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Intensive competition challenges our students in Canada

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016
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Gerardo, Lena, Cristian and Emad

For 48 hours, four of our postgraduate students are ‘cut off’ from the world – working on a business case in an international competition in Canada.

The fifth International Graduate Competition (IGC), held annually by HEC Montreal, has brought together a number of student teams from world-leading universities to collaborate and compete around a live business case on the themes of network economics, marketing, strategy and IT management.

As one of the first UK teams to attend the competition, the Sheffield group join attendees from Australia, America, Canada and all over Europe. The Management School-funded trip, run and also attended by members of the Centre for Regional Economy and Enterprise Development (CREED) provides a fantastic opportunity for the students who underwent a rigorous selection process.

The students in attendance are Lena Suess (MSc Creative and Cultural Industries Management), Cristian Gherhes (PhD student with CREED), Gerardo Taboada (MSc Logistics and Supply Chain Management) and Emad Ejielat (MSc Entrepreneurship and Management).

Prof Tim Vorley, who is attending the competition in Montreal as a mentor with Dr Robert Wapshott, said: “The six-day event has begun with a series of ice-breaking, team-building sessions, followed by lectures and workshops which are relevant to the themes. Following this, the students were given the brief and have been put into a period of 48 hours with no contact from the outside world, apart from the opportunity to interview experts from the company that has set the business case.

“On Wednesday, the students present their projects. They prepare a 60 page analysis and recommendations and pitch it to the organisation.

“It’s a great opportunity for the students and has given the Management School a presence on this international stage, where we can build links with similar, accredited schools.”

Comment: Lifetime ISA – there’s a big part of the ‘next generation’ it will do little for. By Prof Josephine Maltby

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

By Prof Josephine Maltby Chair in Accounting at Sheffield University Management School. Originally published on The Conversation.

The mission statement for the 2016 budget delivered by George Osborne is to “put the next generation first” – a group he referenced 18 times in his speech.

The new lifetime ISA is fundamental to achieving this. Osborne touted it as “a completely new flexible way for the next generation to save”. But a closer look at the terms and conditions of the new ISA shows there are many it will not benefit.

So, what is it?

Starting in April 2017, savers aged between 18 and 40 who open the new lifetime ISA and put in up to £4,000 a year will get a 25% top-up from the government until they reach 50. That means a maximum of £128,000 in personal savings that will be topped up to £160,000 if you start at 18 and continue for the 32 years the ISA is available.

After the first 12 months of saving, investors can use the lifetime ISA balance to buy a house, provided it is a first-time purchase that costs no more than £450,000. And balances from the current Help-to-Buy ISA can be transferred across. After the age of 60, savers can withdraw funds “for retirement” free of tax. It is not clear whether that means the saver has to actually retire or just needs to be over 60.

Any withdrawals by savers under 60 who aren’t buying a house (unless they are terminally ill) will have the government top-up (plus any interest on it) deducted, and also suffer a 5% tax charge.

Inflexible

It is questionable how useful this new lifetime ISA is for the next generation. First off, it is not very flexible. Savers needing to draw money out before they reach 60 will be penalised if it is not being withdrawn for a first-time house purchase (or terminal illness). There is a dearth of opportunities for short or medium-term saving, and the budget offers no solution.

The Treasury’s own Policy Costings are also vague about what it will cost. The Treasury admits that:

The main source of uncertainty is the behavioural impact, because the cost of the top-up is extremely sensitive to it. In particular, assumptions are made about: the number of people choosing to use the lifetime ISA; how much they choose to save; and when they choose to withdraw.

There is little information that can be used to inform these assumptions and the behaviour is dependent on a variety of other factors, which amplifies the uncertainty.

Based on these uncertainties, the Treasury says it could cost £850m to service these ISA savings by 2021 – but this might be less or it might be more.

It all depends on the number of next generation members who can afford to use it. The £4,000-a-year maximum would be challenging for people on the median household disposable income, which for 2014-15 was £25,600 according to the Office for National Statistics.

