Larry Nader
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Gratitude and Our Military

Kristin Saboe, SIOP’s Military and Veterans initiative Task Force Chair

November is a month that gives us the opportunity to not only reflect on what we are grateful for but to also celebrate freedom and what it takes to maintain it with Veterans Day. This past month SIOP has allowed the Military and Veterans Initiative Task Force to present to you a two-part series on increasing our general military and veteran’s literacy and highlight some of the significant strides the work of I-O psychology has enabled for the military by highlighting the work of Dr. Ed Salas. This week we want to bring the month of November to a close with a message of gratitude for the symbiotic relationship that exists between the field of industrial-organizational psychology and the performance of our military, military family members, and veterans.


Though our hashtag for SIOP’s support of our military and veterans may be #SIOPServingMIlitary, it is in fact the military that has served SIOP in many significant ways. For instance, without the initial funding and use of the Army Alpha and Beta tests for selection during World War I and World War II by the U.S. Army, industrial-organizational psychology might today be a very different and less mature field. Not only did the funding of these projects help to bring the study of the psychology of workers and employment conditions to the forefront of applied science, but it also set in place a long history of the U.S. government, and for that matter governments world wide, prioritizing science-backed techniques. It also made clear the value of industrial organizational psychology and how it is uniquely positioned to create solutions for the high stress, high risk, and demanding conditions our men, women, and their families face as part of our military community.  


Today, more than ever, I-O psychology’s presence is known as the research, policy, and programs SIOP members have put into place continue to drive international impact for the morale, welfare, and effectiveness of our military personnel and their families. Research and applied solutions focused on teams, performance optimization, assessment, resilience, morale and well-being, workplace violence, and occupational health are just some of the areas prioritized and funded by the military in the past 2 decades, in particular. The research and application of these findings has not only resulted in the betterment of our military service members but have also had significant impact as the catalyst for much of our present understanding of these topics in civilian settings.


In 2018, AAAS reports that the Department of Defense (DoD) supported over 40% of all federally funded science and research. This includes basic through applied research funding types for more than $63 million in 2018. This figure does not however account for the numerous contracts that exist between civilian contracted companies and the DoD seeking advanced expertise from companies like HUMRRO or PDRI—both employers of I-Os. Whether it be I-Os working in uniform in the military, as civilian government employees, as contracted experts, and/or as grant-funded academic researchers, the impact of I-O on the military and veterans communities is notable. Likewise, challenging applied research needs and DoD-funding have provided ample opportunity for many I-Os to accelerate their careers and the praxis of I-O.


The majority of federally funded research and practice performed by I-Os is focused on our currently serving military population. The challenges our military families—service member, spouse, and children—and veterans postservice face are unique and are somewhat known descriptively. These topic areas are not as well-funded, and thus we continue to lack deeper level understanding of these experiences and mechanisms to enable military family members and veterans to thrive, not despite but because of their experiences with the military.


The employment challenges our service women and men, their spouses, and their children face are significant, and I-O psychology has the tools to alleviate many of the challenges faced. In fact, we have the tools to demonstrate that veterans and their families are thriving, are an employment advantage, and possess soft skills most employers prioritize as key to the future of their workforces. Though some of this literature is already available, we need more insights to understand how this population does or does not look different from other subculture populations (e.g. expatriates at work), the best mechanisms by which to create supportive work environments enabling meaningful work, and how to help individuals redefine their purpose when the core identity of that purpose may have shifted.


Thank you SIOP for your support of our military and veterans. This is a month to give thanks, and we fortunately have much to be thankful for.

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