The PROPEL Hub - Productivity Outcomes of workplace Practice, Engagement and Learning

Lead Research Organisation: University of Strathclyde
Department Name: Business School

Abstract

Boosting productivity is the greatest economic challenge facing the UK. There is now a strong consensus on the potential for synergy between (1) agile and high performing businesses/organisations; (2) high quality, inclusive and engaging work and (3) effective, efficient and prosperous societies. The key domain in which to drive engagement and productivity is the workplace - where managers and employees create economic value. The ESRC has correctly prioritised research on management practice and employee engagement (MP-EE) within this context. This proposal, to establish the PROPEL Hub (Productivity Outcomes of workplace Practice, Engagement and Learning), seeks to bring together all recently funded ESRC MP-EE projects through a process of co-production and co-creation, connect with other major ESRC investments and engage with world class scholarship on engagement and productivity, to maximise the synergies and impacts of ESRC-funded work in this space. The PROPEL Hub's Primary Investigator will be based at the University of Strathclyde, but all other ESRC MP-EE teams are active partners in this proposal. The approach agreed among and beyond MP-EE teams therefore represents excellent value for money for ESRC - combining limited resources to deliver additional value from existing investments, rather than imposing from the top-down an external hub co-ordinator unconnected to our projects. Our proposal is further strengthened by collaboration with Cardiff and Ulster Universities (so that the PROPEL Hub will impact, and learn from, practice in all nations of the UK) and by an active role for a major national workplace partner, the CIPD. The PROPEL Hub has five distinguishing features:

1. The Hub will be co-created by the five ESRC MP-EE projects and key partners.
2. The model adopted will be a spoke and hub model (as opposed to being a hub and spoke model), locating the research projects at the core of insight, engagement and impact.
3. The Hub will contain a major national partner (CIPD) with links to management, employees and workplaces across the UK.
4. The Hub will deliver genuinely UK-wide engagement and impact through the five ESRC project teams spanning Glasgow to London, along with two additional academic partners from Cardiff/Wales and Ulster/Northern Ireland).
5. The Hub is led by a team with extensive experience of, and expertise in, working in an impactful manner with employers, employees, entrepreneurs and policy stakeholders.

Resources are sought to support the work of co-investigators at ESRC MP-EE institutions, Hub management support and knowledge exchange (KE) staff to help to maximise opportunities for collaboration and impact. The PROPEL Hub will drive new activity to bring together ESRC MP-EE teams to share learning, add value and facilitate opportunities for them to engage with other relevant groups and organisations, most crucially policy and business communities. Specific activities will include: MP-EE Masterclasses, bringing together ESRC MP-EE teams, international research leaders, and targeting an audience of business and policy leaders; MP-EE International Research Seminars, focusing on making connections between, or 'learning from difference' across the conceptual, methodological and empirical work of the ESRC MP-EE projects, and again engaging with other world leading researchers; Knowledge into Practice events and Engagement Hacks, where PROPEL Hub KE staff will engage directly with businesses and key stakeholders to share practical insights and solutions around engagement and productivity; and extensive online KE activity to extend the reach of our collaboration and establish a peer learning network. Formative, process and summative evaluation activities will capture the impact of the PROPEL Hub's engagement with academic, business and policy communities, and report on inter-disciplinary and/or international research collaborations or shared learning emanating from our activities.

Planned Impact

Each MP-EE project will link their beneficiaries and target audiences into the integrated PROPEL Hub, growing exponentially the opportunities for networking and collaborative learning that will impact business practice:
1 the Strathclyde-led MP-EE is rooted in action-focused engagement with policymakers and representatives of public agencies (the Scottish Government, Skills Development Scotland, and Scotland's main enterprise agencies, Highland and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise), employers' bodies (CBI and FSB) and a trade major trade union confederation (STUC);
2 the Aston University-led MP-EE features extensive impact activities with business stakeholders including BCC, FSB and MakeUK, as well as regional policy stakeholders;
3 the University of Sheffield-led MP-EE partners with ACAS and will engage with business representative bodies on workplace conflict;
4 the NIESR-led MP-EE (including partners at NUBS leading that project's contribution to this proposal) is working closely with ONS, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Bank of England, CBI, Be the Business and CMI;
5 the UEA-led MP-EE is based on collaboration with employers and their representative bodies, the NHS and occupational health stakeholders.

Further information is available in the MP-EE projects' Pathways to Impact statements, but the key message is that our Hub will connect these existing beneficiary networks, rather than seeking to impose additional demands from outside. The inclusion of partners from Wales and Northern Ireland with access to strong business and policy networks means that we will be able to extend and contextualise lessons to all nations of the UK and the unique policy environments that exist there. Our partners at CIPD will ensure that lessons from the MP-EE projects and PROPEL Hub are disseminated to the fullest extent across the HR profession. Our proposal represents an effective and efficient approach to growing and connecting beneficiary networks and provides outstanding value for money. The cross-fertilisation of ideas and actions will further strengthen and expand networks with business and policy stakeholders established by MP-EE projects.

KE staff in each institution will extend the impact of lessons from the research by engaging directly with businesses and other relevant stakeholders through 'Knowledge Into Practice' days and 'Engagement Hacks' - the emphasis here is on identifying practical lessons from across all projects (made easier given that the PROPEL Hub will be co-created by those five projects) and engaging with the business community to test solutions in context. The outcome of such engagements - and the practical impacts that they have on business practice and performance - will be fed back in our peer review reporting and the practical 'learning from difference' insights.

Most importantly, by co-creating a Hub based on collaboration across the five MP-EE teams, we will create a unique opportunity to develop knowledge-sharing across our groups of business beneficiaries. Our proposal details an extensive programme of activities where MP-EE teams will share findings and identify both shared and distinctive themes emerging from their research: together; in collaboration with leading international scholars who will engage with the teams and their beneficiary audiences, and with each other's networks of business and policy stakeholders. These learning and networking events, and the online materials co-created to support the work of the PROPEL Hub, will mean that business and policy stakeholders connected to each MP-EE project will be able to extend their networks and learning by connecting with the practical insights being identified by the other four projects and the shared lessons generated by the PROPEL Hub. This will deliver significant impact in terms of learning among business stakeholders around a range of approaches to employee engagement.

Publications

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