On the other hand, as the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the UK’s fiscal watchdog, points out, wealthy parents could give their over-18 offspring an annual £4,000 for the ISA, attracting the £1,000 a year top-up.

Knock-on effects

The lifetime ISA joins up with the Help-to-Buy Scheme, currently viewed as having boosted UK property prices – by an average of £8,250 according to a 2015 Shelter study. The OBR warns that the new ISA will only increase demand for the relatively fixed supply of UK housing. It estimates that this could lead to an additional 0.3% increase in house prices.

Up, up and away – house prices, that is.
shutterstock.com

The ISA has another possible function, as a first step in a move towards an ISA-based regime for pensions. Instead of getting tax relief on pension contributions (as you do now), people using a pensions ISA would contribute from income after tax, but get their retirement income from it tax free.

Critics claim that this change may deter savers, as well as creating confusion while the new auto-enrolment scheme is still bedding down. The Association of British Insurers has been very cautious in welcoming the new ISA, commenting that it “must not be a back door to a pensions ISA”. But there is agreement in the industry that the new ISA is a likely step in that direction.

The new lifetime ISA also looks like a move toward asset-based welfare. This is where welfare policies are made not simply because they are helpful for as many people as possible – like social housing or nationalised health services. The lifetime ISA is aimed at a particular set of relatively affluent individuals who can afford to save for the long term.

Many of the next generation will never be able to save; some won’t be able to start at 18 (and maybe not even at 40) and some won’t be able to leave a lot of money in an ISA for the long term. George Osborne’s new lifetime ISA has little to offer those members of the next generation.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Understanding our international minds

Monday, March 14th, 2016

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What does it mean to be an international student? Are our students culturally agile and how does this develop when they come to Sheffield or when Sheffield students go abroad? Dr Panayiota Alevizou is conducting a research project to find out.

Emerging in 2014 as an interest from her Certificate in Learning and Teaching (CiLT), it rapidly evolved into a longitudinal study of internationalisation and cultural agility thanks to funding support from the Management School and Faculty of Social Sciences.

Panayiota’s project adopts a case-study approach, focusing on students studying the MSc in Global Marketing Management, where they spend the first semester in Sheffield and the second at Hong Kong Baptist University. By studying the challenges, barriers, and opportunities of two different educational settings, from two different student identity perspectives (as UK and Hong Kong based students), the student perspective unfolds. This offers a voice to their concerns, feelings and opinions in terms of internationalisation, and helps the institutional partners enhance students’ experience and prepare them for future professional paths.

To generate initial findings, which were recently presented at a Faculty event showcasing its Curriculum Development Funding projects, Panayiota observed and interviewed students during their lectures at both institutions, also discussing her project with academic and professional staff. Preliminary research strongly suggests that programmes with a semester abroad are preferred by both home and international students who view this ‘international setting’ as an educational advantage. Other findings relate to social interaction and activities, leadership, cultural flexibility and adaptability, in-group clashes and problem resolution.

The development of cultural agility and the ability of the Sheffield Graduate to work and compete in an international environment is one of the Learning and Teaching (L&T) Strategy priority themes of the University. Professor Paul Latreille, Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching in the Management School, said: “This is a really exciting project that addresses a vital issue for the school – learning about how our students experience multiple local contexts is central to helping them develop the cultural agility that is fundamental in the modern global business environment, and for which this programme in particular equips them.”

The study has continued with the latest cohort, and Panayiota will travel to Hong Kong in April to continue observation and interviews with a view to publishing the results in due course.

Encouraging innovation: SUMS team aim to improve labour conditions worldwide

Monday, March 14th, 2016

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Members of the WOERRC research centre, Prof Jason Heyes and Dr Thomas Hastings, recently took their expertise in employment rights to Durban in South Africa.

The duo trained members of the South African Department of Labour’s Inspection and Enforcement Services unit, using their newly developed toolkit – designed for the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The training, a pilot to check the quality of the toolkit, sought to educate labour inspectors further on issues relating to informal employment in South Africa and the potential risks for workers. Labour inspectors are responsible for inspecting workplaces, investigating bad practice and taking action where employers are failing to comply with the requirements of labour legislation. However, labour inspection in the informal economy, where employers might be hard to identify, is fraught with difficulties. Jason and Tom’s aim was to enhance the effectiveness of labour inspection in the informal economy by raising awareness, encouraging innovation and helping inspectors to identify obstacles and ways of getting around them.

