Our research is organised around five core themes (Work and Wellbeing; Leadership and Teamworking; Creativity, Innovation and Effectiveness; Understanding Organisations; and Learning, Education and Development), reflecting our traditional areas of expertise and highlighting newer areas of interest.
- Work and Wellbeing
Research within IWP focuses on identifying work (and non-work) characteristics and processes that either detract from or enhance job related wellbeing, as well as the impact of interventions to improve employee wellbeing. In IWP, we define wellbeing broadly. In the broadest sense it concerns a context-free state in terms of life in general rather than restricted to a particular setting. Wellbeing can thus be construed as life satisfaction, global happiness etc. A slightly more narrow view on wellbeing relates to life-segments, e.g. financial wellbeing or health. Wellbeing can also be viewed as domain-specific, e.g. ”job-related” wellbeing such as job satisfaction, work engagement or job strain.
Predictors of wellbeing
Several streams of IWP research focus on the predictors of employee wellbeing. This extends from work characteristics that are related to employee wellbeing (e.g., autonomy, leadership, virtual/tele-work) through to behaviours (such as bullying and incivility) that can affect wellbeing. For instance, one stream of work is examining the impact of witnessing bullying on psychological wellbeing. In addition, this research examines potential moderators of this relationship as possible clues to future workplace intervention.
Features that extend beyond work and affect the relationship between work and non-work (e.g., childcare/eldercare, and the use of modern communications technologies) are also considered in some research within IWP. For instance, the boundary between home and work can become blurred and it can be difficult to ‘switch off’ and recover from work with ready access to work emails etc.
Outcomes of wellbeing
Reflecting IWP’s focus on employee wellbeing and effectiveness, our research also investigates the link between employee wellbeing and work performance. Their relationship is not as straightforward as the happy worker-productive worker thesis suggests and our research approach is to understand under what circumstances is the association between wellbeing and performance stronger or weaker and how we might best facilitate their joint optimisation. Using both quantitative and qualitative methods enables us to identify dynamic variations in wellbeing and performance and we aim to develop more detailed and specific models of wellbeing and work performance.
Wellbeing for those outside of work
Whilst much of IWP’s wellbeing research occurs within organisations, other streams of research focus on particular populations such as the unemployed, younger and older workers and also the self-employed and those involved in social ventures. For instance, the research on social venturing examines the extent to which involvement in such work enhances psychological wellbeing (e.g., reduced social isolation, reduced age-based discrimination).
Sustainable return to work for workers with common mental health problems is another key area of interest in IWP. While much attention has been paid to supporting individual workers returning to work, less attention has been paid to how organisations and societal players, e.g. general practitioners, can prevent relapse i.e. that workers who return to work remain and thrive at work despite any reduced work functioning.
A key area of IWP’s research on work and wellbeing concerns participatory organisational interventions that aim to improve employee health and wellbeing through changing the way work is organised, designed and managed. Key to participatory interventions is the effective collaboration between management and employees. Such collaboration raises important questions as to the processes and contextual factors that may ensure successful collaboration. For example, if management and employees do not share an understanding of what needs to change as a result of the intervention, the intervention may not achieve its intended outcomes.
Another key question pertains to how such interventions can be integrated into the business side of the organisation, i.e. how such interventions can be integrated in to performance management systems so health and wellbeing is not seen as something separate to sustainable business but rather that employee wellbeing and organisational performance and innovation is seen as two sides of the same coin. Such considerations also include integrating wellbeing perspectives into times of restructuring. When organisations restructure to obtain organisational effectiveness, how can they integrate processes into the overall change process that promote employee health and wellbeing and manage uncertainties associated with change?
One project is focused on an intervention within the National Health Service which enables staff to discuss social and emotional issues that arise when caring for patients, with the intention of enabling caregivers to make better personal connections with patients and colleagues. Another intervention being examined in the NHS is Mindfulness, to determine the extent to which this intervention can enhance resilience and emotion regulation amongst staff after the training has finished.
