Jenny Baker / Friday, March 24, 2023 / Categories: TIP, 2023, 604 I-O and HR: Does HR Know About Us? Mark Smith, Ragan Decker, Katie Merlini, & Alexander Alonso Society for Human Resource Management In 2021, more than 1,400,000 professionals in the United States were working in human resources (HR) (U.S. BLS, 2022a, U.S. BLS, 2022b). This is no surprise given that HR is at the heart of organizations with responsibilities ranging across the entire employee life cycle (SHRM, 2023). As evident in the vision of SIOP (SIOP, 2023), the field of I-O focuses on creating improvements within organizations that benefit both the employee and employer. For most companies, HR is the department that controls the people operations that are relevant for these recommendations. As a result, it is vital to understand the relationship between HR and I-O, so that the two groups can work together to improve organizations and the employee experience (Alonso et al., 2017). The Interconnected Relationship Between I-O and HR HR professionals’ awareness of I-O and the value of this science is important for the growth and success of the I-O field. First, as I-O psychology expands, additional jobs will be needed and many of these jobs reside within HR departments. For example, as the value of HR data has expanded, so have people analytics functions (Ledet et al., 2020), which I-O psychologists often fill. Therefore, an awareness of I-O psychology will be useful for HR departments recruiting for such positions (i.e., understanding why I-O science fits) and for I-O psychologists searching for jobs (i.e., seeing I-O relevant search terms in job requisitions). Second, HR professionals are often responsible for coordinating research conducted in organizations. Beyond coordination, the HR team often plays the role of gatekeeper in deciding if their employees will participate in the research study. Also, most of the I-O research results and evidence-based recommendations flow through the HR team before implementation. As a result, I-Os working in research and academia need to be able to build relationships with HR professionals—it is not just a practitioner issue. Third, I-O practitioners typically need HR professionals’ buy-in for interventions. From the inception of HR management (HRM), HR professionals played a critical role in executing these types of improvements, and this role has only expanded over time as HRM has become more strategic(Deadrick & Stone, 2014; Wright & Ulrich, 2017). Today, organizations’ HR professionals are often the ones responsible for people-related decisions (Bauer et al., 2020), making their buy-in vital for the implementation of I-O interventions. Ultimately, HR professionals’ awareness of I-O and the usefulness of this science for their practices may enhance their likelihood of buy-in. Therefore, it is important for virtually all I-O psychologists to know how to communicate and partner effectively with HR professionals. But before crafting a plan for a better partnership, it is important to gauge HR professionals’ current familiarity with I-O psychology. Relevant Previous Research To our knowledge, only two research studies have directly investigated HR professionals’ familiarity with I-O psychology. The first study conducted in 2012 found that only 15% of HR professionals were familiar with I-O psychology (Rose et al., 2013). The second study, conducted in 2013, found that 35% of HR professionals were familiar with I-O psychology (Rose et al., 2014). The sample size and sampling technique differed across the two studies, which may explain the differences in familiarity. A somewhat different study by Nolan, Islam, and Quartarone (2014) considered the brand image of organizational consultants from different specialty areas. They found that people were less aware of I-O psychology than business administration or human resource management. Much has changed in the 10 years since the first study was conducted. In this time, the job growth for I-O psychology was estimated to be 53%, making it the projected fastest growing occupation in the United States through 2022 (U.S. BLS, 2014, as cited in Cottrell et al., 2016). Given this, there is a need to revisit the issue of familiarity within the HR community and do so using industry-leading sampling methods to ensure the familiarity levels are an accurate representation of the HR community. The Present Study Our team at the SHRM Research Institute embarked on a study of HR professionals to determine their familiarity with I-O psychology. The study aimed to answer four key research questions: What is the overall familiarity level of I-O psychology within the HR community? Are there key subgroups with higher or lower awareness? What individual