South Africa was appropriate for a pilot training session as it has a large informal economy, which includes formal enterprises and formal sector businesses employing people on an informal basis. Jason and Tom created a dialogue with the inspectors through the session, and gathered feedback on its success. The course evaluation was extremely positive and the inspectors mentioned a variety of lessons and new ideas which they intended to implement in their work.

The training toolkit translates academic research into practical application and is designed to be universal – one section can be tailored to the country it is being used in. Jason said: “This is a toolkit designed for labour inspectorates all over the world. We hope to run sessions in other developing countries. By trialling it in this way, we will gather feedback that can inform future developments in the toolkit.”

Comment: Why Brexit would be bad for employment rights, by Prof Jason Heyes

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

Originally published on The Conversation.

Imagine a country in which there is no statutory right to paid holiday, no legal limit on the number of hours employees can be required to work, no right to a daily rest period, no laws to prevent employers discriminating against workers who are disabled or who have particular religious beliefs, and no right for employees to take time off work to look after a sick child.

This was the UK before the New Labour government was elected in 1997. Since then a substantial number of employment rights have been introduced – most of which have their roots in EU legislation.

Thanks to the EU, employers cannot treat part-time workers less favourably than full-time workers, working parents have a right to take leave to look after their children, and temporary agency workers and workers with fixed-term contracts are entitled to the same basic conditions as comparable workers with permanent contracts.

Employees also have rights to paid holiday and rest periods, as well as the right to be informed and consulted about matters that directly concern them at work. Employers, meanwhile, are forbidden from discriminating against their employees on grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. There’s strong reason to believe that many of these rights would be lost should Britain leave the EU.

Intolerable meddling?

For many in the Out campaign, the EU’s influence on UK employment rights amounts to intolerable meddling. Consecutive Conservative Party general election manifestos, for example, have promised to “repatriate” powers over employment rights from Brussels to the UK. Until recently, the current government had implied that it would not support a continuation of the UK’s EU membership without an opt-out from EU legislation covering employment rights.

In the run up to David Cameron’s EU membership negotiations, it was widely reported that he would demand a full opt-out for the UK from the EU’s working-time directive and the agency workers’ directive.

In the end these demands were never made. They would have required substantial treaty changes that would never have been countenanced by the other 27 members of the EU.

The case against being bound by EU employment rights legislation is that it is damaging to the UK economy, imposing substantial costs on employers. But the UK labour market remains one of the most lightly regulated in the EU, despite the influence of EU legislation.

David Cameron did not negotiate any employment opt-outs in his deal with the EU.
EPA/Olivier Hoslet

EU employment laws have generally been introduced in a minimalist way. UK workers are “free” to opt-out of the 48 hours-per-week limit set by the working-time directive. Rights to information and consultation do not apply to firms with fewer than 50 employees. Plus, many agency workers are not entitled to the same pay as directly employed workers doing the same job.

Employment protection legislation, which regulates dismissals, is weaker in the UK than in most other developed economies, as measured by the OECD’s index of employment protection. The EU has some influence in this area, for example by requiring employee consultation where collective redundancies are planned. But matters such as notice and probation periods are not regulated by the EU. And, when the 2010-15 coalition government extended the minimum amount of time someone had to work for a company before being able to claim unfair dismissal (from one year to two), it had no difficulty in doing so.

Going its own way

There are many employment-related issues that are not subject to EU legislation. These include pay (the National Minimum Wage is a home-grown policy), industrial action, and vocational training. Enforcement mechanisms, which are essential if rights are to be respected in practice, are also a matter for national governments alone and the recent introduction of a fees regime for employment tribunals has effectively weakened enforcement in the UK.