Coyne, I; Farley, S., Axtell, C., Sprigg, C., Best, L. & Kwok, O. (2017) Understanding the relationship between experiencing workplace cyberbullying, employee mental strain and job satisfaction: a dysempowerment approach, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 28(7), 945-972.
Hildenbrand, K., Sacramento, C. A., & Binnewies, C. (2018). Transformational leadership and burnout: The role of thriving and followers’ openness to experience. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 23(1), 31-43.
Horan, S., Flaxman, P., & Stride, C. B. (2020) The perfect recovery? Interactive influence of perfectionism and spillover work tasks on changes in exhaustion and mood around a vacation. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.
Holman, D. & Axtell, C. (2016) Can job redesign interventions influence a broad range of employee outcomes by changing multiple job characteristics? A quasi-experimental study. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 21(3), 284–295.
Knight, C., Dawson, J. F., & Patterson, M. G. (2017). Building work engagement: A systematic review and meta-analysis investigating the effectiveness of work engagement interventions. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 38, 792-812.
Knight, C., Patterson, M. G., & Dawson, J. F. (2017). Building and sustaining work engagement – A participatory action intervention to increase work engagement in nursing staff. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 26, 634-649.
Lindsey, A. P., Avery, D. R., Dawson, J. F., & King, E. B. (2017). Investigating why and for whom management ethnic representativeness influences interpersonal mistreatment in the workplace. Journal of Applied Psychology, 102, 1545-1563.
Mason, S., O'Keeffe, C., Carter, A. & Stride, C. (2016) The Junior Doctor Training journey: a longitudinal study of change in confidence, competence and well-being and the impact of Emergency Medicine placements. Emergency Medical Journal, 33(2), 91-98.
Nielsen, K., Nielsen, M. B., Ogbonnaya, C., Känsälä, M., Saari, E., & Isaksson, K. (2017). Workplace resources to improve both employee well-being and performance: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Work & Stress, 31(2), 101-120.
Nielsen, K. & Miraglia, M. (2017). Critical essay: What works for whom in which circumstances? On the need to move beyond the “what works?” question in organizational intervention. Human Relations, 70(1) 40-62.
Selenko, E., Maekikangas, A.M., & Stride, C. B. (2017) Does job insecurity threaten who you are? Introducing a social identity perspective to explain well-being and performance consequences of job insecurity. Journal of Organizational Behaviour, 38(6), 856-875.
Sprigg, C. A., Niven, K., Dawson, J., Farley, S., & Armitage, C. J. (2019). Witnessing workplace bullying and employee well-being: A two-wave field study. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 24, 286-296.
- Leadership and Teamworking
Our approach to studying leadership builds on emerging academic and practitioner thinking by removing the spotlight from the leaders, and instead focusing on the processes and conditions conducive to effective leadership and followership. Our research is rooted in the premise that leaders, followers and contextual factors may act as either positive or negative multipliers in the relationship between resources and outcomes in organisational settings. We thus endeavour to explore and understand the complex dynamics that shape the outcomes of leadership efforts at the dyadic, team and organisational levels, and in the process develop a set of tools and resources to aid individuals and organisations in realising positive synergies among people and between people and processes.
Welfare and wellbeing
In line with our IWP ethos, our leadership-related research projects place great value on promoting the welfare and wellbeing of employees, treating leadership not only as a factor in productivity and innovation, but as a facilitator for personal development and thriving. Our projects have explored the link between leadership and constructs such as work-family balance, wellbeing, burnout, emotional exhaustion and thriving, taking into account various contingency and boundary factors. We further endeavour to capture the dynamics of leadership processes by looking at individual, relational and team-based factors in shaping the nature and outcomes of positive leadership efforts.
Leadership training and development
Another area of IWP’s research on leadership concerns leadership training and development, and its antecedents and outcomes. In IWP we focus on how sustainable leadership behaviours can be trained to ensure employee health and wellbeing. A particular focus is on the contextual factors that may influence the extent to which leaders change behaviours as a result of training. For example, perceptual differences, such as the extent to which leaders and employees agree or disagree in their perceptions of the working climate and their leaders’ behaviours prior to training, are likely to influence leaders’ willingness to change as a result of training. We complement our intervention-based projects with research that explores leader development through an identity perspective, thus adding to the understanding of longer term processes that contribute to the emergence and advancement of leaders in teams and organisations.
