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Strathclyde Business School Department of Human Resource Management

SCER projects

SCER has worked with a range of funders from the public, private, voluntary and university sectors, undertaking both short-term and longer-term contracts. SCER personnel have significant experience in the use of a number of quantitative and qualitative research methods, including large-scale surveys, focus groups and interviews. Since 2001 SCER has worked on a number of funded projects, which are listed below.

2015 Fair, Innovative and Transformative Work (FITwork)

The objective of this project is to provide the evidence base and collaborative networks to influence strategic deliberations on future workplace innovation policy and practice in Scotland and to contribute to international debates on fair, innovative and transformative work (FITwork) that delivers benefits to individuals, organisations and societies.

Fair Work is now an important part of the policy and practitioner landscape in Scotland and SCER’s previous research and knowledge exchange activities on improving skills and learning, job quality, ensuring equality, employment regulation and workplace innovation have made a significant contribution to academic, policy and practitioner debates in this area, for example, through SCER’s recent Innovating Works project which helped SMEs to explore the potential of workplace innovation (View the Innovating Works... March 2015 report). The FITwork project addresses key workplace and labour market challenges – and their broader ramifications - holistically and from a mutual gains perspective.

This research is funded by the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Scottish Funding Council and supported by the Scottish Trades Union Congress. Partnership funding and a commitment to fair, innovative and transformative work will support close collaboration with policymakers, public agencies, employers, employees, unions and other stakeholders in Scotland. A governance group of key partners advises on project activities.

The FITwork project comprises SCER staff (Findlay, Commander, Lindsay, Pascoe-Deslauriers), SBS staff (Chalmers) as well as colleagues from the University of Glasgow (Findlay and Smart).

In alignment with the FITwork activities, a group of doctoral students are also currently undertaking workplace innovation research in a range of sectoral contexts, with studentship funding from Skills Development Scotland and from the University as part of the Strathclyde Centre for Doctoral Training on Workplace Innovation.

For further information, please contact the FITwork project administrator, Karen Cunningham.


2014 Workplace Innovation Consortium (WIC)

This 12 month pilot project is funded by ERDF, Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and Scottish Enterprise (SE) and the University of Strathclyde.

This project will provide an industry facing Workplace Innovation Consortium (WIC) to support organisational change and innovation in SMEs. The WIC unites multi-disciplinary academic expertise with industry leaders across Scotland’s key sectors, STUC, SE and SFC to identify workplace challenges, evaluate alternative responses and solutions, develop and test tools aimed at enhancing leadership, effective workforce utilisation, business processes and enterprising behaviour and provide expert support to deliver outcomes that align the needs of all workplace stakeholders.

It will apply best practice from research on employee-led innovation, workplace development and entrepreneurial state activity in real work situations to establish their effectiveness in improving productivity and the quality of working life, focusing on how business innovation can improve workplace performance and promote greater equality, sustainability and social inclusion.

The project includes staff from SCER (Findlay, Dutton, Lindsay, Cunningham), the department of Management Science (Jill MacBryde and James Wilson) and the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship (Dominic Chalmers and Russell Matthews).

2013 Work, Employment, Skills and Training: Where next for Scotland?

The Economic and Social Research Council's (ESRC) Future of the UK and Scotland programme of research and activities has been set up to both inform the debate in the run-up to the referendum on constitutional change, and to assist in planning across a wide range of policy areas, whatever the outcome of the vote.

The WEST Project (ESRC: RES-107-28-0001) on Work, Employment, Skills and Training has focused on three key substantive areas of policy and practice:

  1. skills and training
  2. employment broadly defined
  3. the workplace
It has also examined the governance of work, employment and skills issues. The project has gathered data on the key challenges facing Scotland. It has explored what is happening now, what is possible in the current constitutional framework and future scenarios, and has involved interviews with senior figures from Government, the civil service, employers and employer's organisations, trade unions, public agencies and civil society organisations. The project has not sought the views of individuals or their organisations on the merits or otherwise of constitutional change.

The research team includes Findlay, Commander, and Lindsay (SCER) and from SKOPE, Keep, Wilde and Mayhew.

2014 Women in Manufacturing

Funded by Close the Gap, this short project aims to map women’s participation within the manufacturing cluster labour market in Scotland, and to identify occupational segregation, gendered skills gaps, and gender differences in participation in related modern apprenticeship frameworks and other skill pipelines. The research also examines the impact of women’s participation on earnings and on the gender pay gap within the manufacturing cluster.

The research team includes Anderson, Findlay and Commander.

2013 Human Resource Development (HRD) Capacity in Scotland

This small pilot research project for SCER (Commander) is commissioned by the centre on Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance (SKOPE) at the University of Oxford. It examines the capacity of firms in Scotland to deliver HRD; what activity exists, the extent to which HRD is outsourced and how this provision aligns with Scottish Government ambitions of economic growth through skills utilisation.