If the UK leaves the EU, it not clear that there will be a bonfire of employment legislation. Much would depend on the UK’s subsequent relationship with the EU, which would need to be negotiated. If the UK became part of the European Economic Area, it might continue to be bound by EU Directives covering employment and social issues.

Even if Brexit left the UK free to dismantle employment rights, a Conservative government wishing to be re-elected might see little political advantage in removing rights to parental leave or allowing employers to discriminate against people because of their religion or sexual orientation. It is highly likely, however, that the EU’s working-time regulations, which is a particular bug-bear for the Conservative Party, and the regulations for agency workers would be amended or repealed.

It is also conceivable that rights relating to transferred staff and the right to information and consultation when changes are made to your job would be weakened. Were the Conservative Party to remain in power and shift further to the right, however, there would be little to prevent a far more substantial attack on employment rights.

Workers have gained much from the UK’s membership of the EU and there are clear benefits to society from limiting working time, outlawing discrimination and providing entitlements to parental leave. Many of those who wish to end EU influence over UK employment legislation have one aim in mind – to take employment rights away from workers. If the UK leaves the EU, they are likely to have their way.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Leading accounting Professor honoured

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

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Fourty-two leading social scientists have been conferred as Fellows of the Academy of Social Sciences, including Management School Chair in Accounting and Finance Professor Josephine Maltby.

Fellows are drawn from across the spectrum of academia, practitioners, and policymakers and have been recognised after a process of peer review for the excellence and impact of their work in the social sciences. This includes thought leadership based on innovative research, the application of evidence for policy, the adoption of social science insights in practice and sustained advocacy that has improved the public understanding of issues where social science can make a contribution in higher education, government, and everyday life.

Josephine has an international reputation for her work on women as savers and investors and in the history of the accounting profession. Recent pieces for The Conversation have investigated savings history and charity finances. She also maintains relations with businesses such as Ratesetter, a P2P lending company for whom later this week she will discuss women and investment on an invited panel – click here to read more about the event.

The Academy of Social Sciences is Britain’s national academy of academics, learned societies and practitioners representing nearly 90,000 social scientists.

Where now for flexicurity? – new SPERI Global Political Economy Brief

Monday, March 7th, 2016

A new SPERI Global Political Economy Brief, published today, presents new research by SPERI Associate Fellows Professor Jason Heyes and Dr Thomas Hastings. The Brief shows that across the EU there has been a significant shift towards weaker job security and employment support since the global financial crisis.

Click here to download the report.

Key findings

  • Analysis of data from 19 European states shows that governments across the EU have increased labour market flexibility by weakening and removing employee protections, but have not increased support to help people back into the labour market.
  • This is a European-wide trend, but the dramatic shifts have been in southern Eurozone countries that have received financial bailouts.
  • The findings raise serious questions about the viability of the EU’s ‘flexicurity’ agenda which underpins the European Commission’s social policy and labour market programmes. Flexicurity is based on the idea that modern labour markets should be flexible but should also offer strong support and security for workers.

Professor Jason Heyes:

“In post-crisis Europe there has been a significant policy shift towards a more liberal model of weaker job security and increased labour market flexibility. This is a continent-wide trend and the UK is at the forefront. Britain’s highly flexible labour market used to be an outlier in Europe but now other countries’ systems are looking more like ours.

“Across European Union states it has become easier to lay-off workers, adult training and education provision is declining, and social security systems are being restructured with greater conditionality and ‘workfare’ approaches to benefit entitlements.

“Unless the European Commission and national governments start to remake the case for flexicurity then the prospects for its implementation across Europe look gloomy. However, this would require governments and the Troika to reverse their commitment to austerity and there are no signs that this is at all likely.”

Dr Thomas Hastings:

“The ‘European Social Model’ of strong employee protection and state support to help people back into work appears to be unravelling. No country bucks the trends of moving away from this model. Austerity economic policies are being prioritised over social policies, and this is seen most clearly in the southern states of Spain, Portugal and Greece where the Troika has demanded strict reforms.”

