The Centre provides education and training opportunities for a wide range of individual and group learning and development needs, and provides advice and consultancy to businesses and organisations both large and small. The Centre for Professional and Economic Development encompasses Strategic Economic Development, Work Based Learning and Work Based and Integrative Studies.

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  • “Mind the Leadership Gap!” A Call to Action for the Future Research Agenda

    Murphy, Liam; Turnbull, Helen; University of Chester (GiLE Foundation, 2023-10-25)
    The coronavirus pandemic has acted as a catalyst for organisational change, disrupting historic ways of working, and spearheading organisations towards the next evolution of their working environments. In the aftermath of the largest concurrent work from home experiment in the world, organisations are coming to grips with the new policies and practices they need to implement to remain competitive. But there is one crucial stakeholder who continues to be left out in academic research, leaders. New questions now arise as to how we should remodel leadership in an increasingly remote world. What skills do leaders need to develop and how, in order to maintain employee wellbeing and manage the intergenerational divide? This paper presents a short synthesis of the challenges faced by leaders today specifically around remote team management but also in the context of a multigenerational workforce, alongside a summary of the research gaps we face in post-COVID literature. This paper concludes with the production of a future research agenda for scholars to close this gap, and to help organisations in building their leadership capability in the ‘new normal’.
  • Navigating towards hyperautomation and the empowerment of human capital in family businesses: a perspective article

    Birkbeck, Andrew; Rowe, Lisa; University of Chester (Emerald, 2023-10-13)
    This paper aims to explore the past and future impacts of automation on family businesses, with a focus on the opportunities for human capital empowerment. Design/methodology/approach This paper draws upon a contemporary literature search to examine a range of scholarly and practitioner perspectives of the challenges and benefits of automation, exploring the evolvement towards hyperautomation and the empowerment of human capital in family businesses. Findings Automation, transforming to hyperautomation, general purpose artificial intelligence (AI) and beyond has the possibility of radically improving productivity. Fear of job obsolescence has been present since the birth of modern automation, and whilst some jobs are at risk of redundancy, a net gain towards higher-skilled labour is already evident. Family business leaders must be prepared to react appropriately to the accelerating war for talent by implementing a strategy for human capital empowerment. Originality/value This unique paper synthesises developments in automation and proposes a future perspective centred upon the empowerment of human capital in family businesses.
  • Women’s Football Subculture of Misogyny: The Escalation to Online Gender-Based Violence

    Fenton, Alex; Ahmed, Wasim; Hardey, Maz; Boardman, Rosy; Kavanagh, Emma; University of Chester; University of Stirling; Durham University; University of Manchester; Bournemouth University (Taylor & Francis, 2023-11-07)
    Research question: Given the worldwide growth of women’s football and its presence on social media, it is essential to explore and understand fan attitudes and culture. Research methods: This article provides the first empirical social media netnography focusing on English women’s football teams (Manchester United and Burnley) and international fan views towards women professional players on TikTok. We extend this discussion by utilising a netnography in which researchers immersed themselves for seven months in women’s football groups on TikTok to gather and analyse new qualitative data in this context. Results and Findings: We identify the escalation of gender-based violence on social media against women players. Four key themes emerged from the netnography: 1. Sexism: the place of women in football; 2. Misogyny and hatred of women; 3. Sexualisation of women; 4. Demand for a male-only space. Sexist comments were apparent in all the TikTok posts containing female football players, with some also containing more aggressive misogynistic comments. Other dominant comments sought to reduce women to objects of sexual desire and belittle their professional skills, whereas others were appalled at the presence of female players on the clubs’ official accounts, demanding them to be a male-only space. Implications: The study contributes to the understanding of online fan cultures on complex, video-based platforms such as TikTok. Through literature review and netnography, we identified a problem for football clubs on social media of longstanding, problematic issues of toxic fan comments.
  • How is play expressed amongst Undergraduate Students from Medicine, Nursing & Allied Health Professions Programmes and does it relate to Psychological Wellbeing? An IPA Study

