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Researchers awarded major grant to study productivity and workplace wellbeing

Thursday, May 9th, 2019
  • The Sheffield team, led by Professor Paul Latreille, was one of only five projects selected for the major new grant from the ESRC
  • The UK lags behind other developed economies for productivity 
  • Improving workplace wellbeing is increasingly in focus as a priority to tackle the productivity challenge

Researchers at The University of Sheffield’s Management School have been awarded part of a £3.8m ESRC fund looking at workplace productivity and wellbeing.

Conflict, low staff engagement and poor line management are some of the workplace challenges that can lead to weak productivity.

Leading the project team, which includes Professor Richard Saundry at the University of Plymouth, Professor Peter Urwin at the University of Westminster and Gill Dix at Acas, Professor Latreille hopes to achieve two, related things. The project will provide ‘gold standard’ evidence of the impact of a new training intervention delivered by Acas aimed at enhancing line manager competencies, including how they deal with conflict.

Secondly, that in highlighting those critical competencies and how these can be developed, it will make an important, practical contribution to tackling the UK’s ‘productivity challenge’.

“We want to see if a short, training intervention focused on enhancing these skills can improve managers’ confidence and capability, and whether this results in enhanced employee and engagement and measurable gains in productivity.”
Professor Paul Latreille

The UK Government has set productivity at the heart of their Industrial Strategy to boost employment, deliver advanced infrastructure and support technological advances.

The project is a further demonstration of The University of Sheffield’s multidisciplinary approach to knowledge exchange with key partners tackling the grand challenges of the Industrial Strategy.

Professor Paul Latreille said: “Line managers play a vital role in developing (and maintaining) positive working relationships, employee engagement and performance. Yet when we talk to HR practitioners, they regularly tell us that while managers may have strong technical skills, their interpersonal skills are often less well developed. In particular, managers may struggle to deal with difficult situations such as conflict with or between team members.”

Acas Head of Workplace Policy, Gill Dix, said: “The UK workforce produces less per hour than our main competitors such as Germany, France and the US. We’re excited to be involved in this research project and to play our part in helping to improve the UK’s workplace productivity.
“We believe that the way workplaces are organised, the part played by managers and involving employees can deliver better outcomes for workers, organisations and the economy. One key aspect to this is ensuring managers are trained to deal with conflict in the workplace.
“Last year Acas trained over 40,000 people across nearly 1000 organisations and we look forward to incorporating any learning points off the back of this study to help improve productivity within the UK.”

Dr Annie Gibney, Portfolio lead at ESRC for Management & Business Studies and Transforming Working Lives said: “This is a very strong set of projects that address the key management practices and employee engagement challenges facing business owners, managers and workers. Not only are they examples of excellent academic research that work closely with firms, policy-makers and key stakeholders – but they also have a real opportunity to lead to meaningful change in business and policy practices.”

Prof Latreille amongst high profile speakers at workplace mediation conference

Friday, February 10th, 2017

A packed Civil Mediation Council (CMC) workplace mediation conference held in the Old Library of Lloyd’s of London on 1 February enjoyed an interactive session from Chair in Management at SUMS, Prof Paul Latreille.

His focus on workplace conflict gathered on-the-spot data from the audience via polling technology, revealing that nearly three-quarters (71%) of the senior-level delegates were from the private sector, suggesting a growing interest in mediation there. The demand for practical help was equally clear – 78% had been aware of or experienced workplace conflict over the previous year, and the top three costs of workplace conflict identified by the poll were: the damaging impact on management time; reduced engagement and performance among parties in conflict; and the costs of absenteeism.

Some of Paul’s written reports produced for Acas, including a recent study of a conflict resolution system in an NHS Trust (see below), were also referenced by their chairman Sir Brendan Barber.

The conference brought together practitioners from a range of organisations including speakers from the BBC, Sony, the NHS and Tesco, and explored an array of areas in workplace mediation and conflict. Caroline Sheridan, Chair of the CMC Workplace and Employment Group, said: “Mediation is enjoying considerable momentum as a core business process for employee engagement and conflict resolution. We have focused on the arguments and strategies to fuel the momentum and to develop confidence in anticipating and addressing the most likely challenges.”

Paul continued: “It was a great privilege to address delegates at this event. By incorporating live data, my session benefited from current information and a highly engaged audience – we were able to identify and explore some of the greatest challenges we face in the workplace conflict arena, on the spot.”

Paul has since been invited to speak at a series of similar CMC regional events later in the year, with the provisional schedule including Bristol in June, Birmingham in October and the North East.

Read Paul’s reports on workplace conflict and mediation by clicking on the links below:

Fantastic employability data for SUMS

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

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New figures released by the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey reflect the Management School’s commitment to building the employability of its undergraduates.

Of our most recent UK graduates, who were the first cohort to benefit from our investment in the dedicated Employability Hub for all three years of their study, 84% are engaged in activities for which their degree is an essential requirement.

A huge 95% have experienced positive outcomes, which relates to graduates in any positive activity six months after graduation.

This year has seen significant gains in the DLHE data for the Management School. On these results, Employability Manager for the Management School, Merryn McGregor, said: “It’s gratifying to see that our efforts and investment are paying off. The past three years has seen a more focused and one-to-one approach to employability for our undergraduates and that’s shown in the DLHE figures.

