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A clear approach to new ideas: Dr Kamal Birdi’s work highlighted by the ESRC

Friday, July 24th, 2015

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His work on creativity and innovation in the workplace has gained momentum over the last decade, and with the launch of a CLEAR IDEAS iPad app earlier this year, Dr Kamal Birdi’s work on the framework is starting to make a significant impact on public services in the Sheffield City Region.

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) have highlighted Kamal’s study as a key impact case-study on their website, focusing on how the CLEAR IDEAS innovation development model has improved cost-efficiency in service delivery for public sector organisations, leading to savings of £1.7million for social care services in Sheffield.

Click here to read the whole article on the ESRC website.

Kamal explained the benefits of the CLEAR IDEAS framework to us: “CLEAR IDEAS is a way of tackling problems more creatively. It’s not just a way of helping you come up with more ideas; it will also help you pick which ideas to take forward and will assist you in putting those ideas into practice more effectively.

“Lots of innovations or creative efforts fail because the individual doesn’t come up with enough original ideas, doesn’t know how to pick which ideas to take forward, can’t get buy-in to their ideas or know how to implement them.

“As a result, some potentially great ideas fail because creativity and innovation aren’t taken into account well enough. So what the CLEAR IDEAS approach does is it helps develop the skills and knowledge in people in terms of how to tackle problems creatively, and come up with an innovation. The app is a way of embedding that process that you can carry out yourself – give it a problem, and it will take you through ten steps you need to go through to come up with new ideas, picking those ideas, and coming up with a strategy for implementing them.”

The ESRC also highlighted Kamal’s contribution to the Festival of Social Sciences 2013 in this document (page 31).

Now Kamal has trained over 1,000 individuals worldwide, the benefits have become tangible – key successes from the ESRC piece are highlighted below:

  • An estimated £1.7million saving was made by Sheffield City Council by introducing cost-effective and more efficient practices in the delivery of adult social care services.
  • South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue used CLEAR IDEAS’s creative-thinking techniques to make improvements in the fitting of 19,000 smoke alarms, with a cost-saving in materials alone of 3p per unit. In addition, the simple and effective solution which was adopted led to a reduced need for trained staff when refitting previously poorly-installed smoke alarms.
  • CLEAR IDEAS techniques were used to influence the adoption of an alternative drug for gastric medication in Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust. Savings of £10,000 per year were estimated to have been made by the Trust, due to more accurate administration, dosage and patient compliance.
  • A training resource including the CLEAR IDEAS model was developed in 2010 to enhance the leadership and skills of public sector managers and employees. Since introduction, 216 people from local councils, NHS Trusts, the police, fire and rescue service, educational institutions and other local services have participated.

Find out more about Kamal’s research here, and download the app for your iPad here.

 

Forward thinking: Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Regional Development conference comes to Sheffield

Friday, June 12th, 2015

Dr-Nick-Williams

If the Northern Powerhouse is going to come to fruition, locations like the Sheffield City Region need to innovate. With this in mind, the timely arrival of the eighth International Conference for Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Regional Development (ICEIRD2015) in the city next week is certainly appropriate.

The conference which aims to address key factors in fostering entrepreneurship at national and regional level, share good practice in innovation research, facilitate regional partnerships and promote open innovation networks, is being hosted by academic members of the Centre for Regional Economic and Enterprise Development (CREED), a group of researchers at Sheffield University Management School (University of Sheffield).

Conference Chair, Dr Nick Williams (pictured), said: “Sheffield is a city which is changing, moving from traditional industries to a modern, diverse economy. The debates which take place at ICEIRD2015, regarding how city and regional economies can bounce back from crisis and grow again directly reflect the policy debates taking place in Sheffield and elsewhere.

“CREED is a leading research centre producing cutting edge work on entrepreneurship, innovation and regional development. It therefore provides a natural home for the conference, which is being held at the heart of the University of Sheffield campus. We hope our international delegation will enjoy not only the rigorous academic panel sessions, but also the energy of our city and the university itself.”