    Wall, Tony; Holmes, Gina; Rylance-Graham, Rebecca (University of Chester, 2023-02-01)
    The psychological wellbeing (PWB) of students undertaking Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health Professions (AHP) programmes is at crisis point. Manifested as stress and mental health conditions, this group of students’ experience detriment to wellbeing before they join what is arguably a stressful clinical environment at the end of their professional programme. Strategies to improve the wellbeing of students and healthcare workers have yet to bear fruit and the issue of declining wellbeing appears to be escalating. Empirical studies within business literature suggest that play in the organisational context may improve PWB. This Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) study explores the lived experiences of undergraduate students from Medicine, Nursing and AHP programmes and their expression of play in the clinical environment. The findings contribute to a sparse body of knowledge about play in the healthcare organisational context and offers some unique and original insights into the types of play that the participants engaged in, the facilitative and limiting factors of play, and how the enactment of play contributes to improved PWB.
  • Wellbeing and Engagement in Hybrid Work Environments - Coaching as a Resource and Skill for Leaders to Develop

    Franzen-Waschke, Ute; University of Chester (GiLE Foundation, 2021-12-08)
    This paper explores how working from home has impacted leaders and the workforce in corporate environments during the pandemic, how these experiences might influence the workplace of the future, and what role coaching could play to foster skill development in the 21st century workplace. Before the pandemic, plenty of research had already been done on what factors influence well-being and engagement in the workplace. Models explaining the elements of well-being and engagement, as well as, tools to measure their existence or the lack of have been reviewed, tested, and validated. We know little at this point about what combinations of factors caused the decline in well-being and engagement during the pandemic, and what skills in leaders, or requirements for the workplace would be necessary to hone and implement, to improve the situation of well-being and engagement in future work environments. This paper explores how coaching could support leaders in the 21st century workplace. The business world is facing challenges while moving into post-pandemic workplace scenarios. The plurality of interests increases the complexity of the topic. The literature on well-being and engagement has been reviewed. Data that was collected during the pandemic by different organisations and conclusions drawn from these were compared with what the literature says and it was combined with experiences the author made in the field while coaching leaders and their teams in corporate environments during the pandemic. This paper concludes with a recommendation on how to enhance coaching skills among leaders and to build their knowledge and literacy in the field of coaching, to result in positive effects on workplace well-being and engagement in contemporary work environments.
  • Working from home in 2020 - Lessons learned to leverage these learnings going forward as emerging leaders and a remote office workforce

    Franzen-Waschke, Ute; University of Chester (GiLE Foundation, 2021-07-01)
    This paper summarises some of the data that has been collected and presented in various contemporary articles on the challenges organisations and office workers have faced while working from home (WFH). What Bernstein, Blunden, Brodsky, Sohn and Waber call the largest experiment in history has already produced initial sets of data about how productive the workforce was in their home offices, and how happy or unhappy employees were while working from home. Productivity and employee happiness have always been focal points in the discussion about working from home. Before the pandemic hit, one of the biggest fears in many organisations was that WFH would negatively impact employee productivity, and employees were likewise sceptical about how one could separate private and working life in a healthy manner while working from home. The scope of this paper is about how working from home or anywhere has impacted employees and organizations. The data collected to-date indicates a decline in wellbeing and engagement and highlights a need for leaders and office workers to become more adept in managing their needs to continue to thrive in the workplace. Coaching can be one means to support and enhance this learning and development process and help ease the transition into the workplace of the future.
  • Leadership Skills: What's Expected?

    Franzen-Waschke, Ute; University of Chester (GiLE Foundation, 2022-10-12)
    As organisations are transitioning into a post-Covid working world, there is a myriad of unanswered questions in many areas of the corporate world (Work Trend Index, 2022). How leaders and the workforce need to be upskilled to lead and work better in that ‘new’ environment seems to be one of them (Billing et al., 2021).
  • DEI & Hybrid Work Environments: A Game Changer or Another Disruptor?