factors (e.g., education level) relate to greater awareness? Where did HR professionals hear about I-O psychology? What is the familiarity level of SIOP within the HR community? SHRM Voice of Work Research Panel To answer the research questions, we fielded a survey using the SHRM Voice of Work Research Panel. This is a nationally representative panel of HR professionals in the United States derived from HR professionals with SHRM memberships. SHRM Research Institute created this panel in early 2022 in partnership with the National Opinion Research Council (NORC) at the University of Chicago. The processes and procedures for the SHRM Voice of Work Research Panel are similar to the industry-leading AmeriSpeak panel. These include: thorough screening of panelists to clearly understand the panelists and verify they are actual HR professionals and eligible to respond to the surveys, and regular communication with panelists to ensure that the panelists are engaged and ready to accurately complete surveys. These factors have led to consistently high response rates (typically 25% to 30%); as a result, the respondent samples tend to be similar to population characteristics. What sets the SHRM Voice of Work Research Panel apart from other broader survey panels is the capability of collecting data from a representative sample of HR professionals in the U.S. Not only can the panel be drawn for representativeness (based on demographic factors and industries), but post-hoc weights can be implemented to ensure that the sample matches the population of HR professionals in the U.S. This process ensures high external validity that rivals other high-profile survey panels for other populations. Survey Procedure and Participants A total of 5,999 HR professionals from the SHRM Voice of Work Research Panel (“panelists”) were invited to complete a 20-minute survey. Of those invited, 1,516 panelists completed the survey between August 18, 2022, and August 25, 2022. As shown in Table 1, the final sample was predominately female (76%) and White, non-Hispanic (65%). Participants ranged in from age 21 to 74. The sample was highly educated, with 46% holding a bachelor’s degree and 19% holding a master’s degree or higher. Small organizations (48%) were better represented than large (22%) or extra-large organizations (30%). The data were weighted to represent the population of HR professionals in the United States. When compared to the U.S. population of HR professionals resulted in a margin of error of 3.9% (post weighting). Table 1 Sample Demographics (n = 1,516) N % Gender Female 1152 76.3% Male 358 23.7% Age Age 18 – 34 495 32.8% Age 35 – 49 571 37.8% Age 50 or older 444 29.4% Race/ethnicity White, non-Hispanic 978 64.8% Black, non-Hispanic 206 13.6% Hispanic 204 13.5% Asian or Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic 46 3.0% All other 76 5.1% Education Less than a bachelor’s degree 533 35.3% Bachelor’s degree 688 45.5% Master’s degree or higher 289 19.1% Organization size Small 724 47.9% Large 334 22.1% Extra large 452 30.0% Familiarity Question To measure familiarity (the key study variable), we used a question which included alternative names of the field to ensure that respondents fully understood the question: How familiar are you with industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology (sometimes called organizational psychology or work psychology)? Never heard of it Heard of it, but not familiar with it Somewhat familiar Very familiar For the overall gauge of assessing familiarity, we added together the top two responses. We believe that this item and scoring approach (rather than just presenting “familiar” or “not familiar”) can lead to more accurate responses because it allows respondents to indicate when they are not familiar with something without stating that they are completely ignorant of it. Survey Findings Familiarity With I-O Psychology Overall, we found that only 38% of HR professionals were familiar with I-O psychology. Specifically, 23% had “never heard of it” (i.e., I-O psychology), 39% had “heard of it but not familiar with it,” 30% were “somewhat familiar,” and only 8% of HR professionals were “very familiar” with I-O psychology. Among the 8% of HR professionals who were “very familiar” with I-O psychology, 22% (n = 29) considered themselves I-O psychologists (although only about half of them had a master’s degree or higher). Figure 1. The results suggest that HR professionals have limited awareness of and familiarity with I-O psychology. What is more, 22% (n = 29) of HR professionals who are “very familiar” with I-O psychology considered themselves I-O psychologists. This means that awareness among HR professionals without I-O training is even lower than our