• Steve Nguyen, PhD

Book Review: Industrial/Organizational Psychology: An Applied Approach (9th ed.) Michael G. Aamodt

Updated: Aug 24

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NOTE: I am reviewing this I-O psychology textbook from a reader’s perspective (i.e., the student’s/learner’s point of view) and not from an instructor’s perspective.


In the preface and addressing a student audience, Dr. Aamodt wrote: “The text is written at a level designed to help you [the student] understand the material rather than at a level designed to show off the author’s vocabulary” (Aamodt, 2023, p. xv). Yes, the purpose of a textbook is to get students interested in a subject so it makes sense to use a writing style that is readable.


I examined SIX topics: (1) training and development; (2) adverse impact determination in employee selection; (3) use of cognitive ability tests in personnel selection; (4) job analysis; (5) motivation; and (6) diversity & inclusion.


The first topic is training and development (Ch. 8). I love what professor Aamodt wrote in the chapter on designing and evaluating training: “the first issue to consider is whether training is the proper solution to a problem. That is, if employees already possess the necessary skills and knowledge but aren’t performing well, the problem is probably one of motivation, communication, or work design rather than a lack of training” (2023, p. 305).


The “Putting It All Together” section of Ch. 8 nicely summarizes the important factors that determine the success of a training program. Figure 8.4 on p. 306 (in the hard copy) shows a really helpful flowchart to assess a training program.


The second topic is well-covered in many I-O psychology textbooks: the four-fifths rule (or 80% rule) [in Ch. 3] used to make an adverse impact determination in employee selection. Here is Aamodt’s explanation of the four-fifths rule:


“With the four-fifths rule, the percentage of applicants hired from one group (e.g., women, Hispanic individuals) is compared to the percentage of applicants hired in the most favored group (e.g., men, White individuals). If the percentage of applicants hired in the disadvantaged group is less than 80% of the percentage for the advantaged group, adverse impact is said to have occurred” (Aamodt, 2023, p. 94).


This is an important area for I-O Psychology students to learn, and I appreciated professor Aamodt’s explanation of the four-fifths rule, using both words and a table [Table 3.2, p. 95] to help the reader understand. I especially liked that he reminded us: “It is important to keep in mind that adverse impact refers to percentages rather than raw numbers” (Aamodt, 2023, p. 94).


The third topic is cognitive ability tests (Ch. 5) in personnel selection.


Cognitive ability tests are “designed to measure the level of intelligence or the amount of knowledge possessed by an applicant” (Aamodt, 2023, p. 162). Cognitive ability tests are often used because they are excellent predictors of employee performance, easy to administer, and relatively inexpensive (Aamodt, 2023).


“Though cognitive ability tests are thought by many to be the most valid method of employee selection, especially for complex jobs, they certainly have some drawbacks. Perhaps the most crucial of these is that they result in high levels of adverse impact” (Aamodt, 2023, p. 162).


“Another drawback to cognitive ability tests is the difficulty of setting a passing score. That is, how much cognitive ability do you need to perform well in a particular job?” (Aamodt, 2023, p. 162).


The fourth topic is job analysis (Ch. 2) or “The process of identifying how a job is performed, the conditions under which it is performed, and the personal requirements it takes to perform the job” (Aamodt, 2023, p. 35).


Here, Industrial/Organizational Psychology: An Applied Approach (9th ed.) truly shines. I examined seven other I-O psychology textbooks — Cascio & Aguinis, 2019; Conte & Landy, 2019; Levy, 2017; Muchinsky & Howes, 2019; Riggio, 2018; Spector, 2017; Truxillo, Bauer, & Erdogan, 2021 — and not one of them offered a detailed, step-by-step walk-through of how to conduct a job analysis, except for Aamodt’s I-O psychology textbook (2023). In the section “Conducting a Job Analysis,” (pp. 48-55) Aamodt dedicated 7 pages to carefully walk the reader through a 5-step process of conducting a job analysis. Outstanding!


The fifth topic is motivation (Ch. 9), one of the most widely researched topics in I-O psychology. Aamodt (2023) defines motivation as “the force that drives an employee to perform well” (p. 315).

“Ability and skill determine whether a worker can do the job, but motivation determines whether the worker will do it properly” (Aamodt, 2023, p. 315).