Our research on teams extends beyond the role and effects of leadership to include team development and investigate factors influencing team dynamics and outcomes at the individual team-member and the collective levels. One stream of work aims to provide students with a repertoire of verbal behaviours that they can use in teamworking situations. This is done by giving students feedback on how often they use specific verbal behaviours during teamworking situations, along with advice on how they can adopt new behaviours in the future. A short-cycle approach to providing feedback is adopted, involving the systematic collection of real-time data from the observation of dyadic or group interactions, and the use of that data as a feedback mechanism to guide the future behaviour of those observed.
Looking ahead, we will continue to build our strengths in our core areas of interest in the leadership and teamworking domains and extend our reach through ambitious projects that build on expertise and values. We are developing projects to look at the role leaders and teams play in promoting and sustaining mental health, and how leader training for building awareness on mental health can promote early intervention and better outcomes for individuals with mental health problems. Other areas of interest include leadership self-efficacy, evaluation of leader development programs, the role of emotion and relationship motivations in leader-follower, leader-team and within-team interactions, attitudes toward followership and followership skills, and team diversity.
Balwant, P. T., Birdi, K., Stephan, U., & Topakas, A. (2018). Transformational instructor-leadership and academic performance: A moderated mediation model of student engagement and structural distance. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 43(7), 884-900.
Epitropaki, O., Sy, T., Martin, R., Tram, S., & Topakas, A. (2013). Implicit Leadership and Followership Theories “in the wild”: Taking stock of information-processing approaches to leadership and followership in organizational settings, Leadership Quarterly, 24 (6), 858-881.
Hildenbrand K, Sacramento CA & Binnewies C (2018). Transformational leadership and burnout: The role of thriving and followers’ openness to experience. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 23(1), 31-43.
Lyubovnikova, J., West, M. A., Dawson, J. F., & Carter, M. R. (2015). 24-Karat or fool’s gold? Consequences of real team and co-acting group membership in healthcare organizations. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 24, 929-950.
Lyubovnikova, J., West, T. H., Dawson, J. F., & West, M. A. (2018). Examining the Indirect Effects of Perceived Organizational Support for Teamwork Training on Acute Health Care Team Productivity and Innovation: The Role of Shared Objectives. Group & Organization Management, 43, 382-413.
Nielsen, K., Randall, R Christensen, K.B. (2017). Do different training conditions facilitate team implementation? A quasi-experimental mixed methods study. Journal of Mixed Methods Research. 11(2), 223-247.
Zhang Y, Zheng Y, Zhang L, Xu S, Liu X & Chen W (2019) A meta-analytic review of the consequences of servant leadership : the moderating roles of cultural factors. Asia Pacific Journal of Management.38, 371-400.
Zheng, Y., Huang, X., Graham, L., Redman, T., & Hu, S. (2020). Deterrence Effects: The Role of Authoritarian Leadership in Controlling Employee Workplace Deviance. Management and Organization Review, 16(2), 377-404.
- Creativity, Innovation and Effectiveness
With increasing demands and less resources, organisations across all sectors are facing the challenge of enhancing their creativity, innovation and effectiveness in order to meet their goals. Creativity is defined as the generation of novel and potentially useful ideas while innovation is considered to also include the implementation of those ideas to create new products, services, processes or other valued changes. The extant literature is often fragmented in focusing only on certain parts of the innovation process therefore IWP research is involved in mapping and integrating the complex psychological underpinnings across all the various stages of the innovation process. We are also interested in studying creativity at multiple levels, from individual, group and organisational perspectives.
We are focusing in particular on four key topics:
Understanding the cognitive, affective and social processes impacting creativity
The creativity of groups and individuals involves an intricate interplay of factors and our research explores the roles that these factors can play. We use a wide range of methods including experiments, surveys, interviews and diary studies and these have already uncovered many interesting findings.