Keynote speakers include Professor Susan Marlow of the University of Nottingham who will present on ‘searching for the elusive female entrepreneur’, Professor Aard Groen from the University of Twente discussing ‘Entrepreneurial ecosystems’ and Michael Kitson of Cambridge University who opens his dialogue on ‘The role of the university in the innovation ecosystem’.
Sheffield’s world-class conference facilities will play host to ICEIRD2015, which is to be held at INOX, in the University of Sheffield Students’ Union.

Dr Williams continued: “ICEIRD2015 will focus on how entrepreneurship and innovation can help to drive regional and city economies to grow. Much of the focus will be on how the recent economic crisis has presented challenges and how these may be overcome through effective policy.

“Sheffield University Management School is producing leading research on these topics and will contribute to the debates taking place across the two days.”

Find out more about ICEIRD2015 on the website: www.iceird2015.com

Flexicurity: WOERRC event lifts the lid on future directions

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

Andrew-Gamble  MikkelMailand  SusanMilner

Labour Market Security and Flexibility: The Future Directions of Flexicurity in the Age of Austerity, was the title of an event jointly hosted at Sheffield University Management School by the Work, Organisation and Employment Relations Research Centre (WOERRC) and the Academic Association for Contemporary European Studies (UACES)

Delegates enjoyed a day of lively discussion on the subject, covering such areas as the changing political ideology of labour market regulation, the impact of European youth employment policies before and during the crisis and whether flexicurity is a spent concept. Views from speakers were certainly of a European nature, bringing perspectives from Denmark, France, Spain, Greece and Ireland.

The event was attended by a number of scholars, including PhD students, with an interest in the area – speakers included WOERRC members Prof Jason Heyes and Dr Thomas Hastings, as well as Paul Lewis (University of Birmingham), Prof Andrew Gamble (University of Sheffield – pictured above left) and Phil Whyman (University of Central Lancashire), Mikkel Mailand (University of Copenhagen – pictured above middle), Susan Milner (University of Bath – pictured above right), Oscar Molina (UAB) and Orestis Papadopoulos (Keele University).

Dr Hastings said: “The workshop addressed three main questions – firstly, are member states genuinely seeking to achieve flexicurity or will the future of work simply involve ‘less security’ for workers; secondly, what impact have supra- and international institutions had on national labour market policies; and thirdly, does flexicurity need to be re-thought or simply abandoned?

“Attendees readily engaged with the discussions so it was a rigorous but enjoyable workshop, with funding coming from a small event grant by UACES.”

Read more about WOERRC here.

Prof Williams sees European-level successes in tackling undeclared economy

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

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A series of high-profile keynotes means that combating the cash-in-hand economy is now close to the top of the European Commission’s policy agenda.

Following two high-level European conferences in April, held in Bucharest and Dubrovnik, Sheffield University Management School’s Professor Colin Williams has recently presented two further talks at European seminars in Brussels.

On 21 May, a seminar was held for the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion on developing policy towards self-employment. Given the greater likelihood of the self-employed participating in off-the-books work, Prof Williams provided an advisory talk on how the European Commission could join-up its policy on self-employment with its policy on tackling undeclared work.

Later in May, Prof Williams gave a keynote presentation to Copa-Cogeca, the united voice of farmers and agri-cooperatives in the EU, representing 28million farmers. This conference was designed to tackle undeclared work in the agricultural sector and included representatives from the National Farmers Union in the UK, FNSEA in France and their equivalents from 20 other European member states.

The European Parliament is currently engaged in a legislative initiative to establish a European Platform for Combating Undeclared Work which, if approved, will be established by the end of 2015. In 2010, Professor Williams conducted an evaluation of the feasibility and design of this EU Platform for the European Commission.

Workplace mediation – Prof Paul Latreille paper discusses NHS study

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

Workplace conflict takes its toll on employees, both those directly involved or on the periphery of an issue. A recent CIPD study suggests four in ten UK employees experienced some form of interpersonal conflict in the previous year, with impacts including reduced motivation or commitment, and one in ten of those in conflict moving job or leaving their organisation. Organisations have increasingly turned to workplace mediation as a way of helping to resolve issues more quickly and easily, but few – at least outside of the US – have integrated it as part of a conflict management system.