He goes on to explain that, “measuring actual levels of motivation can be difficult. As a result, other than asking employees about their motivation levels, researchers use behaviors such as those listed in Table 9.1 (Work Behaviors That Imply Motivation) [e.g., high productivity, high quality, number of promotions, not missing work, arriving to work early, staying late at work, volunteering for extra duties, attending voluntary training, etc.] that imply high levels of motivation” (Aamodt, 2023, p. 315).


Yes, it’s crucial we communicate with students and readers that motivation is a concept that is abstract and tricky to measure. We must clearly explain (as Dr. Aamodt has done) how complex and elusive motivation is and not just that it’s interesting to study.


I especially appreciated that Aamodt stated how work motivation relates to work performance: “Actually testing the relationship between motivation and performance is also difficult, because there are various types of motivation (internal and external) and various factors that affect motivation. However, psychologists generally agree that increased worker motivation results in increased job performance” (Aamodt, 2023, pp. 316-317). Well done!


The sixth topic is diversity & inclusion. For this topic, I’m looking for coverage of diversity issues broadly as workplace diversity management. For instance, consider these excerpts from Introduction to Industrial/Organizational Psychology (7th ed.) by Dr. Ronald E. Riggio, Industrial/Organizational Psychology: Understanding the Workplace (5th ed.) by Dr. Paul E. Levy, and Psychology and Work: An Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology (2nd ed.) by Drs. Donald Truxillo, Talya Bauer, and Berrin Erdogan.

“Industrial/organizational psychologists will have to assist organizations in dealing with the challenges increasing diversity will bring. Although diversity has benefits, demographic and cultural differences can, if not carefully managed, create great difficulties in the functioning of work teams—increasing destructive conflict, inhibiting team cooperation, and impeding performance” (Riggio, 2018, p. 18).
“The diversity in the U.S. labor force is increasing at an amazing rate, and the outlook for 2016 paints a very different picture than we have been accustomed to seeing. For instance, there has been an unprecedented growth in the Latino workforce, as it fulfilled earlier projections by surpassing the African American workforce in 2006. In addition, by 2022, it is projected that women will make up almost 47% of the workforce; African Americans, 12%; and Latinos, 19%” (Levy, 2017, p. 275).
“These data trends along with the increasing globalization of organizations result in a very dynamic situation in which organizations must change at a very fast pace to keep up with the changing context in which they exist. This changing nature of the workforce necessitates new HR approaches to managing that workforce. Diversity must become a bottom-line issue if companies are going to be able to compete for—and keep—the best and the brightest. As a result, diversity management (including training) has burst onto the scene as a multibillion dollar industry” (Levy, 2017, p. 275).
“. . . the most successful companies in the world are focusing on diversity issues by emphasizing recruitment, selection, retention, and training” (Levy, 2017, p. 276).
“Today’s workforce is becoming increasingly diverse in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation. The question is not whether the twenty-first-century workplace will be diverse — that’s a certainty. Rather, the question is how an organization can effectively manage the diversity of its workforce through its practices around recruitment and selection, training, socialization and mentoring, leadership, and teams” (Truxillo, Bauer, & Erdogan, 2021, p. 25).

Although in the “New to This Edition” section in Industrial/Organizational Psychology: An Applied Approach (both 8th and 9th editions), it stated: “More examples of diversity efforts spread throughout the text,” I did not find this to be the case. This is quite disappointing since, in the United States, in the last several years, there’s been a strong resurgence of interest in and calls for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and a general awareness that there’s increasing diversity in the U.S. workforce.


As Aamodt wrote in the 9th edition:


“Another important factor impacting I/O psychology is the changing demographic makeup of the workforce. Women are increasingly entering the workforce and taking on managerial roles; Hispanics and Latino/as are now the largest underrepresented groups in the United States; Asian Americans are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population; and an increasing number of workers, vendors, and customers have English as their second language. Thus, diversity and inclusion issues will continue to be an important factor in the workplace” (Aamodt, 2023, p. 9).


Yet, despite mentioning the importance of diversity, Dr. Aamodt did not devote any sections to talking about diversity above and beyond what was already in the 8th edition. Indeed, the “Focus on Ethics: Diversity Efforts” section (in Ch. 6) in the 9th edition is almost IDENTICAL (using almost exactly the same wording) as the 8th edition. And the Applied Case Study in Ch. 14 (“Managing Change at Carlson Restaurants”) is VERBATIM (i.e., exactly the SAME WORDS used) as the 8th edition.