Our research has found that forcing groups to multitask--alternating between problems--can enhance idea generation performance, most likely via overcoming fixation induced by group interaction. We also examined the key difficulties associated with the semantic search process in creative problem solving. The findings are allowing us to develop more effective interventions to enhance creative thinking. Furthermore, our studies have found that off-task breaks which facilitate collaboration between individuals, lead to an increase in the quality of creative outputs post-break and that creative performance changes over the course of the day (for instance, student groups are more creatively productive around the lunchtime period). In the workplace, we find that employees’ generation of new ideas is more influenced by individual factors but that implementing those ideas is more affected by social and organisational issues.
The importance of leadership is alluded to elsewhere in our IWP strategy but in this Theme we are particularly looking at identifying the mechanisms by which leader behaviours and relationships with followers can influence creativity and innovation in the workplace. Classical theories of leadership are being shown to be inadequate in dealing with the complexities of managing the extended innovation process. One particularly interesting area we are investigating is ambidextrous leadership, which proposes that alternate leadership styles are needed for different innovation stages. Investigations of how a person’s creative style relate to their leadership style are also being tackled.
Intra- and inter-organisational collaborations for innovation
Innovation is rarely conducted by the individual in isolation hence there is a need to understand the barriers to, and facilitators of, collaboration during the different stages of the innovation process. One explicit context we are investigating is the water sector, where we are examining cross-boundary collaborations between water utilities, supply-chain organisations, users and policy-makers. We have found that more successful collaborations come from situations where there is a shared vision, inclusion of different stakeholder voices, high trust and clear roles and responsibilities. Given the rise of remote working, we are further exploring the use of technology in promoting (or hindering) innovation in virtual teams and the influence of new ways of working.
Developing CLEAR IDEAS and other interventions to enhance creativity and innovation
Our passion for using research to help practice means our emergent evidence base is being used to create strategies and interventions for enhancing the creativity and innovation capabilities of organisations and the people who work in them.
Despite research indicating that a fifth of UK organisations engage in some form of creativity or innovation training there is relatively little research evaluating the effectiveness of those activities in the workplace. IWP research on this topic has led to the creation of an innovation development model called CLEAR IDEAS which develops in trainees the knowledge and skills required to both generate and implement new ideas. We have produced two types of interventions based on this model in order to generate impact: training workshops and software apps. We are evaluating the impact of these different interventions in the workplace and identifying individual, social and environmental moderators of their impact. Another intervention we are working on in collaboration with the company Creative Creatures is developing a psychometric measure of creative style for use in organisational contexts.
Birdi, K., Leach, D. and Magadley, W. (2016). The Relationship of Individual Capabilities and Environmental Support with Different Facets of Designers' Innovative Behavior. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 33, 19-35
Holman, D., Totterdell, P., Axtell, C., Stride, C., Port, R., Svensson, R. & Zibarras, L. (2012). Job Design and the Employee Innovation Process: The Mediating Role of Learning Strategies. Journal of Business and Psychology, 27(2), 177-191.
- Understanding Organisations
In our research, we seek to develop theory that explains the phenomenon of organizing. We unpack the multi-level processes which explain how organizations manage dualities for stability and change, including organizational learning, organizational change, rule breaking, routines and path dependence. As well as exploring practices, dynamics and interactions within and between layers in organisations, we are also interested in detailing inter-organisational relationships. We study the complexity of organizations through a variety of methods, including surveys, interviews, longitudinal ethnographic approaches and agent-based modelling. The evidence we gather is also used to guide practice in enhancing organisational life and performance. Our key foci for inquiry include the following areas:
Management practices and organisational performance
Extensive efforts are put into Human Resource Management practices such as recruitment, training, appraisals and rewards. We are interested in exploring how these practices individually and in combination can relate to different aspects of organisational performance and under what conditions. For example, our studies of hundreds of UK organisations have shown that empowering employees leads to bottom-line improvements in financial productivity and that better team training practices are related to higher levels of financial and innovation performance.