However, Prof Paul Latreille at the Management School has recently completed a project with Associate Prof Richard Saundry at Plymouth University that investigates the implementation and operation of such a system at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (NHCT). The final report is based on a survey of operational managers and over 50 interviews with key stakeholders, and examines the key features of the system and its development, as well as providing early findings as to its impact.

In common with previous research, workplace mediation was seen to have had a significant impact on staff, with nine out of ten mediations resulting in an agreement and most respondents feeling that their situation had improved as a result. Crucially however, NHCT’s more systemic and strategic approach – which includes stress risk assessments, mediation, team facilitation, conflict coaching and training – goes beyond simply mediation, and was found to be having a positive impact on the Trust and its employees. As Prof Latreille notes: “The key for organisations is to move beyond seeing interpersonal conflict as a purely transactional issue. As managers in our survey reported, not only can conflict lead to wasted staff and management time, together with reduced motivation and productivity, it can potentially compromise patient care. Conflict needs to be recognised as a legitimate part of the organisational vocabulary, and a strategic approach to it adopted that focuses on prevention, early intervention, management and resolution.”

Although Latreille and Saundry acknowledge that challenges remain, they argue NHCT represents a unique example in the UK of an organisation that has adopted such a strategic approach to conflict management, and there is evidence that this has led to the development of a culture in which early resolution of issues is encouraged and a collaborative culture is embedded. “The evidence suggests the changes have led to significant improvements in the working environment, as measured for example by the Trust’s staff survey results for 2014. These show NHCT is now among the top 20 per cent for many of the questions, and the best for an acute trust in relation to bullying,” Prof Latreille added.

You can download the report from Acas’s website now.

In 2012/13, Latreille and Saundry were co-conveners on an ESRC seminar series which brought together academics, practitioners and policy makers. This is where TCM Group’s David Liddle – who worked with NHCT in establishing the scheme – put forward the Trust as an interesting case-study of an organisation that had moved beyond workplace mediation.

The findings from the study will shortly receive international exposure when Prof Latreille presents a paper based on the research at the Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA) Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh at the end of this month. Scheduled alongside world-leading experts from UCLA and Cornell in the AILR/LERA Best Papers Symposium, this will provide an opportunity to showcase some of the work being undertaken within the Management School aligned to its mission in respect of socially-responsible work practices.

Out of the shadows: SUMS contributes to high-level conference on combating undeclared work in the EU

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

Seating Delegates

In Dubrovnik in late April 2015, Deputy Prime Ministers, Cabinet Ministers and senior government officials from 24 European countries met to discuss how they could cooperate to tackle the undeclared economy.

Professor Colin Williams from Sheffield University Management School was invited by the host, Milanka Opacic, Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia, to provide the keynote address on approaches towards tackling undeclared work in the European Union.

The outcome, expressed well by Helena Dalli, Minister of Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties in the Maltese government, was a raised awareness that besides complementing the traditional ‘sticks’ approach that punishes non-compliance with more ‘carrots’ to reward compliance, there was also a need for introducing awareness campaigns on the consequences of undeclared work targeted at enterprises, workers and the general public.

Summarising the view of many countries, Deputy Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Ivaiol Kalfin stated: “Promotion of regulated labour relations between Bulgaria and other EU and non-EU countries is a priority of the government”. The European Commission representative present, Jader Cane, urged governments to make full use of the European Social Fund to undertake coordinated responses.

Professor Colin Williams is currently coordinating a Marie Curie project entitled ‘Out of the shadows: developing capacities and capabilities for tackling undeclared work in Bulgaria, Croatia and FYR Macedonia’, which is seeking to raise understanding among South-East European governments about the need to transcend the ‘sticks’ and ‘carrots’ approach and to tackle it more indirectly by introducing greater awareness amongst citizens of the consequences of undeclared work so that they self-regulate themselves, rather than need to be forced to be compliant through enforcement authorities.

