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How Has Your I-O Had an Impact?


by Stephany Shings Below

Outgoing President Adrienne Colella to Discusses Impact at Annual Conference

By Stephany Schings Below, Communications Manager

Part of the difficulty of describing what I-O psychologist’s do is that they can be involved in so many aspects of the workplace and society. SIOP’s outgoing President Adrienne Colella says the broad reach and impact of I-Os is exactly what we need to highlight.

She will do so during her presidential address 8:30 a.m. Thursday, April 26, at the 2012 SIOP annual conference where she will discuss her theme for her year as SIOP President, “IMPACT”—the impact I-O psychology has made on individuals, organizations and society. During her address, Colella will talk about the impact I-O psychologists have had in many different field and levels and provide several examples of impact. This is an important idea to explore, she said, because she feels the impact of I-O psychologists is often overlooked.

“There is a lack of understanding or misunderstanding by the general public and by management, though probably to a lesser degree, about what I-O psychologists do, what they contribute, and the impact hey have on individuals, originations and society,” Colella explained. “Right now we are going through a branding effort at SIOP, and I thought this would be the right time to celebrate and publicize the impact we have had and what we have accomplished.”

Earlier this year, Colella sent out a request to members over SIOP’s social media and in the membership survey asking for examples of instances of impact and how members define impact beyond utility analysis. Colella said she received hundreds of responses to her question, and from those answers as well as conversations about this topic, she came to realize that impact means different things to different people.

“When I started this project, I had an idea of how I was going to define impact,” she said. “But then in chatting with people it came across that they were defining impact in many different ways. So I sent out an email requesting others’ opinions and put out a request on the SIOP blog and on Facebook and asked people to define impact.”

Colella said she has formed her beliefs about how I-O psychology can have an impact based on her own experiences.

“Personally, the most impactful—perhaps I mean most fulfilling—thing I’ve done as an I-O psychologist was to be a part of KARE, a SIOP group which helped organizations in New Orleans get back on their feet after the levy failures and Hurricane Katrina,” Colella explained in her message to members on the SIOP Exchange. “I worked with a local nonprofit to help retain and retrain their staff of social workers. Also, every time I hand a diploma to one of my doctoral students, I feel that I have had an impact by training and mentoring another Ph.D.”

So, how is impact defined? Colella will go into detail during her presidential address, but she says the bottom line, based on all of the responses, is that she found six ways impact was defined by members:

  • Bottom-line processes, dollars
  • Increases in productivity and performance
  • Impact on the work environment and culture
  • Workgroup and team functioning
  • Individual wellbeing
  • Impact on society

Colella said she will expand on this during her address, proving many of the examples she received from her outreach to members. The next part of the talk will discuss what I-O psychologists do, again with more personal stories and examples. She said she has compiled a list of what I-O psychologists do.

“We create useful theory and develop our science, we increase productivity and organizational effectiveness, we develop and train people, we make people safe and healthy, we make the workplace humane, we enhance individual welfare, we make workplaces and society more just, we work to increase the visibility of our profession, and we teach and inspire each other,” she said.

One example of what I-O psychologists do and how they make an impact involved a group of I-O psychologists who worked for the Department of Defense and were instrumental in the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“They used our research and our science to write a report that had an influence on that decision,” Colella said. “I find it amazing that we produce such a broad range of outcomes and the level of outcomes. People were writing in telling me how they think impact can refer to how they had an influence on student to people writing in and telling me how their work was decreasing poverty in Africa.”

Examples like this highlight how instrumental I-O psychologists can be not only in helping to make policy decisions, but in all aspects of society, Colella explained.

“I think it’s important for SIOP to get the message out about our impact,” she said. “This is part of developing a professional identity, a widely recognized professional identity. We have a lot of expertise that could be put to good use.”