    Franzen-Waschke, Ute; University of Chester (GiLE Foundation, 2022-10-12)
    Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) have been on the corporate agenda for years, and companies actively seek to raise awareness and mitigate disadvantages for the respective marginalised groups. Some examples of DEI agendas include: (i) how to overcome injustice when hiring or promoting staff from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, (ii) equal pay, (iii) gender equality, (iv) disability, and (v) neurodiversity. However, the pandemic has raised two key questions. 1. Which additional dynamics are added to the DEI conversation with remote and hybrid workplace scenarios? 2. How do these dynamics impact the decisions of current and future generations of workers when making career decisions and choosing an employer?
  • Communities of practice for contemporary leadership development and knowledge exchange through work-based learning

    Rowe, Lisa; Knight, Lisa; Irvine, Paul; Greenwood, Joanne; University of Chester; Liverpool John Moores University; Lancaster University (Taylor & Francis, 2023-09-06)
    This study explores the experiences of leaders who have led organisations and teams through an extended period of crisis management whilst completing a UK work-based master’s programme. The paper examines contemporary approaches to work-based learning and explores the effect of organisational and workforce demands in a volatile era of global economic uncertainty. Theoretical and conceptual foundations relating to experiential learning, digital education and communities of learning are analysed and discussed. Taking an inductive qualitative approach, the study analyses semi-structured questionnaire data from senior leaders. The widespread adoption of technology exposes challenges to facilitation and the academic-employer interface, impacting upon learning communities and knowledge exchange opportunities. The findings also suggest enhanced leaders’ adaptive traits, including confidence and self-reliance. The study illuminates critical issues associated with contemporary work-based learning, specifically relating to prolonged macro uncertainty and the effect upon workplaces as sites of knowledge and learning, and risks to dynamic relationships between the psychosocial work environment, genuine opportunities to learn and learner well-being. This work seeks to inform the design of future programmes, specifically in terms developing inter and intra-organisational communities of learning and knowledge exchange to enhance best practice and inculcate crucial leadership skills.
  • Developing Techniques to Support Technological Solutions to Disinformation by Analysing Four Conspiracy Networks During COVID-19

    Ahmed, Wasim; Önkal, Dilek; Das, Ronnie; Krishnan, Satish; Olan, Femi; Marianne (Maz), Hardey; Fenton, Alex; University of Stirling; Northumbria University; Audencia Business School; Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode; University of Essex; Durham University; University of Chester; University of Stirling; Northumbria University; Audencia Business School; Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode; University of Essex; University of Durham; University of Chester (IEEE, 2023-05-26)
    Given the role of technology and social media during the COVID-19 pandemic, the aim of this paper is to conduct a social network analysis of four COVID-19 conspiracy theories that were spread during the pandemic between March to June 2020. Specifically, the paper examines the 5G, Film Your Hospital, Expose Bill Gates, and the Plandemic conspiracy theories. Identifying disinformation campaigns on social media and studying their tactics and composition is an essential step toward counteracting such campaigns. The current study draws upon data from the Twitter Search API and uses social network analysis to examine patterns of disinformation that may be shared across social networks with sabotaging ramifications. The findings are used to generate the Framework of Disinformation Seeding and Information Diffusion for understanding disinformation and the ideological nature of conspiracy networks that can support and inform future pandemic preparedness and counteracting disinformation. Furthermore, a Digital Mindfulness Toolbox (DigiAware) is developed to support individuals and organisations with their information management and decision-making both in times of crisis and as strategic tools for potential crisis preparation.
  • Enlightened Participation: SME Perspectives about Net Zero on Social Media using the Action Case Approach

    Fenton, Alex; Ahmed, Wasim; Hardey, Maz; Koral, Chris; Durham University; Stirling University; University of Chester (SAGE Publications, 2023-05-11)
    Aims/Objectives This study aims to examine a linked future for a Net Zero global economy. Such a future is examined through network-driven change and informed by co-action and shared business management practices. Methodology used in the study We employ an action case (AC) approach to understand the impact of national and worldwide Net Zero policy for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME). We drew upon a qualitative survey with SMEs alongside a social network analysis (SNA) of Twitter data. Findings We discovered a substantial predictive effect of policy support in the SME social media material regarding Net Zero attitudes. Our findings indicate that reinforcing messages on policy support and assisting enterprises in adopting the new objectives may considerably enhance Net Zero accountability and serve as the foundation for an intervention strategy in policy-focused programmes for SMEs.
  • Strategic National Human Resource Development: The Case of the Duqm Special Economic Zone in Oman

