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Perfect Partners Do Exist: Reflecting on 2 Years of CIPD and PrOPEL Hub Collaboration

By Claire Glancy - Posted on 18 August 2022

Claire Glancy and Meryl Levington are both involved in the PrOPEL Hub. Here, they discuss two years of PrOPEL, its influence on workplace practice, and its partnership with the CIPD.

The PrOPEL Hub launched in early 2020. It is a major initiative funded by the Economic & Social Research Council to tackle the UK’s much talked about “productivity puzzle” by delivering interventions that positively influence workplace practice and employee engagement. 

The activity of the PrOPEL Hub is driven by our eight partner universities based across the UK. Each member of our team brings their own unique approach to devising workplace solutions to encourage diversity, innovation and improve employee engagement and wellbeing – all of which are positively linked to improved organisation performance and productivity. 

We are also lucky to count the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the leading association for human resource management professionals, as one of our core partners. The CIPD has been part of the PrOPEL Hub since its inception, and acts as a crucial bridge connecting us with practice and ensuring our activity is relevant and useful. Sitting at the heart of a community of practitioners and professionals, the CIPD provides a direct link to what is happening “on the ground” in workplaces as well as opening up access to an expansive network of stakeholders to ensure work with impact. By expanding the PrOPEL Hub structure beyond a traditional academic partnership to include the CIPD, we have been able to effect real change. 

Two years of collaboration 

This year we celebrate two years of PrOPEL Hub and CIPD collaboration. Over these two years, we have supported each other to strengthen our understanding of workplace productivity and develop mechanisms to positively influence it. Some of our key achievements include: 

· Influencing Policy. The PrOPEL Hub partnered with the CIPD in delivery of the 2021 Good Work Index. PrOPEL Hub colleagues used their expertise to support the CIPD with an in-depth analysis of the survey data available and are now well underway in advancing a number of additional explorative research projects utilising the CIPD’s extensive databank on the People Profession. This also led to further ESRC research funding fora project between the CIPD and the University of Strathclyde exploring employee voice in the Inverclyde area of Scotland, which will use some of the data from the Good Work Index to inform the initial phase of the new project. 

· Influencing Practice. The CIPD and PrOPEL Hub have collaborated on delivery of numerous events ranging from large scale Masterclasses to one to one business engagement hacks engaging over 1000 stakeholders. We have also developed a resource bank of blogs, videos and podcasts for the PrOPEL Hub website offering a broad ranging perspectives on important issues such as the cost effectiveness of wellbeing, managing performance remotely and the impact of homeworking on productivity. 

· Developing and Expanding a Shared Network. Through our partnership, we have both grown our respective networks, connecting each other to key stakeholders and building effective and productive new collaborations. We have moved the network beyond the CIPD by engaging with the wider business support community and through the targeted use of social media campaigns to raise awareness of the programme and its activities, events and materials. 

Based on the partnership’s success, the CIPD has now developed a model for engaging with research active academics as their knowledge exchange and impact partner, and is embarking on a number of new and exciting collaborations, including with colleagues at Strathclyde Business School

The Secret of Success 

At the centre of our work together is a commitment to explore and address the UK’s workplace productivity challenges. So, after two years of partnership, what have we learned about workplace productivity and designing and delivering interventions to drive positive change? 

We have distilled lessons learned into three digestible takeaways. 

1. The Interconnectedness of Different Workplace Productivity Levers. A range of broad but connected agendas sit under the CIPD and PrOPEL Hub umbrella – wellbeing, engagement, conflict management, innovation, diversity and inclusion and more – all of which the evidence tells us are linked to productivity. The more our researchers delve into these seemingly distinct topics, the more we realise the overlap between them. For example, the successful application of wellbeing policies, however carefully crafted, will require building managerial capability to deliver them. Developing a resilient organisation ready to tackle anything will require a workforce of engaged and innovative employees who can adapt to a changing environment. It is clear that to drive real change, a holistic approach is needed. 

2. The Power of Partnerships. The networks we have built over the last two years have been essential in ensuring our work has impact. Close dialogue between us and our stakeholders have allowed us to harness different strengths and abilities to expand our knowledge of workplace productivity levers and develop appropriate interventions. For example, we paired with Punch Records, the UK's leading Music and Arts agency working with Black Music, Arts and Culture, to deliver the P-word. The P-word is an innovative leadership development programme, designed from the bottom up, that connects ethnic minority creatives in the West Midlands to business support networks from which they have previously been excluded. In addition, our partnership with the Health & People Management Association for our Spotlight on Health & Social Care series allowed us to better understand this important sector and apply what we know about workplace productivity in a way that was cognisance of their particular challenges. 

3. A bottom-up approach is best. Rather than having top-down interventions driven by researchers, we need to broaden our agenda and approach to engage people at all levels and challenges. Over the past year, we have been working closely with workplace stakeholders who are often left behind in discussions about productivity to explore how to better engage and serve them through our work. For example our recent workshop – “The Silent Majority: A Deep Dive on People Management Support for microbusinesses”, brought together representatives from across practice, policy and academia to explore how we could design more effective and inclusive business support interventions for microbusinesses, who make up a whopping 99.3% of the UK’s total business population. The PrOPEL Hub website offers a range of resources focused on building an inclusive human resource community with material covering issues such as flexible working for fathers, protecting disabled employees from unequal treatment during a Covid-19 recession and supporting ethnic minority businesses. 

Looking to the future 

We are now embarking on year three of our partnership and are keen to ensure lessons learned inform the design of our future activity. Head to www.propelhub.org to see what we have planned and catch up on our latest news. 




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