Professor Aamodt does discuss diversity as it relates to affirmative action. He spends several pages in Ch. 3 under section “Affirmative Action” (pp. 102-109) talking about affirmative action. However, what I’m looking for regarding diversity (and what other I-O psychology authors, especially Dr. Paul E. Levy, have done really well) is coverage of diversity issues broadly as workplace diversity management.


In terms of workplace diversity management, what’s covered in the 9th edition is inadequate since materials (sometimes EXACTLY the SAME wording) from the 8th edition have been reused. Take for instance in Ch. 4’s “Special Recruit Populations: Increasing Applicant Diversity” section, almost the exact same wording is used throughout, with a few exceptions where “minority” or “minorities” were replaced with “underrepresented” or “underrepresented groups.” BUT, nothing else has been added. Even the research study cited from 2006 (which, in 2022, makes it 16 years ago) remains unchanged. Given the importance of diversity and the role that I-O psychologists and the field of I-O psychology play, it was a huge missed opportunity to not sufficiently cover this very important topic.


In contrast, when I looked in Industrial/Organizational Psychology: Understanding the Workplace (5th ed.) by Paul E. Levy and Introduction to Industrial/Organizational Psychology (7th ed.) by Ronald E. Riggio, I easily found sections and places (after looking at the Index) that mentioned and covered diversity, and professors Levy and Riggio both spent more time and provided more details in their coverage of diversity. In another I-O psychology textbook, Work in the 21st Century: An Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology (6th ed.), professors Jeffrey Conte and the late Frank Landy devoted an entire module to just diversity!


What I Didn’t Like: The Coverage of Complicated & Outdated Formulas


Some areas of the 9th edition were bogged down with explanations of complicated formulas and outdated models (e.g., Ch. 6: Taylor-Russell Tables, Proportion of Correct Decisions, Lawshe Tables, and Brogden-Cronbach-Gleser Utility Formula). As Truxillo, Bauer, and Erdogan (2021) succinctly explained (p. 254):


“One of the first frameworks for utility analysis was the Taylor-Russell tables (Taylor & Russell, 1939) which were developed back before World War II. Since that time, more sophisticated systems for calculating the dollar value of using a particular selection test have been developed (Boudreau, 1983). These models are generally quite complicated and beyond the scope of this book, although we point the interested reader to more in-depth discussions of utility analysis (e.g., Boudreau, 1983; Cascio & Aguinis, 2019).”


Summary: Overall, I enjoyed Industrial/Organizational Psychology: An Applied Approach (9th ed.) by Michael G. Aamodt. The book is easy to navigate and the writing style is readable, although in some instances it veered off into coverage of outdated models and complicated formulas. The one major disappointment about the book, however, is that it’s lacking in its coverage of workplace diversity management. That disappointment aside, I am still delighted to recommend Industrial/Organizational Psychology: An Applied Approach (9th ed.) by Michael G. Aamodt.


Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D. Organizational & Leadership Development Leader


References


Aamodt, M. G. (2023). Industrial/organizational psychology: An applied approach (9th ed.). Cengage Learning.


Boudreau, J. W. (1983). Economic considerations in estimating the utility of human resource productivity improvement programs. Personnel Psychology, 36, 551–576.


Cascio, W. F., & Aguinis, H. (2019). Applied psychology in talent management (8th ed.). Sage.


Conte, J. M., & Landy, F. J. (2019). Work in the 21st century: An introduction to industrial and organizational psychology (6th ed.). Wiley.


Levy, P. E. (2017). Industrial/organizational psychology: Understanding the workplace (5th ed.). Worth Publishers.


Muchinsky, P. M., & Howes, S. S. (2019). Psychology applied to work: An introduction to industrial and organizational psychology (12th ed.). Hypergraphic Press.


Riggio, R. E. (2018). Introduction to industrial/organizational psychology (7th ed.). Routledge.


Spector, P. E. (2017). Industrial and organizational psychology: Research and practice (7th ed.). John Wiley & Sons.


Taylor, H. C., & Russell, J. T. (1939). The relationship of validity coefficients to the practical effectiveness of tests in selection: Discussion and tables. Journal of Applied Psychology, 23, 565–578.


Truxillo, D. M., Bauer, T. N., & Erdogan, B. (2021). Psychology and work: An introduction to industrial and organizational psychology (2nd ed.). Routledge.


Disclosure: I received a paperback/softcover of Industrial/Organizational Psychology: An Applied Approach (9th ed.) as a complimentary gift in exchange for an honest review.


#BookReview #IndustrialOrganizationalPsychology

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