools and professionals 11 Competition from business schools and keeping the talent of our field housed in psychology.
Visibility of I-O/marketing 8 Recognition by others who are not I-O psychologists about what the field is.
Business-oriented/relevant 7 Need to improve the stature and perceived relevance to others as both a science and practice.
Fit with psychology 5 The key question is How closely do we want to identify with psychology? OBHR has a clear identity and OHP is in the process of developing one. What does this mean for I-O?
Technology 3 Impact of technology on the workplace and on I-O.
Training of future I-O psychologists 2 Training of future I-O psychologists.
Miscellaneous 6 As a result of large-scale scandals, we all need to reevaluate our stance on ethics with regards to various organizational stakeholders.


N = 33; Responses = 42

Table 3b. 
Practice/Applied Emphasis
Factor                   N                                            Sample Comment

Visibility of I-O/ 
23 People still have absolutely no idea what I-O psychology is or does. More press has to go out to the general public.
Business-oriented/ applied focus 12 Need to get away from academic research and move toward more applied research that actually impacts the business world.
Competition with business schools and professionals 8 I-O psychologists being replaced by MBAs and other business types.
Licensure 3 The invitation to this survey addressed fellow I-O psychologists. Yet, as an unlicensed psychologist, I find that uncomfortable. I dont wish to flow this issue more than necessary.
Technology 3 Leveraging technology to advance the science and practice of I-O psychology.
Legal issues 2 Court rulings overturning the use of employment assessments.
Globalization 2 Globalization of service industry and manufacturing.
Miscellaneous 9 Lisrel

= 54; Responses = 62 

Question 3. Do you see the research/practitioner gap widening or shrinking over the next 10 years? What are the reasons for your opinion?

Table 4a. 
Research and/or Teaching Emphasis 
Factor                           N                                            Sample Comment

ShrinkingIncreased researcher/practitioner collaboration 5 Believe it is shrinking. I am increasingly seeing collaborations between practitioners and researchers. It was good to see the introduction of a scientist/practitioner forum this year at SIOP.
ShrinkingMiscellaneous 2 ShrinkingAcademics are aware that the vast majority of their students will become practitioners.
Stay the same 2 It will stay the same. We have been worried about this for decades but there as been little change. Practitioners I meet have no idea about what information is available to them from the research literature. Most are just making it up as they go along. Very sorry state really.
WideningDecreased researcher/practitioner collaboration 6 Widening because everyone accepts it, and it seems like few people are willing to work to bring it back together.
WideningLack of business orientation/ Too much science 6 Widening. We need to be able to respond more to the needs of organizations and not get so fixated on studying to death topics no one cares about but ourselves.
WideningLack of science 5 Widening, because practitioners seem to forget that their best competitive advantage lies in the fact their work is theory driven (and therefore based on science). Without science I-O practitioners will have no advantage over other consultants, and yet they seem to ignore this simple fact.
WideningMiscellaneous 2 Wideningit has been widening for some time and likely will continue.
Dont know 3 Dont know. I find the whole research/practice gap issue boring and nonrelevant.
Miscellaneous 4 Could it get any wider? Ill go with regression to the mean on that one.

= 32; Responses = 35

Table 4b. 
Practice/Applied Emphasis
Factor                    N                                            Sample Comment

ShrinkingIncreased researcher/practitioner collaboration  4 Gap is not research versus practice: Its academics versus practice. Practitioners do research too. I would like to think the gap is shrinking as communication and understanding improve between the two groups. If the two groups do not work together, with mutual respect and understanding, SIOP is doomed to extinction.
ShrinkingLess practice/need for science 3 It will be shrinking as the opportunity to practice shrinks. We will find that practitioners will need to become more involved in research and academia because their ability to practice will become smaller. This change will force, in a sense, an integration of practice into research.
science/need for applied work
3 Shrinking, the research is primarily recycled and renamed stuff it needs implementation.
Stay the same 2 It will stay the same. Every time I read an esoteric academic article or heard of an AT&T or GE research group going away, I thought the gap would get bigger. Then Id come to SIOP and see a panel with presenters from a small business doing good research and hear some great applied research from an academic I-O. There is little infrastructure to support this, but individual researchers from both worlds will continue to keep the gap from getting wider.
WideningLack of business-
orientation/too much science
14 Unfortunately, I see the gap widening. Simple fact is that practitioners have to deal with a whole set of realities when implementing solutions if they want to stay in business. It ultimately requires the scientific integrity of the process to be compromised. High-profile academics who perform some applied work do not see this as much because they are given more leeway in their applied projects.
WideningDecreased researcher/practitioner 
6 Widening. There is not enough collaboration between the scientist and the practitioner to ensure meaningful dialogue that results in the transfer or the development of scientific advances into innovative, practical applications. It appears that both sides are stubborn to recognize the benefits that each has to offer. The end result is ignorance and stagnation of the field.
6 This is a self-created gap. We believe there is this gap, and we communicate the gap, and then like a self-fulfilling prophecy, the gap widens. If this belief influences how we train I-O psychologists, then the gap will continue to grow.
Dont know 2 Not sure. In the field, practitioners do rely on research for innovation. Not sure what researchers want or expect from practitioners except their input in research itself.
Miscellaneous 8 There always have been and will continue to be opportunities to practice with applied research. But, I do think that the research done in the academic world will always to some degree be different from what is done in practice, as the objectives of the two are different.

N = 46; Responses = 49

Question 4. What does our field need to do to ensure we work towards closing this gap?

