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SIOP in Washington: Advocacy During a Pandemic

Bill Ruch

Since July 2013, SIOP and Lewis-Burke Associates LLC have collaborated to make I-O science and research accessible to federal and congressional policy makers. SIOP has embedded a foundational government relations infrastructure within the organization, enabling SIOP to develop an authoritative voice as a stakeholder in science policy in Washington, DC and to promote SIOP as a vital resource for evidence-based decision making.

As the COVID-19 outbreak rapidly evolved from a public health crisis into a broader threat that has fundamentally disrupted our nation’s civic and economic structures, the thoughts of SIOP leadership, the Government Relations Advocacy Team (GREAT), and Lewis-Burke have been with the victims, the first responders, and anyone else who has been adversely impacted by the pandemic. During this time, there has also been a laser focus from SIOP advocacy leaders on supporting our members and partners, and seeking ways to leverage SIOP’s unique knowledge of evidence-based workforce solutions to support policymakers as they address rapid disruptions as a result of the virus. Some examples of recent SIOP advocacy to address COVID-19 are provided below.

Institutional Support for the Society

SIOP, as well as hundreds of other nonprofit societies and associations, are feeling the financial strain of COVID-19 and are collectively pursuing inclusion in economic recovery legislation. To this end, SIOP leadership and Lewis-Burke have been supporting efforts by the American Society for Association Executives (ASAE) to educate federal lawmakers about the important role professional associations play in supporting the economy and to ask that 501(c)(6) organizations like SIOP be included in future federal aid packages. To date, most current support streams for nonprofits set up in response to COVID-19 have been limited to 501(c)(3)s and other specific groups.

SIOP’s business activities support several of the hardest hit industries, including travel, hospitality, and event management. Sources cited by ASAE confirm that more than 250 million people annually attend conferences like SIOP in the US and that these meetings contribute over $446 billion to the GDP, supporting nearly 6 million jobs. This direct contribution to the economy complements the immeasurable indirect professional benefits these engagements provide for our members. Annual events like SIOP connect researchers, practitioners, publishers, and other vendors in the I-O and human resources space. This is augmented by the year-round publication of academic journals, scholarly books, and member information.

SIOP and ASAE began communicating with congressional leaders as soon as discussion of federal relief for economic harm from the pandemic began. ASAE sent its first open letter to the bipartisan leaders of Congress on March 10. SIOP followed suit with letters to elected members of Congress from our home base in Ohio on March 11 and emails to congressional staffers on March 12 and 24. Subsequent ASAE communications included Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the chairs of several relevant Senate committees. When it appeared that relief for nonprofit entities included in the most recent legislation passed by Congress would not include 501(c)(6) groups like SIOP, the Society and Lewis-Burke began preparations to be on the ground floor of future recovery bills anticipated by congressional leaders.

On May 21, the House passed the Heroes Act, which would greatly expand support streams to all non-profits. After this encouraging development, advocacy efforts will be targeted to the Senate for the adoption of this provision in future stimulus measures. SIOP leadership and its advocacy partners will continue working to assure recognition of and support for the valuable role that professional associations play in the career development and success of the global workforce.

Remote Work Resources

One of the main goals of SIOP advocacy is to ensure federal decision makers have access to evidence-based I-O psychology when considering workforce/workplace legislation. SIOP members have relevant expertise on navigating sudden workforce changes, as well as virtual work practices. Guidance on these areas is sorely needed during this disruptive time. To this end, Lewis-Burke worked with Richard Landers, lead of the Technology-Enabled Workforce Advocacy Area, as well as Tammy Allen and Kristen Shockley to put together a brief summary of SIOP advocacy and examples of relevant I-O psychology expertise in areas like telework, virtual meetings, work–life balance, and so on. This complemented a number of online resources on remote work provided on the SIOP website.

Lewis-Burke shared these resources with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) during a virtual meeting. The committee has oversight over federal workforce issues for the chamber. The materials were well received, and senior staff members were interested in being connected with SIOP experts to inform federal workforce decisions, especially in the area of telework. Lewis-Burke has also sent the materials to HSGAC’s counterparts in the House and is working to set up a meeting to further discuss. Efforts have also been made to position the Society to support policy makers as they make plans for “returning to work” policies. This latter phase will involve collaboration with the Technology-Enabled Workforce Advocacy Area, as months of remote work have exposed new opportunities and challenges for the future of work.

This exercise was extremely time sensitive and the efforts of SIOP volunteers to quickly offer best practices and advocacy support is greatly appreciated by Lewis-Burke, GREAT, and the Society as a whole. Lewis-Burke will continue to identify opportunities for SIOP to provide expert guidance to address pressing workforce questions facing policy makers.

Funding for I-O Research

On April 9, Lewis-Burke worked with SIOP leadership to submit a response to a request for information (RFI) from the House Science Committee related to community ideas for research investments at agencies within the agency’s purview as part of future stimulus legislation. SIOP’s response requested additional funding for research at the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the agency’s Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE), Education and Human Resources Directorate (EHR), and cross-agency Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier (FW-HTF) Big Idea to support studies that deepen our understanding of the impacts of sudden, large-scale shifts to telework, and identify best practices for effective virtual work, including virtual teaming, upskilling/reskilling needs, and other I-O psychology research areas of national need. 

The letter was complemented by examples of funding from NSF and other federal agencies for I-O psychology that has resulted in the development of data-driven methods to predict successful teams, address workplace dysfunction, improve the work experience of individuals, and enhance job performance and employee engagement. It closed by noting that our researchers stand ready to address the new and large-scale workforce challenges generated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we look forward to timely federal investments to support their critical work.

Regular Federal Updates

Lewis-Burke compiles regular updates on the ever-changing federal guidance and funding opportunities related to COVID-19. They can be found on the SIOP website here.

SIOP Advocacy Guide Is Live

On May 13, SIOP’s Government Relations Advocacy Team (GREAT) released a comprehensive guide, summarizing SIOP’s approach to advocacy at the federal level and providing advice and resources for members who wish to pursue advocacy work. The guidebook, which was created with extensive support from Lewis-Burke, lays out two paths to advocacy: “Personal advocacy, in which members advocate on their own, and advocacy as a representative of SIOP with the support of GREAT.” The document also includes primers on science-informed advocacy, the legislative process, engagement strategies, managing expectations, and many more useful insights and resources for active SIOP members interested in leveraging their unique expertise to advance evidence-based policy.

The complete SIOP “Guide to Federal Outreach and Advocacy” will have a standing place on the SIOP website here.

SIOP Begins Diversity & Inclusion Outreach

At a government relations planning retreat last summer, SIOP leadership suggested that Lewis-Burke and GREAT work with the SIOP Diversity and Inclusion Officer to assist in promoting the application of I-O to policy making related to diversity and inclusion (D&I). To inform this effort, Lewis-Burke had a few meetings with some key congressional committees interested in this space to gauge potential areas for SIOP to immediately engage. During a meeting in March with staff from the House Financial Services Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee, the staff expressed interest in getting a list of select D&I experts from SIOP to help inform their influential policy reports on the need to expand D&I in America’s businesses, a priority for Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA). Lewis-Burke worked with past president and D&I expert Eden King to compile the initial list and Derek Avery, SIOP’s new D&I Officer, to approve it, before sending to the subcommittee.

This was a successful first effort, but SIOP is still in the early stages of building out this advocacy thrust, and GREAT is interested in working with members who have ideas for future engagement and/or expertise to share.

For questions regarding SIOP advocacy, please feel free to contact Alex Alonso at alexander.alonso@shrm.org or Bill Ruch at bill@lewisburke.com.

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