Hot Topic White Papers: Instructions for Authors
Purpose and Intended Audience
The intended purpose of these white papers is to share information about the value of the I-O skill set and how those skills can be used to improve the well-being and performance of people and organizations with non-I-O HR and business practitioners and leaders. As a result, many readers will have little to no familiarity with the role of I-O psychology in organizations; further, they will not be familiar with an academic style of writing.
As a result, your writing style should be straightforward and accessible so that someone with limited knowledge of I-O topics will be able to read your paper and walk away with a clear understanding of the topic. Each paper should be a short read that describes the most essential aspects of topic in a way that excites them about I-O psychology, provides enough information to whet their appetite to learn more, and provides practical recommendations for applying these concepts in their organizations. Limit technical language.
As part of the process, all papers undergo an external review before publishing. In addition, the SIOP HR Business Visibility Committee reserves the right to make final suggestions and edits on the paper style before publishing the paper on its SIOP website and again in the future in order to ensure that the paper is as straightforward and accessible to non-I-O readers as possible. We will make every attempt not to change the content of the paper.
Your paper should be approximately 4-6 pages in length with no more than 1 page of references. Follow these guidelines when writing your paper:
- Use APA format for citations and the references page.
- Use 12 point Times New Roman font and 1 inch margins.
- Include in-text citations as appropriate and include the associated references on a “References” page.
- Include tables and figures as appropriate and if they add value, but keep them simple! Keep in mind the intended audience for these papers.
- Given the intended audience and applied focus for these papers, limit the number of citations and references used. Include only those that are the most essential sources for your topic.
Given that you have only 4-6 pages, what should HR and Business practitioners ABSOLUTELY know about your topic? Focus on the big ideas. Provide essential background/historical information, as well as the most impactful current research. Because these papers should be practice-oriented, focus less on the science/research and more on implications for practice. If you can, provide practical recommendations for how this research can be applied in their organization. You are responsible for ensuring that all information (e.g., quotes, citations, statistics) provided is accurate.
Below is the outline for the papers; please include these sections as titled.
- Introduction - Define the topic, why it matters, where it applies in business, and implications. The most important question you should answer is “WIIFM – What’s in it for me?” for the audience – why should they care? What is the business importance of this topic?
- Background – Provide a brief history of the topic, focusing on research that provides the background for what’s currently being done in the area and/or provides context for practical recommendations. Any historical information that is included should clearly add value to the paper (i.e., it can be linked to current views around the topic and/or current applications in organizations). Don’t provide historical context for the sake of history. Focus on the most groundbreaking, cited, useful, relevant research from the past 10 years. If there is a research model for the topic, include it, and describe its processes and components.
- Implications for practice - Make connections between the research/literature and application in the workplace. You may want to explore non-I-O sources for useful data that will resonate with the intended audience (e.g., "the International Coach Federation reports that there are 6 million coaches in America"), practice-based publications (e.g., SHRM magazine, Harvard Business Review), or even mainstream media (e.g., "Wall Street Journal reports Millennials will comprise 50% of the workforce in the next 10 years"). This section should be at least 30% of the paper.
- Next Steps - Include essential closing thoughts and key take-aways. Provide suggestions for where they can go to learn more or actions they can take. Be specific about the practical implications and applications of the research presented. Reiterate the WIIFM.
Tips & Examples for Hot Topics Whitepaper Writers
- Ensure that the papers do not sell or promote any products and services. The goal is for information and action.
- Grab the reader’s attention quickly. Begin paragraphs with main points to generate interest and draw the reader in.
- Use the most active voice possible. For example, “managers calibrate their teams on performance criteria” (active voice) vs. “performance criteria are used to help managers calibrate their teams” (passive voice).
- Use graphics to illustrate processes and complex concepts where needed.
- Do not use academic jargon or lingo. Pretend you are explaining the concept to a friend who has no background in I-O.
- Before you begin writing, make sure you can address the following topics:
- What is the business case for the topic? (Why is it important? Why would the reader want to know more? What’s in it for them?)
- How can you most simply explain what the topic is about, including research/information you’ve gathered? What are the most important aspects of this topic that have practical applications or implications?
- What recommendations do you have for the reader regarding next steps? What is the “So what?” of the paper? Provide suggestions where possible to help readers see the value in I-O methods and processes. Discuss the positive impact or benefit of these methods, processes, and suggestions.
- Identify text that would be appropriate as a sidebar or callout (e.g., an interesting or catchy quote or statistics that business leaders would find compelling), and ensure the text is accurate.
Not surprisingly, research indicates that organizations utilizing performance management systems to develop employees (rather than simply to inform human capital decisions) often have competitive advantages in terms of attracting and retaining top industry talent.
- Be as concise as possible. Remember that the goal is to demonstrate thought leadership and generate interest in a topic and how I-O can help. The purpose is not to do a deep dive on all aspects of the topic in question. Think “cliff notes.”
Include questions to engage the reader.
Where does your performance management system rate? We’ll help you answer this question, and regardless of the answer, we will present some best practices that can help you improve.
- Use bullets/numbered lists and make recommendations where possible. Help the reader see the whitepaper as a tool or resource they will want to use going forward
Some additional examples of improvements to make:
In the past, it was often the case that “employee performance management” simply consisted of yearly or bi-yearly meetings in which employees received formal feedback about their performance from direct supervisors. Progress toward pre-determined performance goals or quotas typically translated to monetary rewards or personnel decisions such as promotions. Perspectives on performance management, however, have changed drastically in the last decade. Today, organizations increasingly recognize the value of approaching a performance management program as an ongoing process, only one component of which is the implementation of discrete, formal performance feedback sessions (London & Smither, 2002).
Recommendation (sharper and more concise):
Perspectives on performance management have changed drastically in the last decade. Organizations have moved from mid-year and end of year reviews to seeing performance management as an ongoing process, only one component of which is the implementation of discrete, formal performance feedback sessions (London & Smither, 2002).
Performance management has been defined as “a continuous process of identifying, measuring, and developing the performance of individuals and teams and aligning performance with the strategic goals of the organization” (Aguinis, 2009b, p. 3). As this definition would suggest, successful systems of performance management integrate strategic planning, performance evaluation, and employee development initiatives in order to facilitate improved performance, greater development, and attainment of organizational goals.
It would be better to create a graphic to represent this – something like an “elements of successful performance management systems” callout would be great. The text itself feels too academic for this audience.
For additional tips on business writing, check out: http://www.bizcoachinfo.com/archives/6493