overall results suggest. Although overall familiarity levels do provide valuable insights, important questions remain. For example, are there key subgroups with higher or lower awareness? Table 2 shows that there are in fact subgroups with higher and lower awareness. In particular, familiarity is higher for men than women, and Black professionals have more awareness than White and Hispanic HR professionals, respectively. In addition, HR professionals from extra-large organizations have higher awareness than those in smaller organizations. However, education level showed the biggest differences—more highly educated professionals have greater awareness of I-O psychology. Table 2 Familiarity by Group Never heard of it Heard of it, but not familiar Somewhat familiar Very familiar Total familiarity Gender Female 25.3% 39.4% 28.4% 6.9% 35.3% Male 13.7% 38.0% 34.6% 13.7% 48.3% Age Age 18–34 19.8% 39.0% 30.3% 10.9% 41.2% Age 35–49 23.4% 39.0% 28.7% 8.9% 37.6% Age 50 or older 24.5% 39.2% 30.9% 5.4% 36.3% Education Less than a bachelor’s degree 34.0% 43.7% 19.1% 3.2% 22.3% Bachelor’s degree 21.3% 38.0% 32.0% 8.7% 40.7% Master’s degree or higher 4.9% 33.3% 44.4% 17.4% 61.8% Race/Ethnicity White, non-Hispanic 21.3% 41.1% 29.1% 8.5% 37.6% Black, non-Hispanic 15.0% 38.3% 37.9% 8.7% 46.6% Hispanic 35.5% 35.5% 19.7% 9.4% 29.1% All other 23.8% 30.3% 38.5% 7.4% 45.9% Organization size Small organization (2-499 employees) 26.8% 42.5% 24.2% 6.5% 30.7% Large organization (500-4,999 employees) 22.5% 38.4% 28.2% 10.8% 39.0% Extra-large organization (5,000+ employees) 15.9% 34.0% 40.0% 10.2% 50.2% Despite these subgroup differences, it is not clear to what extent these zero-order effects are simply due to the influence of other variables. To explore the data further, we conducted a five-stage hierarchical multiple regression to more fully investigate subgroup differences and determine if apparent differences are due to the effects of other variables. The regression included gender, age, education, race/ethnicity, and organization size. These variables were dummy coded and added to the model in five stages (see reference categories in Table 3). Table 3 Five-Stage Hierarchical Multiple Regression Variable Reference group Age 18–34 years old Gender Female Education Bachelor's degree Race/Ethnicity White, non-Hispanic Organization size Small (less than 500 employees) Gender was entered at Stage 1, age categories were entered at Stage 2, education levels were entered at Stage 3, race/ethnicity categories were entered at Stage 4, and organization size categories were entered at Stage 5. The results of the regression indicated that at Stage 1, gender contributed significantly to the regression model, F (1, 1508) = 33.68, p < .001, and accounted for 2.2% of the variance in I-O familiarity. Introducing the age categories explained an additional .5% of variation in I-O familiarity, which was a significant addition, F change (2, 1505), = 4.15, p < .05. Adding education level to the regression model explained an additional 8% of the variation in I-O familiarity, and this change in R2 was also significant, F change (2, 1503) = 67.61, p < .001. Next, race/ethnicity was added to the model and explained an additional .8% of the variation in I-O familiarity, and this change in R2 was significant, F change (3, 1500) = 4.74, p < .01. Last, organization size was added to the model and explained an additional .4% of variance in I-O familiarity, and this change R2 was also significant, F change (2, 1498) = 3.17, p < .05. When all variables were included in Stage 5 of the regression model, neither gender nor age were significant predictors of I-O familiarity. Education level, race/ethnicity, and organization size were significant predictors of I-O familiarity. Together, the variables accounted for 12.0% of the variance in familiarity with I-O psychology, F (10, 1499) = 20.35, p < .001. Table 4 Hierarchical Multiple Regression Predictor B SE B β t R2 Δ R2 Step 1 .022*** .022*** Female (0 = male) -.312 .054 -.148 -5.80*** Step 2 .027*** .005* Female (0 = male) -.318 .054 -.151 -5.93*** Age 35-49 (0 = 18 to 34 years old) .072 .056 .039 1.29 Age 50 or older (0 = 18 to 34 years old) -.166 .058 .087 -2.86** Step 3 .107*** .080*** Female (0 = male) -.046 .057 -.022 -.816 Age 35-49 (0 = 18 to 34 years old) .002 .054 .001 .033 Age 50 or older (0 = 18 to 34 years old) .002 .058 .001 .032 Less than a bachelor’s degree (0 = bachelor’s) -.360 .051 -.191 -6.99*** Master’s degree or higher (0 = bachelor’s) .445 .062 .195 7.13*** Step 4 .116*** .008** Female (0 = male) -.045 .057 -.021 -.789 Age 35-49 (0 = 18 to 34 years old) .017 .054 .009 .318 Age 50 or older (0 = 18 to 34 years old) -.008 .058 -.004 -.144 Less than a bachelor’s degree (0 = bachelor’s) -.367 .051 -.195 -7.14*** Master’s degree or higher (0 = bachelor’s) .437 .064 .191 6.83*** Black, non-Hispanic (0 = White, non-Hispanic) -.102 .067 -.005 -.184 Hispanic (0 = White, non-Hispanic) -.244 .065 -.093 -3.73*** All other (0 = White, non-Hispanic) -.013 .081 -.004 -.164 Step 5 .120*** .004* Female (0 = male) -.039 .057 -.019 -.695 Age 35-49 (0 = 18 to 34 years old) .015 .054 .008 .281 Age 50 or older (0 = 18 to 34 years old) -.017 .058 -.009 -.303 Less than a bachelor’s degree (0 = bachelor’s) -.335 .053 -.179 -6.31*** Master’s degree or higher (0 = bachelor’s) .424 .064 .186 6.62*** Black, non-Hispanic (0 = White, non-Hispanic) -.032 .067 -.012 -.481 Hispanic (0 = White, non-Hispanic) -.244 .065 -.093 -3.74** Other (0 = White, non-Hispanic) -.022 .081 -.007 -.273 Large organization (0 = small organization) .099 .057 .046 1.74 Extra-large organization (0 = small organization) .127 .054 .065 2.34** Notes. *p < .05, ** p< .01 *** p< .001 Key Differences in Familiarity Education level. As the previous results show, education level is a key differentiator for familiarity. There was a significant difference in I-O familiarity between HR professionals with less than a bachelor’s degree and HR professionals with a bachelor’s degree, such that those with less than a bachelor’s degree were less familiar (β = -.18, p < .001). Further, there was a significant difference in I-O familiarity between HR professionals with a bachelor’s degree and HR professionals with a master’s degree or higher, such that those with a master’s degree or higher were more familiar (β = .19, p < .001). A closer look at the data shows that only 22% (n = 119) of HR professionals with less than a bachelor’s degree were somewhat or very familiar with I-O psychology compared to 41% (n = 281) of HR professionals with a bachelor’s degree, and compared to 62% (n = 179) of those with a master’s degree or higher. These results clearly show that I-O familiarity increases with education level, such that HR professionals who are more educated are also more familiar. Race/ethnicity. There was also a significant difference in I-O familiarity between White HR professionals and Hispanic HR professionals, such that Hispanic professionals were less familiar than White professionals (β = -.09, p < .001). Specifically, 38% (n = 368) of White HR professionals were somewhat or very familiar with I-O psychology as compared to 29% (n = 59) of Hispanic HR professionals. Also, it is relevant to note that Black HR professionals have higher awareness than other groups (47%; n = 96), although this difference disappears when accounting for other factors. Previous research on I-O familiarity did not examine individual characteristics like race and ethnicity, so this finding suggests that familiarity does differ by race and ethnicity and should be considered further. In particular, if we can determine why Hispanic HR professionals lack familiarity with I-O psychology, we will be able to effectively address it and so they can find out about the useful conclusions and interventions from I-O psychology. Organization size. Last, organization size was also a key differentiator for familiarity. We found a significant difference in I-O familiarity between HR professionals from extra-large organizations (5,000+ employees) and those from small organizations (less than 500 employees). HR professionals from extra-large organizations were more familiar with I-O psychology than those from small organizations (β = .07, p < .02). In particular, 50% (n = 227) of HR professionals from extra-large organizations were familiar with I-O psychology, whereas only 31% (n = 222) of HR professionals who work for small organizations were familiar with I-O psychology. This is a cause for concern considering 99.9% of U.S. businesses employ fewer than 500 employees and combined these small businesses employ over 61 million people (U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, 2021). Although concerning, it isn’t much of a surprise as I-O psychologists have been accused of neglecting small businesses for years (Aguinis, 2023; Zickar, 2004). Coupled with our findings, this may suggest that when I-O psychologists overlook small businesses in research and practice, it can have downstream impacts on familiarity level. This lack of familiarity can further perpetuate this issue of organization size, as HR professionals working for small organizations may be reluctant to partner with I-O psychologists. Channels of Familiarity Given the limited familiarity with I-O psychology, it is important to understand how HR professionals are learning about I-O psychology (Rogelberg et al., 2022). To investigate this issue, HR professionals who indicated they were