    Al Zeidi, Sarhan; Harris, Phil; Perrin, David; University of Chester (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022-01-28)
    Research is increasingly acknowledging the pivotal role of national human resource development (NHRD) in economic development. There is a growing call to conduct research in country-specific contexts to further explore this concept and the factors that influence its outcomes. The concept differs from one country to another; therefore, many Human Resource Development (HRD) studies focus on one country. However, few have focused on the Middle East region, and there has been even less research on Oman. The aim here is to fill this research gap by evaluating information gathered from across the Duqm Special Economic Zone (DSEZ) in Oman and analyse Oman’s HRD practices. Specifically, the intent is to identify the gap in skillsets in Oman and to develop an NHRD model that is appropriate for the country’s economic requirements for national skills development.
  • How to Use the Six-Step Digital Ethnography Framework to Develop Buyer Personas: The Case of Fan Fit

    Fenton, Alex; Heinze, Aleksej; Osbourne, McVal; Ahmed, Wasim; University of Chester; KEDGE Business School; Flight Story; University of Stirling (JMIR Publications, 2022-11-25)
    Background: One of the key features of digital marketing is customer centricity, which can be applied to the domain of health. This is expressed through the ability to target specific customer segments with relevant content using appropriate channels and having data to track and understand each interaction. In order to do this, marketers create buyer personas based on a wide spectrum of quantitative and qualitative data. Digital ethnography is another established method for studying web-based communities. However, for practitioners, the complexity, rigor, and time associated with ethnographical work are sometimes out of reach. Objective: This paper responds to the gaps in the practically focused method of using social media for digital ethnography to develop buyer personas. This paper aims to demonstrate how digital ethnography can be used as a way to create and refine buyer personas. Methods: Using a case study of the Fan Fit smartphone app, which aimed to increase physical activity, a digital ethnography was applied to create a better understanding of customers and to create and refine buyer personas. Results: We propose two buyer personas, and we develop a 6-step digital ethnography framework designed for the development of buyer personas. Conclusions: The key contribution of this work is the proposal of a 6-step digital ethnography framework designed for the development of buyer personas. We highlight that the 6-step digital ethnography could be a robust tool for practitioners and academicians to analyze digital communications for the process of creating and updating data-driven buyer personas to create deeper insights into digital and health marketing efforts.
  • The place of work-based learning in the development of leaders in a fast-changing world.

    Rowe, Lisa; Knight, Lisa; Irvine, Paul; Greenwood, Joanne; University of Chester; Liverpool John Moores University; Lancaster University
    This developmental paper provides an overview of a collaborative research project to explore the lived experiences of senior leaders as they undergo a work-based learning programme with one of three universities in the North West of England. Qualitative data will be drawn from semi-structured surveys and interviews with leaders and thematically analysed to identify the experiences, key issues and challenges encountered. It is one of the first large scale studies of its kind, examining delivery of work-based leadership programmes across a range of industries and sectors in a post-pandemic context within the UK. The research is intended to provide a rich and descriptive picture of how both leaders and HEIs have adapted their practice during this period, identifying lessons learned, and making suggestions for future delivery of work-based leadership learning in an increasingly uncertain and challenging environment.
  • Exploring SMEs attitudes to Net Zero & social media: Action Case research as a force for good

    Fenton, Alex; Marianne (Maz), Hardey; Wasim, Ahmed; Koral, Chris; University of Chester; University of Durham; University of Stirling
    We recently presented a full paper at the British Academy of Management 2022 entitled: Exploring SMEs attitudes to Net Zero & social media: Action Case research as a force for good. Action case is a method designed to bridge the gap between understanding and change. We created a research team of academics and practitioners in conjunction with the Cheshire and Warrington Business Growth Programme to explore this important topic. We aimed to address a research gap in SME understanding and attitudes to Net Zero and their communications. Our Action Case approach included a small-scale qualitative survey of SMEs and social network analysis of Twitter. We discovered a lack of clarity regarding the help available to SMEs and Net Zero. While the survey revealed some support for Net Zero from SMEs, it was unclear how this support corresponded with their social media strategy. The SNA revealed a dearth of SMEs in online discussions around Net Zero on Twitter. Government agencies and other organisations were dominant in these internet discussions. We also found SMEs opposed to government environmental programmes like clean air levies, which some saw as harmful to their operations. The Action Case method was demonstrated to be an effective method for bridging the academic-practice divide, and future research should build on this topic.
  • Football Fandom as a Platform for Digital Health Promotion and Behaviour Change: A Mobile App Case Study