We are interested in how organisations acquire, share, store and apply their learning and also the ways in which this is reflected in their routines. Our research has indicated that organisations with greater levels of organisational learning demonstrate better performance and we are unpacking the mechanisms by which this occurs. In studies of policing organisations in ten European countries, we found that cross-border sharing of knowledge was influenced by a complex mix of social, technological and political factors. Using agent-based modelling, we are also investigating how learning can shape the evolution of organisations.
Organisational change and development
Change is endemic to the lifecycle of an organisation and we are interested in how changes occur and impact on institutions and the people who work in them, both from a theory and practice perspective. Furthermore, we are exploring the role of Organisation Development in planning interventions to introduce and support change. For example, our research has investigated inter-organisational development in complex systems in the healthcare context. Within this perspective, we are also interested in Social Constructionist approaches to understanding ‘organisation’ and the practices of organising and managing change.
Culture and Climate
An important lens through which we investigate organisations is through their culture (shared beliefs and values that shape employee perceptions, attitudes and behaviours). In the healthcare context, for instance, we have explored how culture influences safety protocols and care for the elderly. An allied topic is assessing and evaluating the impact of organisational climates (shared employee perceptions of various aspects of the organisation). Our research has developed a widely-used Organizational Climate Measure (OCM) which has shown that climate dimensions such as welfare, supervisory support, innovation and flexibility and performance feedback significantly relate to subsequent firm productivity.
Voice and silence in organisations
Organisations rely on employees sharing information with managers so that decisions can be made in a timely manner. However, the upward sharing of information can be problematic owing to organisational expectations about who has access to the best and most accurate information. The act of sharing information that may differ from or challenge information held by managers and leaders is known as voice, and underpins other organisational phenomena such as organisational learning, job satisfaction and employee wellbeing. As a result, it is important to understand the extent to which employees feel able to tell managers about things that could make a difference. Where employees feel unwilling or are discouraged from sharing information with managers, it could be said that a culture of silence exists within the organisation. The topic of voice and silence can be viewed from an individual, group, organisational and contextual perspective and provides a useful and insightful perspective from which to consider a range of organisational situations.
Birdi, K., Griffiths, K., Turgoose, C., Alsina, V., Andrei, D., Baban. et al. (2021). Factors influencing cross-border knowledge sharing by police organisations: An integration of ten European case studies. Police Practice and Research: An International Journal, 22(1), 3-22.
Birdi, K., Clegg, C., Patterson, M., Robinson, A., Stride, C., Wall, T and Wood, S. (2008). The impact of human resource and operational management practices on company productivity: A longitudinal study. Personnel Psychology, 61, 467-501.
Birdi, K., Patterson, M. and Wood, S. (2007). Learning to perform? A comparison of learning practices and organisational performance in profit- and non-profit-making sectors in the UK. International Journal of Training and Development, 11(4), 265-281.
Cantore, S.P. (2016). Positive Approaches to Organizational Change, The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Positivity and Strengths-Based Approaches at Work (pp. 272-296). John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Cantore, S.P. & Cooperrider, D.L. (2013). Positive Psychology and Appreciative Inquiry: The Contribution of the Literature to an Understanding of the Nature and Process of Change in Organizations, The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Leadership, Change, and Organizational Development (pp. 267-287).
Duan J, Lapointe É, Xu Y & Brooks S (2019). Why do employees speak up? Examining the roles of LMX, perceived risk and perceived leader power in predicting voice behavior. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 34(8), 560-572.
Patterson, M., Rick, J., Wood. S., Carroll, C., Balain, S. & Booth. A. (2010). Systematic review of the links between human resource management practices and performance.. Health Technology Assessment, 14(51), 1-iv.
Patterson, M.G., West, M.A., Shackleton, V.J., Dawson, J.F., Lawthom, R., Maitlis, S., Robinson, D.L. & Wallace, A.M. (2005). Validating the organizational climate measure: links to managerial practices, productivity and innovation. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 26(4), 379-408.
Stephan, U., Patterson, M.G., Kelly, C. & Mair, J. (2016). Organisations driving positive social change: A review and an integrative framework of change processes. Journal of Management, 42(5), 1250-1281.