familiar with I-O psychology were asked, “Where did you hear about I-O psychology?” and instructed to select all channels that contributed to their familiarity with I-O. Results showed that many HR professionals heard about I-O psychology in educational environments, specifically 54% from educational programs they attended and 39% at professional events/conferences. The results also revealed that just over 1 in 4 (26%) HR professionals heard about I-O from research or popular press articles, 18% from social media (e.g., LinkedIn), 10% from blogs and, 9% from podcasts. Few HR professionals heard about I-O psychology from people in their network, such as consultants (8%), immediate coworkers (7%), or friends and family (7%). In sum, HR professionals are mostly hearing about I-O in educational environments. These results provide additional context and support for the role of education in familiarity. As more organizations embrace skilled credentials, an increasing number of HR professionals (and other workers) will be in roles that may have previously required a 4-year degree. Unfortunately, this group may have less exposure to I-O because they never attended traditional educational programs. We may need to re-evaluate the channels used to amplify I-O psychology so those without a traditional degree can also benefit from I-O when tackling workplace issues. Figure 2. Familiarity With SIOP In addition to the questions about familiarity with the field of I-O psychology, we asked, “How familiar are you with the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) as an organization?” We found that only 9% of HR professionals were familiar with SIOP. Specifically, 20% had “heard of it but were not familiar with it,” 6% were “somewhat familiar,” and only 3% were “very familiar.” The vast majority had “never heard of it” (71%). SIOP can be a valuable resource for HR professionals, yet nearly 3 in 4 do not even know it exists. If SIOP is an organization that is looking to support the field internally, then awareness of the organization from non-I-O psychologists is not important. However, if SIOP seeks to be an advocate of the issues and the individuals within the field and to elevate them in the eyes of the public, then more marketing of the organization is warranted. Summary and Conclusions Overall, these results show that there is limited awareness of the field of I-O psychology by HR professionals in the United States. Specifically, we estimate that 38% of HR professionals are familiar with I-O psychology. Although well under half of HR professionals, it is marginally higher than previous estimates from close to a decade ago (i.e., 35% from Rose et al., 2014), which implies that some, but not much, progress has been made. Further analyses showed that education is the main driver of awareness, and HR professionals tended to cite college courses as the key source of their understanding of I-O psychology. Because of this, new interventions to improve the visibility of I-O psychology in the view of HR professionals should focus on areas other than colleges and higher education. Efforts should be made to raise the image I-O psychology in other ways that include HR professionals with limited to no college experience. As we echo the call from many others (e.g., Rogelberg et al., 2022), we must consider all of the ways that we can bring I-O psychology science and evidence-based practices to the public. This finding regarding the role of education in awareness is of particular interest given the previous research on this issue and subsequent call to action (Rose et al., 2014). After finding low awareness of and familiarity with I-O among business/HR professionals and academics, Rose and colleagues (2014) recommended that the I-O community “maintain and amplify education outreach programs” to improve student awareness of I-O (p. 161). They argued that with time, this would increase awareness among the other groups as students assume roles in business and academia. Now, nearly 10 years later, it is possible that approach may have had unintended consequences, as there are large discrepancies in familiarity between education levels. In a later article, we will move from the question of awareness of I-O in the HR community to what they think about I-O. Is there a positive view of I-O psychology? Are there areas within HR where I-O is viewed as particularly useful (or other areas where I-O is not relevant)? These are important additional questions to investigate as we seek to elevate I-O psychology. 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Human Relations, 57(2), 145–167. https://doi.org/10.1177/001872670404292 Print 1158 Rate this article: No rating Comments are only visible to subscribers.