    Fenton, Alex; Anna, Cooper-Ryan; Marianne (Maz), Hardey; Wasim, Ahmed; University of Chester; University of Salford; Durham University; University of Stirling (MDPI, 2022-07-09)
    The last decade has seen a dramatic shift toward the study of fitness surveillance, thanks in part to the emergence of mobile health (mHealth) apps that allow users to track their health through a variety of data-driven insights. This study examines the adoption trends and community mediation of the mobile fitness application ‘FanFit’, a platform aimed at promoting physical activity among sports fans by creating a fitness app branded to their favourite team for health promotion. Objective: Our study looked at the impact of a specially designed mobile app (FanFit) as a digital health intervention for initiating and maintaining physical activity as part of football club membership. Our analysis indicates that app users will adopt healthier behaviours as a result of the app’s sense of fan community and behaviour change. Methods: The findings reported here are based on an implementation of the FanFit app and, in particular, on those who participated in a more in-depth study (n = 30). These participants were Rangers FC supporters with a mix of genders (n = 19 males and n = 11 females). Focus groups and interviews were conducted with participants to ascertain users’ perspectives on the most effective methods for nudging users toward adopting and maintaining a pattern of fitness behaviours. Results: The findings show that the user community was interested in fitness and wanted to live a ‘healthy lifestyle,’ which was augmented and fuelled by the app’s competitive architecture design. Furthermore, the data reveal a new fan-health discourse about a person’s developing wants, talents, and identities as embodied beings. Conclusions: We have developed and presented valid links between the use of sports club apps and health programmes. The app could be useful for sports programmes and club providers looking for mHealth applications that provide community support through fan discourse with opportunities for both male and female fans.
  • Editorial: Exploring the impact of agility and learning in organisations

    Rowe, Lisa; Brook, Cheryl; University of Chester; University of Portsmouth (Emerald, 2022-10-05)
    Welcome to Volume 14, Issue 2 of the Journal of Work Applied Management, a Special Issue dedicated to examining how work-based learning, action learning and organisational development methods are delivering against the unprecedented and urgent need for organisational agility, flexibility and ambidexterity. The diversity of ways in which these work-applied approaches are effectively curated are increasingly evident across different levels of organisational learning, development, and adaptation in response to the “megatrends” of technological hyper-connectivity, urbanisation, geopolitical tensions and a global climate crisis, amidst a challenging phase of post pandemic economic recovery affecting workforce readiness, supply chains and inflation (Deloitte, 2017; Price Waterhouse Cooper, 2021; 2022).
  • An examination of the dynamics of intergenerational tensions and technological change in the context of post-pandemic recovery

    Moore, Neil; Rowe, Lisa; Stokes, Peter; Lichy, Jessica; Rodgers, Peter; Smith, Simon M.; University of Chester; De Montfort University; IDRAC Business School, Lyon; University of Southampton; Oxford Brooks University
    Technological change is a feature of contemporary life encompassing interactivity, collaboration and, above all, real-time content sharing and livestreaming. The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new dynamics in relation to digitisation and technology usage. Within organizations, these changes have been swift and profound, leading to online meetings, events and virtual team management. An explosion of literature has accompanied these changes and their human impacts. However, the generational and intergenerational issues remain under-examined and therefore constitute an important gap. The paper examines the literature on workplace technology, digitalisation and human impacts in relation to the COVID-19, and particularly, through the lens of different generational adoptive patterns. Taking an inductive qualitative approach, the paper’s empirical focus is analyses of semi-structured questionnaire data from intergenerational senior executives. The findings showcase alternative understandings of technology in the late-COVID-19 era and of Xer generational (i.e. born 1961-1981) resilience and operational change dynamics. This allows a number of contributions and implications to be developed.
  • Enhancing the degree apprenticeship curriculum through work-based manager and mentor intervention

