Book Review: Introduction to Industrial/Organizational Psychology (7th ed.) by Ronald E. Riggio

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.

Introduction to Industrial/Organizational Psychology (7th ed.) by Ronald E. Riggio is a solid update to a growing list of Industrial/Organizational Psychology textbooks. According to Routledge’s website (publisher of the book), the seventh edition has been updated to include expanded coverage of international issues, job engagement, and emerging topics such as workplace bullying, virtual teams and organizations, agile organization structures, and web-based training and assessment.

In the preface, Dr. Riggio shared that he wrote the book because his students were complaining the textbooks he had been using were too technical and not student friendly. “So, when I wrote this book (and subsequent editions), I have tried to keep my students in mind every step of the way. I have tried to keep the book current, readable, and relevant to students’ current and future working lives” (Riggio, 2018, p. xix).

I like that professor Riggio explained the importance of in-text citations: “Although some students may find it distracting to have points referenced with “(Author, year)” throughout, these references will be extremely useful in finding starting points for term papers or future exploration” (Riggio, 2018, p. xix). This simple gesture can help ease the anxiety of college students trying to figure out how to read textbooks with APA style references.

I examined five topics: (1) training and development; (2) the four-fifths rule (or 80% rule) used to determine adverse impact in employee selection; (3) use of cognitive ability tests in personnel selection; (4) job analysis; and (5) motivation.

The first topic is training and development. I really like Riggio’s explanation of what’s needed to ensure the success of training programs (in Ch. 7), pointing out that critical aspects to consider are transfer of training, the trainee’s readiness, and the structure of the training program.

Under the section titled, “A Model for Successful Training Programs,” Riggio outlined a step-by-step model for a successful training program (pp. 190-191):

STEP 1: A successful training program should begin by assessing training needs. In other words, the organization must first have some idea of what workers need to know to perform their jobs.

STEP 2: The next step is establishing training objectives—goals for what the training is supposed to accomplish. Training objectives need to be specific and related to measurable outcomes because training objectives are used both to set a course for the training program and to help later in determining if the training was indeed successful.

STEP 3: The next step in the training program involves the development and testing of training materials. A variety of factors must be taken into account in developing training materials, such as the trainees’ educational and skill levels, whether the training material focuses on the areas that are directly related to successful job performance, and what training methods will provide the best cost-benefit trade-off.

STEP 4: The actual implementation of the training program is the next step in the training model. Important considerations in implementing the training program include when and how often the training will take place, who will conduct the training, the assignment of trainees to sessions, and where the training will be conducted.

STEP 5: The final step is the evaluation of the training program to determine if the training was effective. This step involves a detailed analysis of whether training objectives were met and whether the training translates into trainees using the newly learned behaviors on the job.

The second topic is well-covered in many I/O psychology textbooks: the four-fifths rule (or 80% rule) used to make an adverse impact determination in employee selection. In Riggio’s Introduction to Industrial/Organizational Psychology (7th ed.), I found the coverage of the four-fifths rule (or 80% rule) to be a bit too short:

“The guidelines led to the establishment of the four-fifths rule, which states that a hiring procedure has adverse impact when the selection rate for any protected group is 4/5, or 80%, of the group with the highest hiring rate. If the four-fifths rule demonstrates adverse impact, the employer must show that the hiring procedures used are valid” (Riggio, 2018, pp. 105-106).

This is an important area for I/O Psychology students to grasp. In several other I/O Psychology textbooks, the four-fifths rule is explained with charts, tables, or written formulas to describe what the four-fifths rule looks like in practice. I would have liked to see a longer and clearer description of the four-fifths rule.

The third topic is cognitive ability tests in personnel selection. I like Riggio’s coverage here: “One criticism of using general intelligence tests for employee selection is that they measure cognitive abilities that are too general to be effective predictors of specific job-related cognitive skills. However, research indicates that such general tests are reasonably good predictors of job performance. In fact, it has been argued that general intelligence is the most consistent predictor of performance across all types and categories of jobs” (Riggio, 2018, p. 123). Riggio (2018) wrote, “a series of meta-analyses concluded that cognitive abilities tests are valid for employment screening, that they are predictive of job performance, and that they do not underpredict the job performance of minority group members” (p. 124).

The fourth topic is job analysis or “the systematic study of the tasks, duties, and responsibilities of a job and the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to perform it” (Riggio, 2018, p. 65). I appreciate Riggio’s clear writing style and definition of job analysis. When I looked up the definition of job analysis in four other I/O Psychology textbooks, I found those definitions to be unclear and even confusing. In one textbook, I had such a difficult time finding the actual definition of job analysis in the job analysis chapter that I gave up and looked in the glossary in the back.