Table 5a. 
Research and/or Teaching Emphasis 
Factor                    N                                            Sample Comment

Researcher/practitioner collaboration 7 Academicians and practitioners need to agree on what the most important topics and issues are. Meetings, committees, and task forces should identify and focus on these issues.
Value science in practice 5 Make business aware of our existence, particularly the value we addemphasize the benefits of getting advice from people trained to know what interventions have empirical support.
Researchers need to become more 
business oriented
3 An important practical question is important regardless of whether it has theoretical implicationsour field is defined by the real world, so our theories should better reflect it.
Do not close the gap 3 Who said we should close the gap? Lets acknowledge it and develop two organizations. I really have no desire to close any gap. Let them do what they want and Ill do what I want.
Research funding from practitioners 2 If practitioners REALLY value academic research, then they should pay for it. Grants, assistantships, fellowships, and so on. This stuff speaks volumes, esp. in psychology departments. If practitioners and their employers made funding easily and readily available for academics, I-O research would go a long way toward resolving a number of big problems with I-O.
Respect practice/dont alienate 2 Stop the madness! Grants, top-tier articlesthis all drives lab studies that alienate our practitioners.
Training 2 Train more I-O psychologists. Only in numbers will we be able to make a dent in practice.
Miscellaneous 6 Perhaps stop making it an issue to begin with.

N = 28; Responses = 30

Table 5b. 
Practice/Applied Emphasis 
Factor                   N                                            Sample Comment

Researcher/practitioner collaboration 15  Perhaps the establishment of cooperative efforts between researchers and practitioners, not only at the graduate student level but also at the level of assistant, associate, and full professor, could help close the gap. It would be interesting to have a practitioner teach for a year or two in an I-O program with the goal of informing both students and faculty of the problems faced in practice. It may enlighten the impressionable minds of graduate students or young professors who need or want ideas to research. Moreover, the professor could begin to apply theory and empirical research findings to problems in a work organization. This effort may help drive both sides of the field.
Researchers need to become more 
business oriented
9 Get the researchers to focus on what businesses want and demand and find ways to implement.
Offer benefits/
incentives to 
5 Offer more money and incentives.
Promote quality 
practitioner research
5 Show that well-designed research studies can help more in the long run rather than quick interventions.
Recognize practitioners challenge 4 SIOP needs to take the lead, along with the journal editors, and actually consider presenting/publishing applied research that may not necessarily have perfect methods sections. Our inability to consider this type of research as a starting point will never allow us to gain credibility in the business world.
Understand each other 2 We need to understand each others worlds.
Do not close the gap 2 Not sure its a gap we want to close.
No changes 2 There will be no changes.
Miscellaneous 8 Licensing of I-O psychologists will help this.

N = 42; Responses = 52

Question 5. Do you feel the academic journals associated with our field (i.e., JAP, Personnel Psychology) will play a significant role in shaping the future of our profession? Why or why not?

Table 6a. 
Research and/or Teaching Emphasis
Factor                   N                                            Sample Comment

YesRepresentative of our field 9 Yes. Publications will remain the primary (and most respected) avenue for communication. Thus, the way that the field sees itself (and the way outsiders see us) is through the journals. Because we develop an understanding of ourselves through the journals, they necessarily play a critical role in shaping the future of our profession.
YesBut need to appeal more to practitioners 4 Yes, of course, they play a major role, and will continue to do so. However, they are not sensitive to practitioners needs. My practitioner friends dont read them because they find them irrelevant to their work.
YesPublish or perish 3 Yes, It is of course a publish or perish game in academics and will remain so.
YesMiscellaneous 4 Yes. If not, then I am changing careers.
NoNot representative of our field 3 Not particularly. I see JAP particularly as a crony journalthe same people publish in it. So, its not representative of I-O research in general.
NoNo value to practitioners 3 No. The top journals have already reached the point where they are of little value to practitioners. We need new topics.
NoPublication process 2 Not really. The difficulty is that the research publication process takes too longit takes 2 years before research gets published. We need to be able to speed this process up.
NoField driven by business 2 No, they wont. Our future is driven by companys needs for us, not by academic research.
Miscellaneous 4 Only if we have a designated group in SIOP that jumps on opportunities to promote findings from these journals on popularized media (e.g., the Today show). Other professions do it. 

N = 30; Responses = 34

Table 6b. 
Practice/Applied as Primary Area of Emphasis 
Factor                   N                                            Sample Comment

YesBut need to be appeal more to 
8 Yes and no. Those journals are heavily read within the academic community of I-O psychologists, but practitioners and other business people read entirely different journals.
YesRepresentative of our field  5 Yes, these journals help to identify the current hot topics in I-O and are looked upon as great foundations for practitioners to investigate their own organizations.
awareness of I-O
3 Yes because it makes other people aware of the work of I-O psychologists.
YesMiscellaneous 1 Yes, but many younger psychologists are not reading the journals, they are using the Internet (not PsycINFO)
NoNot read/No value to practitioners 10 I dont know of a practitioner who regularly reads or even pays attention to JAP. Its not relevant.
NoWe need additional marketing tools 3 No, and mainly because our field is shaped only so much as people know and recognize what our field is and what it does. Informing each other about accomplishments (via journals) is not going to accomplish that.
NoMiscellaneous 3 No. The academic journals (JAP) will not shape the future of the profession. Unfortunately, the future looks bleak if the gap between academic and practitioner keeps growing.
Dont know 2 Not sure. As an applied I-O type, I use JAP for examples to see where research is going on a regular basis.
Miscellaneous 2 They have been co-opted in the publish or perish race.

= 37; Responses = 37

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