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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  • Internationalization of liquor in the age of social media: Navigating the digital silk road through netnography

    Fenton, Alex; Qian, Ann; University of Chester (Sichuan University of Science and Engineering, 2024-04)
    We presented Internationalization of baijiu in the age of social media: Navigating the digital silk road through netnography
  • Remote yet connected: Two focus areas for elevating organisational belonging in virtual teams

    Turnbull, Helen; University of Chester (Emerald, 2024-05-17)
    Purpose – This viewpoint paper provides recommendations in two key leadership areas to improve belonging and connectedness in remote teams. Design/methodology/approach – This paper synthesises recent academic and contextual literature regarding virtual teams, organisational belonging and generations coupled with the authors practical experience as a leader within a multi-national organisation. Findings – Two focus areas related to leaders as critical actors in organisations and the improvement of leaders’ social skills to drive improved socialisation, connection and belonging in the workplace. Originality/Value – In the changing working landscape of continued remote working, wider workforce demographics and declining organisational engagement this paper contributes to literature by presenting two key areas coupled with practical recommendations for HR professionals, leaders, and organisations to focus on to improve belonging.
  • Re-visiting the Leadership Gap: How to lead in a task-focused work system.

    Murphy, Liam; Turnbull, Helen; University of Chester (Pact4Youth Association, 2024-04-02)
    The organisational focus on workplace automation is fuelling the evolution of the labour market towards task focused work systems, and an emerging gig economy. This evolution creates new demands on organisational leaders to introduce flexible and agile management techniques, whilst maintaining a strategic focus on upskilling and reskilling their employees for a digitalised world. We revisit our previous GJSD paper, “Mind the leadership gap”, to further emphasise these aspects of the changing work environment and introduce 1. Their potential influence on organisational belonging, and 2. The resultant impact on leadership styles and skills. This paper presents a short synthesis of the complex challenges faced by leaders within such an operating environment. This is followed by four further proposals for the future research agenda along with two suggested research methods which enhance our previous call to action on the leadership gap.
  • From Surviving to Thriving - Leading the Way to Decent Hybrid Workplaces

    Franzen-Waschke, Ute; University of Chester (Springer, 2024-04-07)
    As we transition out of the pandemic, enjoying more flexible workplaces and worktimes, a bright future seems ahead for employees and employers. However, studies show that job types and industries determine choice, that remuneration policies often favour on-site over remote options, and that increasing the flexibility of working hours can affect the workforce’s well-being. New skills and behaviours are needed in the use of technology and in leadership, and different aspects, compared to before the pandemic, may influence the career choices of the next-generation workforce. In these new circumstances, Business Schools are invited to adapt their curricula and companies might envision an update of their in-company continuous learning and development programmes to allow for these new workplaces and learning scenarios to become more sustainable. This study adopts an abductive approach to literature review which entwines literature and first-hand experience to identify lessons for business schools and beyond. The findings of this piece call for a more serious prioritisation of Decent Work (SDG8) for equal opportunities, equal pay, and well-being.
  • The Influence of Joe Wicks on Physical Activity During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Thematic, Location, and Social Network Analysis of X Data

    Ahmed, Wasim; Aiyenitaju, Opeoluwa; Chadwick, Simon; Hardey, Mariann Maz; Fenton, Alex; University of Stirling; Manchester Metropolitan University; SKEMA Business School, Paris; Durham University; University of Chester (JMIR Publications, 2024-03-29)
    Background: Social media (SM) was essential in promoting physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among people confined to their homes. Joe Wicks, a fitness coach, became particularly popular on SM during this time, posting daily workouts that millions of people worldwide followed. Objective: This study aims to investigate the influence of Joe Wicks on SM and the impact of his content on physical activity levels among the public. Methods: We used NodeXL Pro (Social Media Research Foundation) to collect data from X (formerly Twitter) over 54 days (March 23, 2020, to May 15, 2020), corresponding to the strictest lockdowns in the United Kingdom. We collected 290,649 posts, which we analyzed using social network analysis, thematic analysis, time-series analysis, and location analysis. Results: We found that there was significant engagement with content generated by Wicks, including reposts, likes, and comments. The most common types of posts were those that contained images, videos, and text of young people (school-aged children) undertaking physical activity by watching content created by Joe Wicks and posts from schools encouraging pupils to engage with the content. Other shared posts included those that encouraged others to join the fitness classes run by Wicks and those that contained general commentary. We also found that Wicks’network of influence was extensive and complex. It contained numerous subcommunities and resembled a broadcast network shape. Other influencers added to engagement with Wicks via their networks. Our results show that influencers can create networks of influence that are exhibited in distinctive ways. Conclusions: Our study found that Joe Wicks was a highly influential figure on SM during the COVID-19 pandemic and that his content positively impacted physical activity levels among the public. Our findings suggest that influencers can play an important role in promoting public health and that government officials should consider working with influencers to communicate health messages and promote healthy behaviors. Our study has broader implications beyond the status of fitness influencers. Recognizing the critical role of individuals such as Joe Wicks in terms of health capital should be a critical area of inquiry for governments, public health authorities, and policy makers and mirrors the growing interest in health capital as part of embodied and digital experiences in everyday life.
  • Motivating, developing and retaining talent through job enrichment: an exploration of “side-of-desk” projects in a corporate environment

    Thomas, Carla; Rowe, Lisa; Moore, Neil; University of Chester (Emerald, 2023-12-25)
    Global talent shortages, new skill demand and rising numbers of unfilled posts are fuelling an increasingly challenging job market, exacerbated by economic uncertainty and transformational digital change. Seeking creative solutions in response, the authors examine talent management’s (TM) theoretical and conceptual foundations, specifically the identification and selection of talent and TM programme design to explore the challenges and benefits of side-of-desk projects as interventions. Design/methodology/approach Taking an inductive qualitative approach, questionnaires, focus groups and semi-structured interviews gathered data from three employee groups in a UK digital communications organisation. Findings The authors reveal inconsistencies in the definition and selection of talent, highlighting programme quality challenges to expose a direct correlation between participant experience and motivation and retention, along with the longer-term challenges of balancing talented human capital, shareholder expectations and sustainable workforce resourcing. Originality/value The authors' research extends existing knowledge concerning the effect of organisational culture, context and workforce demands upon TM programmes, providing theoretical and practical implications for leaders and policymakers in designing enrichment activities to motivate, develop and retain talent. The authors make recommendations to inform the future design of TM programmes, revealing new opportunities to develop hidden talent and presenting a realistic and sustainable toolkit for future practice in the form of an organisational logic model.
  • “Mind the Leadership Gap!” A Call to Action for the Future Research Agenda

    Murphy, Liam; Turnbull, Helen; University of Chester (Pact4Youth Association, 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.

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