See the website for this project here.

Combating illegal trade and the shadow economy in Europe – SUMS’ Professor Colin Williams paves the way

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

 CW-speaking  ITIC

Senior tax policy, tax administration and customs officials from 19 Eurasian countries met in Bucharest at the end of April 2015 to learn more about the latest strategies to tackle multibillion-dollar revenue losses stemming from illegal trade, counterfeits, and other aspects of the shadow economy.

Sheffield University Management School’s Professor Colin Williams (pictured above, and with other conference delegates) gave the opening academic overview (PDF) and closing review of policy approaches.

As one of only two academic experts invited, other speakers included senior officials from the U.S. State Department, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Customs Organization, Interpol and Europol, as well as senior officials from multi-national corporations in the tobacco (JT International, British American Tobacco), alcohol (SABMiller) and pharmaceuticals (Pfizer) industries.

The two-day ‘International Conference on the Shadow Economy and Taxation’ was co-hosted by the International Tax and Investment Center, a non-profit research and education organisation focused on tax reform and public-private initiatives to improve the investment climate in transition economies, and Euromonitor Business Consulting Services.

Professor Williams, along with experienced enforcement officials, concluded the conference by advising that a new approach was essential as we cannot police ourselves out of the current situation, and argued that we need to make it easier and more attractive for people and businesses to move from the shadow to the formal economy.

SUMS PhD student will ‘get noticed’ with infographic win

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

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Sheffield University Management School doctoral researcher, Cristian-Andrei Gherhes (pictured above), has won the opportunity to have his research brought to life in an infographic by Research Media, an organisation that supports researchers in creating and disseminating updates, outcomes and impacts to a broad audience.

Cristian, whose collaborative PhD studentship is with Doncaster MBC, was one of five winners in Research Media’s PhD Portfolio Competition, and he is now working with them on the project. He said: “I won the infographic prize which will be designed by experts at Research Media and will allow me to showcase the gist of my research in an innovative manner.”

Research Media launched the competition in a bid to raise the profile of early career researchers and illustrate the outstanding work being produced within UK institutions. Five prizes were on offer, each with the goal of aiding students in bringing clarity from the complexity of their PhD research projects. Close to 200 applicants from 68 universities entered the competition with winners picked at random.

Cristian continued: “The title of my research project is: ‘Understanding micro-business growth constraints and the implications for regional economic resilience in an uncompetitive post-industrial region’. The post-industrial region refers to the Sheffield City Region. What I am aiming to get across through the infographic is the historical context of the region, the current economic situation, key data about micro-businesses and how they can play an essential role in revitalising the region’s economy and advancing economic resilience.”

Vicky Williams, CEO of Research Media said: “PhD students are doing some outstanding work but face the challenge of making their research visible. We are committed to raising the profile of early career researchers. I am delighted to congratulate the winners and look forward to seeing the final pieces from across all five prizes.”

Congratulations from the Management School Cristian – we look forward to seeing the completed infographic.

An international experience – WOERRC introduces students to global leadership in Geneva

Friday, March 27th, 2015

Group-Sign   Jason-Tom-Dean

This week’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) governing body meeting in Geneva had comprehensive representation from Sheffield University Management School’s staff and students.

Working with Global Learning Opportunities in the Social Sciences (GLOSS), Professor Jason Heyes and Dr Thomas Hastings from the Work, Organisation and Employment Relations Research Centre (WOERRC) at the Management School have taken a group of Management and Politics students to the event.

Prof Heyes explained: “The ILO is a United Nations organisation that is responsible for developing and promoting international labour standards and helping its 185 member countries to promote decent work. It is governed on a tripartite basis by governments, employer bodies and trade unions from its member countries. Its governing body meeting develops policy recommendations that are then discussed and ratified at the International Labour Conference.