2013 Using smart metrics to support equality and diversity

This small consultancy project is funded by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

The project team (Findlay and Dutton) are investigating the monitoring, dissemination and use of workforce equality and diversity data within NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHS GC&C) and will compare this with effective practice elsewhere. The evaluation will assist NHS GG&C to make the best use of their workforce equality data to improve equality and diversity performance and in so doing to deliver on key NHS and Scottish Government targets.

2012 Impact of Robotics-Led Organisational Change on the Pharmacy Workforce

Funded by the University of Strathclyde seed-corn programme Bridging the Gap for 6 months, this multi-disciplinary project aims to evaluate the issues faced by an NHS organisation in aligning a major technical innovation project with organisational and social innovation, particularly in relation to HR practices and job quality. The project is supported by the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Pharmacy Prescribing and Support Unit.

The research team includes Findlay, Bennie, Van der Meer, Commander, Corcoran and Lindsay.

2011 The Career Progression of Female Academics

With support from the Adam Smith Research Foundation, University of Glasgow and internal funds from the University of Strathclyde.

SCER (Findlay and Commander) is about to embark on the fieldwork stage of a project that is looking at the career trajectories of female academics working in the fields of sociology and economics. This is a joint project with Jeanette Findlay, University of Glasgow and is supported with funds from the Adam Smith Research Foundation at the University of Glasgow and internal University of Strathclyde funding. The aim of the project is to examine conceptually the different disciplinary approaches to examining women’s careers and associated outcomes in the economics and sociological literatures, to develop a cross disciplinary approach to studying women’s careers and to generate empirical data on career trajectories in academia.

2011 Graduates on the property ladder: Skills, work and employment in a graduatising industry

Joint ESRC award with SKOPE, University of Oxford.

This ESRC funded project examines the use of graduate skills in estate agency work. It is collaborative research project with Dr Susan James and Dr Gerbrand Tholen from SKOPE, University of Oxford and Professor Chris Warhurst, from the University of Sydney.

Within UK government - both old and new - there is a clear policy belief in upskilling, particularly through higher education, as the key to economic competitiveness. However despite the increased number of graduates in the UK labour market, this improved competiveness has not been delivered. Instead there are concerns about skill mismatches in the graduate labour market amidst a tightening of the labour market generally. At the same time, some occupations are engaging in professionalisation projects, a key aspect of which is the colonisation of previously non-graduate occupations by graduates.

2011 The Role of Trade Unions in Effective Skills Utilisation

This small research project was commissioned by the Scottish Trades Union Congress. It examines skills utilisation activity in unionised workplaces and the role of the unions in shaping that activity. Three case studies are undertaken to examine skills utilisation in practice.

The report and a short film about the project were published in April 2011 and are available at the STUC Scottish Union Learning website.

The project involves Professor Chris Warhust from the University of Sydney as research partner. For information, please contact

2009 Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the STUC

SCER (Findlay and Dougan) is currently engaged in a knowledge transfer partnership with Scottish Union Learning at the Scottish Trades Union Congress. This KTP, funded by STUC and the Technology Strategy Board, is developing a knowledge management system and a learning network to support the strategic development of union-led learning in Scotland.

2009 Making Bad Jobs Better - ESRC Seminar series 2009 to 2011

The Making Bad Jobs Better seminar series, funded by the ESRC, brings together academics, policy makers and practitioners to discuss existing research on bad jobs, generate policy proposals and identify new research agendas. The labour market is increasingly polarised into good and bad jobs. Even prior to the recession, low skill, low wage jobs were expanding and becoming entrenched. Moreover, research reveals a ‘bad jobs trap’ that restricts mobility out of such jobs. The UK Government has recently made ‘making bad jobs better’ a policy priority and international research indicates that bad jobs can indeed be made better. However, this research needs to be marshalled, evaluated and applied to the UK context.

The seminar series is organised by Professor Patricia Findlay and Ms Johanna Commander from SCER, University of Strathclyde, Professors Ewart Keep and Caroline Lloyd, SKOPE, Cardiff University and Professor Chris Warhurst, University of Sydney.

Perceptions, Expectations and Experiences of HRM

Funded by University's Principal's Fund.

This research, focuses on the perceptions, expectations and experiences of three cohorts of full-time students (2005/6, 2006/7, 2007/8) studying a CIPD-accredited Postgraduate Diploma/MSc in Human Resource Management. It draws on surveys, focus groups and interviews to consider students perceptions of the role of HR, how their views changed during the course of the academic year, their initial thoughts on pursuing an HR career and early experiences as HR practitioners.