    Quew-Jones, Rebecca; Rowe, Lisa; University of Portsmouth; University of Chester (Emerald, 2022-06-03)
    Purpose – Educational policy instruments such as apprenticeship levy and forthcoming lifetime skills guarantee are creating unprecedented opportunities for rapid growth in a range of work-based learning (WBL) programmes, requiring increasingly complex levels of collaboration between providers and employers. Apprenticeships require providers to assume responsibility in ensuring apprentices’ work-based managers and mentors (WBMMs) are equipped to provide effective support to individuals as they learn ‘on the job’. After six years of higher education institution (HEI) apprenticeship curriculum delivery there is opportunity to examine existing WBMM practice to inform the design, content and delivery of a shared knowledge base via a practical interactive toolkit. By developing clearer understanding of WBMMs’ experiences, expectations and challenges, the study aims to reduce potential gaps in knowledge and skills and encourage more effective collaboration between employers and providers to better support apprentices as they progress through WBL programmes. Design/methodology/approach – This paper discusses evolution of higher level and degree apprenticeships, explores guidance for WBMMs and investigates the influence of expectations and motivations of WBMMS. Theoretical and conceptual foundations relating to WBL programme delivery and WBMM role are analysed and discussed. Qualitative data drawn from semi-structured surveys are analysed thematically to investigate common patterns, clarify understanding and identify development areas to inform future university provider and employer practice. Findings - The findings suggest a number of themes to improve apprentice management; further clarity of WBMMs role, greater involvement of WBMM’s for negotiated learning, unplanned experiences do add value and scope for richer mentoring dialogues. WBL value for WBMMs is broader than expected, incorporating apprentice performance and output improvements, and solving complex problems. Research limitations/implications - The research is drawn from an established University with five years of experience. However, the context in which programmes are delivered significantly varies according to providers and employers. This means factors other than those highlighted in this paper may continue to emerge as the research in this field develops. Practical implications- The practical implications from findings can be used to cultivate stronger collaboration, providing a foundation of knowledge intended to provoke further dialogue regarding content for an interactive toolkit. The findings signal the need for further resources, a review of the restrictions associated with levy funding for co-creation of a more effective national apprenticeship framework. Originality / Value - This paper builds on a limited body of research examining employers’ perspectives of apprenticeship management. Degree apprenticeships have attracted limited scholarly attention over six years since their inception (Bowman, 2022) resulting in a significant paucity of research that focuses upon employer role. This study addresses this void by exploring WBMMs experiences, requirements and expectations, revealing new insights for providers of WBL, employers and individuals employed as WBMMs.
  • Thriving at Work (Integrated Learning): An investigation into adult learners’ experiences of vitality and learning when successfully engaging with work integrated learning

    Wall, Tony; Foster, Scott; Weston, Philippa (University of Chester, 2021-08)
    Higher Education (HE) has a key role in re-educating an aging UK workforce through part-time programmes aimed at older (30+) working adults. However, since 2010 HE enrolments have plummeted further compounded by high attrition rates. As such, there is an urgent need for HE to research this important but overlooked student category in order to attract and support them. As a HE lecturer in work integrated learning, the researcher has a vested interest in addressing this gap as well as contributing to the thriving at work literature. Taking a social constructivist stance, narrative inquiry has been applied to explore eleven adult work integrated learners’ experiences of thriving to gain a deeper understanding of what positively influences their vitality and learning and how HE can facilitate them. Her findings show learners’ vitality towards work integrated learning mirror their vitality towards work. The opportunity to shape and share learning helps elevate and maintain vitality levels as well as deepen the learning experience so enabling them to thrive. Further, attitudes are not only influenced by the current context but also experiences and events from childhood. However, although HE tutors can positively influence learners’ experience of work integrated learning, most of HE appears to have little impact. As well as exploring thriving in the context of work integrated learning, this study contributes to the thriving at work literature by providing insights which suggest vitality exhibits state-like and trait-like qualities. When vitality combines with work integrated learning, it creates a virtuous circle where one construct builds on the other to enable the learner to thrive. This is further enhanced by learners’ shaping and sharing their learning experience with others. However, learners’ ability to engage with HE successfully in the present is also influenced by their experiences from the past and can impact on their needs and expectations. To attract and retain this important learner category, HE must understand and respond to learners’ needs and expectations not just via interactions with specific tutors but through the HE systems and processes laid down to support them.

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