“As Director of WOERRC, I have a longstanding relationship with the ILO. The students have listened to debates regarding the global challenges facing the ILO, freedom of association, legal issues and international development. Thanks to my connection with the ILO, and the efforts of Sian Parkinson from GLOSS, they have met with ILO officials to discuss social dialogue, migration and employment and have also met an ILO intern – Aaron Booth – who is a former MSc Human Resource Management student from the Management School, recommended to the ILO by myself.

“The students will write a number of policy briefs on issues discussed during the trip. These will be disseminated via WOERRC and GLOSS and will also be highlighted at an event in Westminster on 15 June, which will be attended by PVC of the Faculty of Social Sciences Professor Gill Valentine and to which officials from the ILO and relevant UK organisations will be invited.”

The opportunity to attend this year’s governing body meeting was advertised to final-year BA Business Management and International Business Management students, as well as those on the MSc Human Resource Management and MSc International Business programmes. Prof Heyes and his team selected BA Business Management & Economics student Dean Broomhead as an attendee on the basis of a strong application which highlighted his interest in the ILO and his knowledge of its remit and activities.

We asked Dean what encouraged him to apply for the trip: “Primarily, my motivation behind applying was the fact that this was an incredible, unique opportunity. To have such an experience I believed would not only enhance my wider knowledge but also increase my employability.

“There hasn’t been a single ‘typical’ day at the event. We’ve had the flexibility to tailor our time to areas that we found interesting. Over the course of the trip, I’ve sat in on governing body meetings discussing a vast array of issues and had the opportunity to speak to ILO employees on their fields of expertise. We’ve also visited several other United Nations buildings. Two particular stand-out moments would be visiting ‘the palace of nations’ (the UN headquarters) as it was great to see the history and importance of such a place, and secondly sitting in on the governing body meetings of the ILO, with regards to accusations and breaking of conventions. I was able to see true diplomacy in action on several controversial and topical issues.

“I can certainly relate much of what I’ve learnt back to my degree. Whilst the wider awareness and experience is obviously fantastic, I now have a greater understanding of many topics that I can specifically convey in to my work at University. With relation to career prospects, I am certain this will help me. Not only have I had the chance to grow my network, but also the opportunity to develop many transferable skills.”

Dean found out about the opportunity through his Industrial Relations module, but there was plenty of email correspondence and promotion around the School – he encourages his peers to pay attention to such opportunities: “Whilst sometimes they can be on barely noticeable emails, there are opportunities do things like this through the Management School and I haven’t regretted any moment here. I’m a firm believer in saying yes to any opportunities like this. I doubt many students in the UK or even globally have had the chance to work in agencies of the United Nations and brush shoulders with diplomats and specialists alike.”

The ILO is an international organisation and this has been a fantastic opportunity for students to learn about the work, employment and employment relations challenges facing different countries around the world and to gain a better understanding of how policies are developed and implemented. Keep an eye out for similar opportunities through GLOSS and WOERRC.

http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/gloss

http://www.woerrc.group.shef.ac.uk/

The King of SPIN – Neil Rackham returns to ‘shake things up’

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Neil Rackham

Two decades on, his 1995 text, SPIN Selling, is still lauded as the most influential sales book of all time, and more than half the US Fortune 500 use models from that research to train their sales teams. Professor Neil Rackham’s studies have stood the test of time, but as he makes clear in this interview – it’s important to evolve. In his own words: “It’s a Darwinian world out there. Adapt or die.”

In March we welcome US-based Neil back to these shores as Visiting Professor to Sheffield University Management School. Ahead of his return, we spoke to him about the sales and marketing sector where he has such legacy, his current research and any advice he may have for our students.

On the state of the sector, Neil identifies a number of key shifts in sales and marketing, albeit in the USA: “The integration of sales and marketing or, at least, a major shift in how they work together is finally underway. It’s curious that the only two functions in the organisation with an identical mission – the generation of profitable revenue – should so rarely work well together. A few years ago, Professor Philip Kotler and I wrote an article in Harvard Business Review called ‘Ending the war between sales and marketing’. It created a lot of interest; less because of the article itself, more because many senior executives thought that they had big problems in this area.