- Learning, Education and Development (LEAD)
The Learning, Education and Development research theme focuses on the identification of learning needs, the design and delivery of learning interventions, and the evaluation of their impact. This learning cycle, combined with a quality improvement cycle process, can be applied to enhance performance at individual, organisational and national levels.
Researchers within LEAD have been involved with many successful projects across a wide range of sectors including: aerospace, automotive, construction, defence, education, energy, finance, health, international development, IT, media, pharmaceuticals, policing, retail, safety, and telecoms. These researchers have also published widely producing numerous commissioned reports, books and articles which are listed in the sections below.
If you would like to discuss any of these projects or explore how we might help and support your initiatives and interventions we would be delighted to speak with you.
Learning involves a relatively permanent change of knowledge, attitude or behaviour occurring as a result of formal education or training, or as a result of informal experiences. Individual learning is often an instinctive natural process which is particularly noticeable in the curiosity and excitement of young children when they explore something new. Similarly, adults recognise the benefits of learning to enhance their understanding and help them progress in the workplace and in their personal lives. Organisations also need to learn continuously to ensure that they do not become obsolete or be overtaken by competitors. Finally, nations need to learn and develop their human capital in order to be economically successful and provide the resources to support their care systems, hospitals, education institutions, infrastructure etc.
Below, we provide a short overview of the role of learning in: change and organisational development; education and training; human resource development and international development; and knowledge management.
Change and Organisational Development
Charles Handy (1990: p44) said: “If changing is as I have argued – only another word for learning, then the theories of learning will also be the theories of changing. Those who are always learning are those who can ride the waves of change and who see a changing world as full of opportunities – not dangers.”
Change and organisational development involve learning and practical application. Through detailed research, benchmarking, identification of best practice and carefully considered interventions, organisations can remain ahead of the curve and provide sustainable outcomes for all their stakeholders.
Education and Training
“In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity – it is a pre-requisite. The countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow” (President Barack Obama, 24 February 2009). Education and training provide the main formal routes to the development of human capital and enable individuals, organisations and nations to operate more effectively and efficiently. Moreover, higher levels of education and training help individuals to have better life satisfaction, civic engagement and better perceived health (OECD, 2011). Full-time educational programmes and in-house training courses provided by IWP have contributed to many successful careers; improved organisational performance and are respected internationally.
Human Resource Development and International Development
People are the most important resource within organisations and where they are supported and encouraged to learn there is a strong correlation with successful organisational performance. By investing in human capital through learning, education and development strategies, organisations improve their competitive advantage and develop more engaged and motivated employees. In addition, the development of learning organisations enables a systematic approach to enhance the mechanisms for companies to be productive and profitable.
Knowledge is the most important resource in modern economies and the process for creating and transmitting this knowledge is through learning. Successful learning organisations have developed their abilities to: create, capture, communicate and apply knowledge and ensure that this is delivered in a timely manner. In this way, they grow their know-how and constructively impact on the marketplace; as Francis Bacon (1597) maintained: “Action is power; and its highest manifestation is when it is directed by knowledge.”
Balwant, P. T., Birdi, K., Stephan, U., and Topakas, A. (2019). Transformational instructor-leadership and academic performance: A moderated mediation model of student engagement and structural distance. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 43(7), 884-900.
Bull, M. and Stokes, P. (2020). Creating a coaching culture through reflective practice to reduce organisational blame culture. International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching, Volume XII, Article 1, February 2020, p 1-17.
Cantore S.P. & Cooperrider D.L. (2013) Positive Psychology and Appreciative Inquiry: The Contribution of the Literature to an Understanding of the Nature and Process of Change in Organizations, The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Leadership, Change, and Organizational Development (pp. 267-287).
Nielsen, K., Randall, R. and Christensen, K.B. (2010). Does training managers enhance the effects of implementing team-working? A longitudinal, mixed methods field study. Human Relations, 63(11), 1719-1741.
The University’s four flagship institutes bring together our key strengths to tackle global issues, turning interdisciplinary and translational research into real-world solutions.