A cultural and intellectual exchange – developing our partnership with Kobe

Monday, February 29th, 2016
Dr Naoko Komori (centre) with Prof Andrew Simpson and Prof David Oglethorpe (left) and representatives from Kobe

Dr Naoko Komori (centre) with (L-R): Prof Andrew Simpson, Prof David Oglethorpe (Sheffield), Prof Katsuhiko Kokubu, Prof Kazumi Suzuki, Prof Hirofumi Matsuo and Ass Prof Takaaki Hoda (Kobe)

Following an invited trip to Japan in September 2015, Dr Naoko Komori, a lecturer in accounting at the Management School, has returned to Kobe University’s Graduate School of Business Administration with members of the executive board to further the relationship between the two institutions.

Naoko is leading the partnership which will focus on intellectual exchange, though may also develop into new areas over time. She said: “Since I started my PhD at Sheffield, I knew I wanted to bridge Japan and the UK – two very important players in the contemporary knowledge creation which are very different in cultural heritage. There is too much indigenous knowledge on Japan that still remains untranslated in international academic arena.

“As such, the potential of a partnership between Sheffield and Kobe is very exciting, and will fulfil a life-long aim for me. Personal circumstances have unfortunately delayed my ambition in this area, and it is satisfying from a professional and personal perspective that we are now making in-roads.

“Linking knowledge from the East and West will underpin our universities’ international reputations, leading to fantastic benefits for the schools, their students and researchers. Though there are many more conversations to be had, the foundations of this relationship are strong and we will build on them over the coming months.”

Prof Katsuhiko Kokubu, Dean of Kobe Graduate School of Business Administration, commented: “I am convinced that Sheffield and Kobe can collaborate productively and fruitfully, particularly around one of the core areas of research that we have in common – such as entrepreneurship and glocalisation.”

Kobe Graduate School of Business Administration is a top university for business and economics in Japan which is well-established and boasts a rich history. Click here for more information.

Dean of Sheffield University Management School, Prof David Oglethorpe, discussed his trip with Naoko to Japan in his recent blog. Click here to read it.

“I’m game!” – SUMS reviews motivation of volunteers in sport

Friday, February 19th, 2016

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What was the incentive for 2012’s London Olympics voluntary games makers? Why do people take time to coach sport for free? When are you most likely to volunteer for a local organisation?

Dr Geoff Nichols from the Management School was recently commissioned by Sport England; which aims to promote sports participation and sports volunteering; to review the motivations of people who volunteer in sport.

Geoff and his team, including Management School PhD students Caroline Knight and Helen Mirfin-Boukouris, reviewed over 130 existing academic papers and research reports – the first time this type of review has combined research from sport with volunteering. They were able to examine the motivations of sports volunteers in different roles and also gain an understanding of how these roles change throughout people’s lives as a result of their values, circumstances and experience.

The review’s findings identify that motivations to volunteer are complex and varied – participants’ volunteering could be influenced by their personality, values, identity and resources; relationships and social networks; groups and organisations which they’re a part of; their environment; and wider societal and global factors. The team identified a particular gap in research around sports volunteering in universities.

There’s significant potential for further research in the area as well as impact, as the review will help Sport England develop a volunteering strategy in response to a request from the Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Following the department’s 2015 publication, ‘Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation’, the Government are keen to diversify and increase numbers of people volunteering in sport and have tasked Sport England with publishing a new volunteering strategy for sport and physical activity in 2016 – work by Geoff and his team will inform this.

Geoff and Caroline recently presented a summary of their review to representatives of national governing bodies in sport at a meeting at the English Institute of Sport. Geoff will also discuss the work at the next meeting of the Sport Volunteering Research Network in London.

 

Click here to read the full report (Nichols, G., Hogg, E., Knight, C., Mirfin-Boukouris, H., Storr, R. and Uri, C. (2016) Motivations of Sport Volunteers in England: a review for Sport England.)

Comment: Accounting for Kids Company – why charities’ books must add up. By Prof Josephine Maltby

Friday, February 12th, 2016

This article was originally published by on The Conversation by Prof Josephine Maltby. Read the original article.

The collapse of the charity Kids Company has attracted a huge amount of attention – not least as a result of the drama involved. Investigations into what went wrong have brought forth stories of teenagers queuing up to pick up envelopes of money from the charity that they promptly spent on drugs.

