Work, employment & organisation Organising for social & digital innovation

Complex social issues increasingly require us to rethink traditional concepts of organisation in order to accommodate evermore diverse and precarious contexts of work in the public, private, and third sectors. Drawing on critical and processual perspectives, research in this theme explores new ways of understanding organisational dynamics, such as change, learning, leadership and identity work, in contexts of organising that are innovation-driven, technology-intensive, digitally-mediated, and socially-networked. Our research also explores how new digital technologies fundamentally shape work content, organisation, and employment relations.

Current projects

The Scottish Centre for Employment Research (SCER), in partnership with the Fraser of Allander Institute at Strathclyde, is leading the ESRC’s National Hub linking research across all nations of the UK on Productivity Outcomes of Workplace Practice, Engagement and Learning. This project will share learning across eight institutions, disseminating new research on work engagement and productivity, and involving an extensive programme of knowledge exchange involving employers and policy and business stakeholders.


ESRC, 2019-2021

Staff: Professor Patricia Findlay, Professor Colin Lindsay, Johanna McQuarrie, Dr Eli Dutton

The Scottish Centre for Employment Research’s Management Practices for Employee Engagement research, funded by the ESRC, engages with 24 companies across key sectors to explore the connection between management decision making and practices, work engagement and innovative work behaviour.

Collaborators: Professor Arnold Bakker, Erasmus University, Professor Evangelia Demerouti, Eindhoven University of Technology, Professor Graeme Roy, Fraser of Allander Institute, Sir Harry Burns, Director of Global Public Health, University of Strathclyde


Staff: Professor Patricia Findlay, Professor Colin Lindsay, Johanna McQuarrie

SCER’s FITwork and Innovating Works projects have engaged more than 35 companies and more than 2,000 employees in survey and qualitative research on issues of job quality, management practices and workplace innovation. Extensive feedback and knowledge exchange activity has targeted employers in the food and drink and social care sectors, as well as a broader audience of employers and stakeholders interested in exploring the potential of progressive workplace practices.

Selected publications

Lindsay, C., Findlay, P., McQuarrie, J., Bennie, M., Corcoran, E. D., & Van Der Meer, R. (2018). Collaborative innovation, new technologies, and work redesign. Public Administration Review, 78(2), 251-2.

Lindsay, C., Commander, J., Findlay, P., Bennie, M., Dunlop Corcoran, E., & Van Der Meer, R. (2014). ‘Lean’, new technologies and employment in public health services: employees' experiences in the National Health Service. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 25(21), 2941-2956.

Findlay, P., Lindsay, C., McQuarrie, J., Bennie, M., Corcoran, E. D., & Van Der Meer, R. (2017). Employer choice and job quality: Workplace innovation, work redesign, and employee perceptions of job quality in a complex health-care setting. Work and Occupations, 44(1), 113-136.

Funding: UK Economic and Social Research Council as part of the Digital Futures at Work Research Centre (Digit), September 2021 - August 2022

Staff: Dr Kendra Briken (PI), Professor Ian Cunningham, Dr Alina Baluch (St Andrews University)

This project investigates lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic concerning the injection of technological innovation in social care. Specifically, it focuses on whether the introduction of technological innovation has been characterized by worker and service user participation in the choice, implementation and evaluation of technology.  

The project aims to: 

  1. understand the extent to which adult social care organisations have introduced technology during the pandemic;
  2. explore issues of participation around who has choice and voice (including workers and care users) in introducing digital technologies;
  3. identify promising participatory practices towards inclusive digital post pandemic care.

Staff: Professor Ian Cunningham

A number of projects have explored precarious employment within outsourced social service organisations during austerity. Key themes include:

  • personalisation and individualisation of social care work
  • terms and conditions of social care workers
  • union organising strategies in social care
  • line management and employment relations
  • the implementation of the Scottish Living Wage in adult social care
  • sustainability and the handing back contracts in public service outsourcing
  • innovation in social care services using the Buurtzorg model of team working

This work involves collaborations with researchers in the UK, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada and Australia.

Selected publications

Cunningham, I., Baines, D., & Charlesworth, S. (2014). Government funding, employment conditions, and work organization in non‐profit community services: a comparative study. Public Administration, 92(3), 582-598.

Cunningham, I. (2016). Non-profits and the ‘hollowed out’ state: the transformation of working conditions through personalizing social care services during an era of austerity. Work, Employment and Society30(4), 649-668.

Cunningham, I., Lindsay, C., & Roy, C. (2020). Diaries from the front line: formal supervision and job quality among social care workers during austerityHuman Resource Management Journal.

Staff: Professor Barbara Simpson

This collaborative project with the Glasgow School of Art was funded by the Scottish Universities Insight Institute. It builds on the perspective of Leadership-as-Practice, which is an emerging conversation in the leadership field. By moving beyond ideas of leadership as an attribute of certain gifted or powerful individuals, this approach develops new, more nuanced understandings of leadership practice that are better able to engage with the complexities of global business and public policy making in the 21st century. Our approach focuses on the day-to-day social processes that shape, and are shaped by, ongoing leadership practice, and is interested in how these different perspectives can inform the interplay between strategy, change and innovation in today’s organisations.

Selected publications

Buchan, L & Simpson, B. (2020) ‘Project-as-practice: The social dynamics of organizing projects’ Project Management Journal Special Issue on ‘Process studies of project organizing’, Online First, doi: 10.1177/8756972819891277.

Simpson, B., Buchan, L., & Sillince, J. (2018). The performativity of leadership talkLeadership, 14(6), 644-661.

Simpson, B. (2016). Where’s the agency in leadership-as-practice. Leadership-as-practice: Theory and application, 159-177.

Research networks