Turning evidence into practice

The PrOPEL Hub will translate the latest cutting-edge evidence and research into practical tips and tools for organisations to improve performance and wellbeing

As the fallout from the COVID-19 lockdown continues to cause havoc across the economy, using evidence to inform the crucial decisions that you take over the coming weeks and months has never been more important.

With this in mind, the timing of a new initiative – the PrOPEL Hub – could not be better. 

The ProPEL Hub (Productivity Outcomes of workplace Practice, Engagement and Learning) brings together internationally recognised experts from seven universities across the UK, with the CIPD, to develop and share practical tips and tools that businesses can adopt to help improve performance and employee wellbeing.

The challenge

For many years, policy-makers have pondered over why the UK lags behind many of our key competitors in productivity rankings. Countless solutions have been put forward, some successful, others less so.

However, the evidence consistently points to the importance of good management and strong employee engagement in creating a business environment that supports wellbeing, fosters innovation and ultimately boosts productivity. If we know this, why is it still posing such a challenge?

It’s not easy to translate the latest academic research into real-world solutions for business. Have you ever sat down at night to read the latest international journal on human resource management? Or flicked through this month’s edition of the Economic Journal?

There’s often a disconnect between academic research that’s conducted and the resulting evidence being turned into something that is useful for employers, managers and people professionals. In addition, those working in the ‘real-world’ are usually much better at gauging the practical challenges of implementing new ideas in workplaces – and their voices aren’t always heard by researchers.

The purpose of PrOPEL

This is where the role of the PrOPEL Hub is crucial. In addition to generating new academic research, a key focus for the hub will be taking both new and existing research evidence and turning it into practical lessons, tool-kits and guides to new ways of doing things, which can be useful for you in your workplace.

To do this, our team will be working with businesses of all sizes and sectors, across the country, to help them improve their performance. We’re delighted that the CIPD will be playing a key role in helping us to reach out to its members and the wider HR and business community.

A call to action

For the initiative to be a success, it needs to be a genuine partnership. We need to work with people who are – or are willing to become – consumers of research and evidence. We don’t need scientists or people who love academic jargon. Instead, we need managers and leaders who are willing to be open-minded and to engage with the latest evidence and to try new things.

We also need you to tell us about your experiences, the challenges you face, and what works well.  That way, we can ensure the Hub delivers not just what we think is useful and interesting, but what is most relevant to you.

So, what will we be focusing on?

Managing people: We’ll be looking at the very latest research on managing people and the insights that this can give you when thinking about how to enhance your organisation’s productivity.

Boosting innovation: Innovation is key to the long-term success of any business – and not just in cutting-edge technology firms. Innovation comes in many forms, from core process to working practices. Becoming confident as an innovator from a leadership perspective, as well as understanding how to empower employees to work together in developing novel solutions, are crucial skills we can help you develop in your business. 

Improving wellbeing: Our focus is on productivity and we know that the wellbeing of the workforce is linked to performance. People drive the productivity of a business so managers and people professionals work hard to recruit the right people. We will offer insight into how to keep those people engaged and satisfied, improving customer experience, reducing staffing costs and boosting creativity. 

Engaging employees: How you engage with your employees is crucial and underpins everything else that happens in a business, whether that be during times of growth and opportunity for your organisation or in times of challenge and adversity (including COVID-19). We will be exploring how to do this effectively.

Supporting diversity: We are also passionate about diversity in workplaces and the value that this can bring in creating successful organisations. Supporting diversity in the workplace involves understanding and tapping into the different ways people can contribute to a business while ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to do so. 

All of these issues are likely to be crucial areas for people professionals and line managers to deal with in the coming months and years ahead, particularly in the light of COVID-19. Economic conditions are likely to be extremely challenging and for many of us, the way that we interact and engage with our colleagues has been turned on its head through remote working.

Flexibility and resilience are likely to be key traits in the time to come. So too will be a commitment to learning and basing your decisions on evidence.

In all these areas, we’re keen to work with a range of organisations of different sizes and stages of development. There will be something in our insights for everyone.

Visit the PrOPEL Hub website for further useful information on our work, including upcoming podcasts, webinars and other activities. Contact us here to submit new ideas for future areas of work and feedback on how we can best help your business or organisation.

Professor Graeme Roy

Professor Graeme Roy is Director of the Fraser of Allander Institute (FAI) and Head of the Department of Economics at the University of Strathclyde. Graeme is a former Senior Civil Servant in the Scottish Government where he was both a Senior Economic Adviser and Head of the First Minister’s Policy Unit.