As well as providing invaluable data to assess student perceptions of their pedagogical experiences the unique longitudinal aspect to the research will enable us build up a rich picture of career trajectories and to assess continuity and change in the HR profession. The research has already been recognised with the award of the prestigious Professor Ian Beardwell prize for Best Research Paper at the 2008 CIPD Centres Conference.

2007 Mental Health Guidance and the Workplace: An Exploration of Trade Union and Employer Partnership

With mental ill health now the second biggest cause of sickness absence in the UK, workforce well-being is now a key issue for government and employers. Having an established role in health and safety issues, mental health is also a potential new area for trade union involvement.

Funded by the STUC and analysing secondary data, this project maps existing workplace mental health guidance practice against trade union capacities. It then assesses the possibility of trade unions working in partnership with employers to provide better workplace guidance for employees with mental health issues. The research is being undertaken by Robert Stewart and the project managed by Professor Chris Warhurst.

2007 Scottish Survey of Student Expenditure and Debt

Funded by Scottish Government.

This large, new contract has been awarded to SCER by the Scottish Government. The aim is to examine student finances with a view to informing policy thinking in the area. The project will run into early 2009 and has a joint research team that includes colleagues from the Department of Management at the University of Glasgow. The project mangers are Professors Chris Warhurst and Andy Furlong.

A national survey of students at Scottish universities and colleges will be conducted in early 2008, with follow-up interviews later in the year. The findings of the project will feed into government assessment of widening access and funding arrangements for students.

2007 Soft Skills in the Retail Industry

Funded in the UK by the Nuffield Foundation, this research examines retail employers' soft skill demands across recruitment and selection, training and work practices. It is international comparative research with teams from the universities of Sydney in Australia and Karlstad in Sweden.

2007 Valuable Assets: A Study of Pay, Working and Overtime in Scoltand's Primary, Secondary and Special Schools

For the Equal Opportunities Commission Scotland.

This research was part of a General Formal Investigation (GFI) of the role and status of classroom assistants in Scotland's schools. This phase of the research consisted of a national survey conducted of classroom assistants to assess issues surrounding overtime, working hours and pay. 4,000 questionnaires were sent to classroom assistants in primary, secondary and special schools across Scotland, with 1,282 responses.

2007 Valuable Assets: Phase 2 of A General Formal Investigation into the Role and Status of Classroom Assistants in Scotland's Secondary and Special Schools

For the Equal Opportunities Commission Scotland.

This research was part of a General Formal Investigation (GFI) of the role and status of classroom assistants in Scotland's schools. This phase of the research extended the analysis into secondary and special schools. Primary data was generated through a series of focus groups of classroom assistants in local authorities. In addition a short questionnaire was given to all participants in the research.

2006 The New National Performance and Development Review (PDR) Process: An evaluation

For the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland.

This research was an evaluation of the introduction of a new performance and development review (PDR) process being piloted in one Scottish police force. Primary data was generated through questionnaires, interviews and a series of focus groups. The research ranged across all interested stakeholders including senior management, operational management, police officers, special units and support staff.

2006 For Mutual Interest: Trade Unions and Co-operative Employment Development in Scotland

For Co-operative Development Scotland and the Scottish Trades Union Congress.

This pilot research examined a number of case studies with the objective of assessing the feasibility of trade union involvement in the establishment of co-operative employment agencies. Primary data was generated through interviews with a number of key individuals involved with particular case studies plus secondary data analysis.

2006 Valuable Assets: A General Formal Investigation into the Role and Status of Classroom Assistants in Scotland's Primary Schools

For the Equal Opportunities Commission Scotland.

Based on the earlier pilot research conducted by SCER, the EOC instigated a General Formal Investigation (GFI) of the role and status of classroom assistants in Scotland's primary schools. As part of the GFI, SCER was commissioned to conduct a national survey of classroom assistants, teachers and head teachers. Primary data was generated from a Scotland-wide, large scale survey sent to over 1000 primary schools. Interviews were also conducted with Directors of Education and the Scottish Executive Education Department.

2005 to 2007 Low-wage Work in Europe

For the ESRC Centre for Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance.

Funded by the Russell Sage Foundation, this project compared the quality of low-wage employment in a range of industries in the US with that found in Europe. The European countries involved in this project include Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK. SCER was commissioned to undertake analysis of the UK hotel industry. Primary data was generated from case studies, temporary work agencies, representatives from a sector careers promotion organisation, a trade union and a low wage campaign group.

2005 Learning to Organise/Organising to Learn

For the Learning and Skills Unit, Trades Union Congress.

This research project examined the relationship between learning and trade union organising at the workplace level. The project focused on 'best practice' case studies in England and identified the key points and lessons arising from these case studies. Primary qualitative data was generated from three organisations: a hospital trust, a financial services firm and a distribution firm.