Reports also emerged that the charity claimed its closure would lead to riots and attacks on government buildings. And transcripts can be read of a long and rowdy session of the public administration and constitutional affairs committee of MPs, which investigated the closure of the charity and took evidence from Camila Batmanghelidjh, Kids Company’s founder:

Camila Batmanghelidjh: I would like to ask you on what basis you have decided that this is a failing charity. Because if it is on the basis –

Chair: Because it has gone bust.

The less dramatic story, and the more worrying one, is about financial control in Kids Company and the value placed on financial literacy across the charity sector.

Kids Company produced annual accounts which it duly deposited with the Charity Commission, the charity regulator. It went through the proper audit process every quarter, every year – something Alan Yentob, chair of the charity’s trustees, frequently mentioned in his evidence to the MP inquiry. However, the fact that every year referred to Kids Company’s shortage of reserves, and potential cash flow problems, seems to have been outweighed by the copious data making claims for its successes.

In 2013, for instance, its annual report (pdf) featured data on the problems of “750 exceptionally vulnerable young people” who had been successfully helped by the charity, and another 200 under-14s, one in four of whom had no tables and/or chairs in their houses. Kids Company was also very vocal in claiming that it supported “some 36,000 children, young people and vulnerable adults”. But this has been disputed, as only 1,900 cases have been passed onto London local authorities since its collapse.

MPs have asked questions of Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh and the charity’s chairman of trustees, Alan Yentob.
PA Wire

Even if all of Kids Company’s impressive data were true, the reader of the accounts has nothing to measure them against. How were these sample groups selected? What was the evidence for these problems? Is this better or worse than other charities, or than what might be expected of Kids Company? Reports of Kids Company’s good deeds were heeded over its financial viability, as indicated by exchanges between the government and senior civil servants.

Judging results

What has attracted less attention than the apparent overstatement of clients was the reluctance of Kids Company to let its results be monitored. The National Audit Office (NAO), tasked with certifying the accounts of all government departments, commented that the government had “relied heavily on Kids Company’s self-assessments to monitor its performance”. Until 2013, the key performance indicators that the NAO requested did not appear in Kids Company’s quarterly monitoring reports.

This improved in 2013-15 when the government specified some “delivery expectations”. As the NAO reported, Kids Company outperformed to a startling degree: “Against a target of 1,347 interventions in 2013-14, they delivered 30,217 interventions.” But how successful were the interventions in improving outcomes? There was no pre-arranged standard for measuring success so the government could not monitor it.

When the MPs inquiry asked Kids Company’s auditor about the charity’s reserves – how much he thought would be a safe level – he suggested six months of expenditure or roughly £12m would be an appropriate level. In its last available balance sheet for 2013, the last available, Kids Company shows its unrestricted reserves were just £434,282 in 2013, with a further £1.3m in restricted reserves and designated funds – about enough money to keep it going for a fortnight.

The trustees stated in the 2013 report that they were aware reserves needed to increase, but that their “business model is to spend money according to need, which is consistently growing. We aspire to build up our reserves when circumstances allow”. It seems that they deferred the aspiration for too long.

Causes vs accounts

Some have accused a focus on accounting as a distraction from worthy causes. Some decisions, it is argued, should not be made on the basis of purely financial costs and benefits. How can individual welfare or happiness – and the contribution of charity – be valued in monetary terms? Financial accounting is just a reductive simplification of the work charities do, treating people’s welfare as an expense to be contained. On this basis, we should not criticise Kids Company for its financial collapse – the work it did was invaluable.

But the alternative to measuring and monitoring charity performance is not the free flow of support to the deserving. It is the loss of resources that could potentially have been better managed and better used elsewhere. Kids Company received a total of £46m of public funding – £42m in central government grants, £2m from local authorities and £2m from lottery organisations – between 2000 and August 2015, when it filed for insolvency.

If Kids Company had been accountable, run by trustees who understood the financial risks they were taking, and monitored by funders against measurable outcomes, it might not have gone bust.