In contrast, after defining job analysis, Riggio then outlined the different methods to conducting a job analysis (e.g., observations, participation, interviews, surveys, job diaries), specific job analysis techniques (e.g., job element method, critical incidents technique, Position Analysis Questionnaire, and Functional job analysis). I applaud Dr. Riggio for devoting a section titled, “Job Analysis and the ADA,” (p. 81) in which he wrote: “Although the ADA does not require employers to conduct formal job analyses, you might imagine the difficulties involved in trying to adapt or alter a job for a disabled employee without having conducted a thorough analysis of it. . . . Only through job analysis can essential job elements and job requirements be determined. It is these elements and requirements that need to be considered when interviewing, hiring, and training workers with disabilities” (Riggio, 2018, p. 82).

The fifth and final topic is motivation, one of the most widely researched topics in I/O psychology. I compared the motivation chapter (Chapter 8) in Introduction to Industrial/Organizational Psychology (7th ed.) with the motivation chapter in several other I/O psychology textbooks and came away very impressed with Riggio’s treatment of this topic.

Riggio (2018) provided a great definition of motivation — “the force that energizes, directs, and sustains behavior” (p. 216). He then clearly explained:

“Because motivation cannot be observed directly, it is difficult to study. We can only infer motives either by observing goal-directed behavior or by using some psychological measurement technique” (Riggio, 2018, p. 217).

I love that! We need to communicate with students (and readers) that motivation is one of those concepts that is abstract and can be very tricky to measure. Other I/O psychology textbooks jumped right in and assumed students already know this or provided scant information to explain just how complex and elusive motivation is, even if it is interesting to researchers and the public.

Also in the motivation chapter, I particularly appreciated that Riggio devoted a section (“The Relationship Between Motivation and Performance”, p. 242) discussing how work motivation relates to work performance and he did so in his characteristically clean and clear writing style:

“Motivation is central to any discussion of work behavior because it is believed that it has a direct link to good work performance. In other words, it is assumed that the motivated worker is the productive worker” (Riggio, 2018, p. 242).

“Yet this may not always be true because many other factors can affect productivity independent of the effects of worker motivation. Furthermore, having highly motivated workers does not automatically lead to high levels of productivity. The work world is much more complex than that” (Riggio, 2018, p. 242).

Nicely done!

Industrial/Organizational Psychology Today and in the Future

One part of the book I especially like is the “Industrial/Organizational Psychology Today and in the Future” section (p. 13) in Chapter 1. In this section, Riggio talked about four key trends in the world of work that are important today and in the future of I/O psychology.

Trend #1: The Changing Nature of Work

“Organizations are becoming flatter, with fewer levels in the hierarchy, and they are being broken up into smaller subunits with greater emphasis on work teams. With telecommuting, advanced communication systems, and sophisticated networking, people can work in almost any location, with team members who are quite remote. This will have important implications for how work is done, and I/O psychologists will be very involved in helping workers adapt to technological and structural changes” (Riggio, 2018, p. 14).

Trend #2: Expanding Focus on Human Resources

“Organizations have become more and more concerned about and responsive to the needs of workers. At the same time, organizations are realizing that skilled and creative workers are the keys to success. The term “talent management” is a frequent buzzword heard in organizations—important because it reflects the emphasis on the value of the worker and the need to select, care for, and develop workers’ talents” (Riggio, 2018, p. 15).

Trend #3: Increasing Diversity And Globalization Of The Workforce

“Women and ethnic minorities—who have been targets of employment discrimination—now make up the majority of the U.S. workforce, and there are similar trends worldwide. Moreover, the diversity of cultures in workplaces will also increase as workers become more internationally mobile . . . Workforces will continue to consist of members from a greater number and variety of cultures” (Riggio, 2018, p. 17).

“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).

Trend #4: Increasing Relevance of I/O Psychology in Policy and Practice

“Although I/O psychology has had an important impact in how we select, train, develop, and motivate employees, there is huge potential for I/O psychology to play an even bigger part in helping to improve work performance and make the conditions for workers better, more rewarding, and more “healthy”” (Riggio, 2018, p. 19).

Summary: I really enjoyed and appreciated Introduction to Industrial/Organizational Psychology (7th ed.) by Ronald E. Riggio. I found the book easy to navigate and the writing style to be extremely readable and not long-winded, making it very student friendly. The book is solid and packed with information, but it does not feel overwhelming. With the seventh edition, Riggio demonstrates that he’s able to keep the book fresh, reader-friendly, and relevant. I highly and enthusiastically recommend this book. Introduction to Industrial/Organizational Psychology (7th ed.) by Ronald E. Riggio has become one of my most trusted, go-to Industrial/Organizational psychology resources!

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership + Talent Development Advisor

Reference

Riggio, R. E. (2018). Introduction to Industrial/Organizational Psychology (7th ed.). New York: Routledge.

Disclosure: I received Introduction to Industrial/Organizational Psychology (7th ed.) as a complimentary gift, but my book review was written as though I had purchased it.