2005 Review of Best Practice HRM in Tourism Organisations

For National Tourism Development Authority (CERT), Ireland.

This project identified a series of best practice approaches to HRM in a range of service-based organisations. Based on secondary material, thirteen individual cases were contributed highlighting a variety of different HR practices in areas such as work/life balance, recruitment strategies, workforce diversity and communication. Organisations featured as case studies included Asda, Pizza Express, TGI Fridays and the Marriott hotel chain.

2005 Police Control Rooms


This research focused on the content and organisation of police call handlers' work including issues such as the control of work, pressures, shift patterns, training, career structure etc and on how staff perceive relations with control room management. SCER was commissioned to collect data and analysis a series of case studies.

2005 Evaluation of the Scottish Union Learning Fund (SULF) 2000 to 2005

For The Department of Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning, Scottish Executive Social Research.

This project was the national evaluation of all SULF projects since 2001. A mixture of qualitative and quantitative research, it involved a series of questionnaires, surveys, interviews and case studies across a range of industries and Scottish stakeholders' government, employers, trade unions, employees and training providers.

2004 The Role and Status of Classroom Assistants in Scotland

For the Equal Opportunities Commission.

This pilot research evaluated the role and status of classroom assistants in Scotland, focussing on four key issues:

  1. the characteristics of classroom assistants
  2. perceptions and expectations of classroom assistants
  3. the work of classroom assistants
  4. classroom assistants' terms of employment
Primary data was generated through a survey of classroom assistants, head teachers and teachers in primary schools and parents.

2004 Recruitment in the Scottish Voluntary Sector

For the Scottish Voluntary Organisations' Human Resource Network.

This project examined recruitment problems and opportunities in the Scottish voluntary sector. Primary data was generated through empirical research drawn from seven case study organisations and research undertaken with those involved in labour supply issues such as New Deal advisors, career advisors and focus groups with potential employees.

2004 New Forms of Work and Organisation in the Creative Industries

For Sociological Research Institute (SOFI) University of Göttingen.

The project focused on the disintegration of 'traditional' forms of organisation, work and employment driven by the shift from hierarchy to market and new IT. The analysis was sectoral, focusing on the new media and creative/cultural industries. The project was the UK element of an international research project, led by the German team. The project provided an extensive literature review of the range of assumed shifts in the UK ranging through the levels of analysis (general, sector, firms, employee).

2004 Survey of Recruitment, Selection and Skills in the Glasgow Retail and Hospitality Industries

For the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Department, Scottish Executive/ESRC Centre for Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance.

This project surveyed the Glasgow retail and hospitality industries' labour markets. The aim was to develop a 'map' of jobs in these industries, with a particular focus on the range of skills. Evidence was gathered from two questionnaire-based surveys, of employers and employees. The findings demonstrate that both attitude and appearance, in the form of social or inter-personal skills and aesthetic or self-presentation skills, are rated as very important and are demanded by employers in these industries.

2003 New Deal Clients into IT Employment: Barriers and Opportunities

For the Glasgow Employer Coalition.

This project examined the possibilities for New Deal clients to obtain sustainable employment in the IT sector within the Greater Glasgow area. The report focused on the software/programming occupations together with IT operations and user support work. The project involved a review of policy material and labour market data, and empirical research of a range of IT and related jobs. In addition to developing a new model of such jobs and their skill demands, the project also assessed opportunities for clients' employment in the IT sector and made recommendations related to that employment.

2003 Lone Parents into Retail Employment: Barriers and Opportunities

For the Glasgow Employer Coalition.

This project assessed the viability of developing a strategy to encourage lone parents to enter employment with supermarkets in the Glasgow area. The project consisted of a survey and series of interviews with human resource managers within supermarkets and a representative of the New Deal for Lone Parents in the Glasgow area.

2002 Review of Market Failure and Vocational Education and Training (VET) in Scotland

For the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Department, Scottish Executive.

This 'think piece' examined the nature of market failure in vocational education and training in Scotland, with the aim of informing policy making on VET in Scotland. The project involved an extensive literature review of the existing evidence, highlighting the policy implications and making recommendations for future research agendas. The material included pertains to VET generally and to Scotland specifically.

2001 Guidance on Understanding Labour Markets

For Futureskills Scotland, Scottish Enterprise.

This project provided a general understanding of how the labour market works. Combining information and analysis, the Guidance Note offered an accessible guide to the labour market with definitions and sources of further information. It is intended for those who wish to be able identify important points, issues and developments in the labour market or undertake labour market analysis. The Guidance Note draws upon data from the Scottish labour market to illustrate various general points, issues and developments.

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