“The internet has forced new thinking and has taken over the selling of simple products. In many companies, marketing now does the selling, using the website, social media and telesales. Sales, meanwhile, has focused on high level, complex business-to-business selling. This change has altered the way companies think the roles of sales and marketing.”

As a University of Sheffield alumnus, Neil remembers the city fondly and has some advice for students considering a career in the sales and marketing arena: “As little as five years ago, if a student asked me if they should make a career in sales or marketing, I would tell them, ‘It’s a great place to start, but don’t stay there too long unless your sole objective is to make money: you’ll die of boredom’. Not so today. A background in both marketing and sales is an invaluable springboard to senior management success. Selling, in particular, has become complex, strategic and professional – it’s about creativity; nothing to do with the old stereotypes of persuasion and pushiness. It’s about creating new value.

“However, the days are long gone when you could succeed in either sales or marketing by seat-of-the-pants methods. Just like a doctor, lawyer, architect or any other profession, there’s a need for certification, standards and continuing professional development. The field is moving incredibly fast: the knowledge you had three years ago is already nearing the end of its shelf life. Bodies like the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) have an increasingly important role in keeping us up-to-date and providing an assurance to potential employers that we are competent professionals.

As well as speaking at the Management School on 12 March, Neil is looking forward to developing his research network and working with students: “What I hope to do at Sheffield University Management School is to inspire some smart and talented students to enter this exciting and fast-moving area. I always learn from working with students – much more than I learn from working in boardrooms. I get out of it a whole lot of ideas. I’m fed up with explaining social media to geriatric senior managers. I love it when a student tells me things I didn’t know about, say, trending bloggers.”

As this article noted earlier, Neil’s popular texts are still influencing sales teams worldwide and his research career hasn’t slowed down – though it has a slightly different focus: “I’ve lost interest in the large corporations like IBM, Oracle or Citicorp who funded my early research. Most of the new wealth today isn’t being generated by these dinosaurs. It’s coming from small nimble companies that are creative and fun to work with. That’s where I like to be.

“The methods I pioneered in the 1980s, by all rights, should be long extinct in 2015. But they are not. There’s a wide perception in business that the methods still work. Of course they have to adapt to new times and I can see a lot of possible changes I’d like to explore, but the fundamentals are still alive and well.

“My present research concerns ‘pipelines’. In sales, a pipeline is the amount of business a company has where the sale has been started but may not result in a final contract for a year or more. I’m interested in things like how do you speed the rate of flow in this pipe and how do you increase its yield. I’m also working on sales and marketing integration and I find myself fascinated with how really big sales are made; where there may be a team of 50 people working on one billion dollar sale. That’s exciting stuff. It really gets your adrenaline going to know that tomorrow you’re going to hear if you’ve won or lost one of these giant contacts.”

Neil’s research is still hugely popular, but it’s how this has influenced his practice that also interests us. As founder of Huthwaite International, a global research and consulting firm based close to Sheffield, he has always been concerned with the role of sales and marketing practitioners in an organisational context. We asked Neil to elaborate on how important it is that this sector is represented on a company board: “The big contribution that sales and marketing make to corporate boards is to bring the voice of the customer. That’s often sorely missing – even today – in traditional companies. I confidently predict that both sales and marketing will have an increasing presence, and an increasing impact, at board level in the future.”

In many sectors, this is a controversial proposition indeed. Then again, Neil’s never been afraid to cause a stir: “In my student days at Sheffield, when I was Secretary of the Union [my membership is still up to date] I was a loud and enthusiastic troublemaker. Today I’m less loud and a little more subtle about it but, once a troublemaker, always a troublemaker. I hope to shake a few things up – in a professional and professorial way, of course.”

We’re confident that the world of sales and marketing will be eternally grateful for Neil’s troublemaking ways. We look forward to welcoming them back to Sheffield University Management School in March.

Book your place for Neil’s talk on 12 March on our Management Gateway – click here.