“In September we introduce a programme for undergraduates called Futures First, developed with members of our Advisory Board,  which will get our students talking about their graduate prospects from day one at the Management School. We can’t wait to see the impact it has on their long-term employability.”

Prof Paul Latreille, Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching at the Management School, said: “Balancing employability priorities our students while maintaining a rigorous research base in learning isn’t easy – but we’ve done it here. Our formula obviously works for business and accounting students and we’ll continue to build on our offer to secure equally competitive scores in the future.”

Leading innovators in learning and teaching awarded by Senate

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

For the fourth year running, the Management School has achieved success in the University’s prestigious Senate Awards.

Prof Paul Latreille, Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching at the Management School, scooped the prestigious Senate Award for Leadership in Learning and Teaching. On his win, he said: “I’m delighted with this acknowledgement from the University. We’ve worked hard to become leading innovators in learning and teaching and to deliver an outstanding student experience, and it hasn’t just been my efforts: without an exceptional team of supportive academic and professional services colleagues, this award wouldn’t have been possible. I’m proud of the entire School and this award is a further reflection of our collegiality and the great things we can achieve together.”

Andrea Ward, University Teacher and Postgraduate Director for Teaching Quality and Enhancement, has been awarded the Early Career Senate Award. She was praised for being a dedicated, inspirational teacher and mentor who makes the most of available technology, saying: “My teaching approach is facilitative encouraging participation and to provoke thinking to enable them to reach their potential by helping them create the ability and skill to decipher real world situations. It’s an honour to have this acknowledged by the University.”

The final award, for Collaborative Activities, was a group presentation to the Global Leadership Initiative Team (GLOSS), including Management School academic staff Prof Jason Heyes and Dr Thomas Hastings. For the past two years Jason and Tom have arranged for groups of Sheffield students to attend meetings of the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation, a specialist agency of the United Nations. Thanks to Jason and Tom’s efforts, the students have spent a week in Geneva meeting ILO officials and learning about the realities of international policy making. Their commitment to securing valuable international opportunities for students in the social sciences has made a significant difference to student experience across the Faculty.

Dean of the Management School, Prof David Oglethorpe, reflected on the announcement: “I couldn’t be prouder of our achievements in learning and teaching and some of these have been recognised formally by the University again this year with four Management School staff achieving Senate awards. This is the fourth year running that the Management School has members of staff receiving these awards – a true reflection of our commitment to ensuring excellent, innovative teaching provision for students.”

Click here to read more about the Senate Awards and winners across the university.

Business Management students’ expertise to help local charity

Monday, May 9th, 2016


Pictured L-R: Project manager Sue, Jessica Murray, outreach worker Daryl, Dan and Lily Robinson

Many modules at the Management School integrate real-world problems which students are asked to solve. For our third-year Business Management undergraduates, the ‘Management Project’ module, led by Michael Frize, is a great opportunity for their work and recommendations to actually make an impact on an organisation. This was demonstrated recently when problems in eight organisations were subject to the scrutiny of our students.

Ben’s Centre, a Sheffield charity that supports homeless people that are often vulnerable and involved with alcohol, presented a challenge; they needed to raise awareness of the charity and increase donations from the public in terms of funds and volunteering. The response from students Lily Robinson and Jessica Murray focused on their marketing. Lily’s recommendations discussed how shock advertising might help their cause; understanding students as a target demographic; and how they could enhance their digital platforms. Jessica recommended that they develop a brand personality based on the people at the core of the charity; formulate a more relationship focused marketing approach, using storytelling; and reviewed brand guidelines, using a consistent identity, based on a new logo, colour selections and typefaces, all informed by the brand personality.

The charity was so impressed with their recommendations that they intend on integrating them into future campaigns.

Lily said: “The project involved writing a literature review, using literature to solve their issues and then coming up with recommendations. We then had to do a poster presentation to feedback findings to our company. After choosing to deliver on their brief I visited Ben’s Centre, got a feel for the charity and the work they do, and then got going! My placement year helped a lot as I have practical experience in marketing. I also got plenty of support from Michael, the module leader – I had weekly sessions I could attend where we discussed my coursework progress.

Jessica added: “As soon as I saw the pitch by Ben’s Centre, I knew it was the project I was seeking for a number of reasons. Firstly, because I would be able to apply my marketing expertise to offer genuine help to a charity. Secondly, as it would help me to broaden my academic understanding of the subject and finally because the cause is a matter close to my heart. This project has been really rewarding as I have not only enhanced my own learning, but have been able to provide some tangible recommendations that should hopefully be of use to such a great charity. Feedback I’ve received from the charity was amazing – they feel my solutions were very well communicated and a number of the recommendations made have formed the structure of a new marketing and communications policy for Ben’s Centre.”

Lily added: “It was so rewarding to do a piece of coursework I knew Ben’s Centre was going to use – it was a motivation. It was great to present back my ideas to them as they really liked my recommendations and are hoping to implement some of them in the future. I have not done many poster presentations before and it was a great way to improve my communication skills in an unfamiliar setting.”

The Management School is keen to hear from other organisations keen to benefit from our students’ expertise. Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching, Professor Paul Latreille, said: “I’m delighted to see that both parties have benefited from this module. Although our students are introduced to live case-studies throughout their degree, the Management Project puts onus on practical skills and making informed, realistic recommendations. We’re very proud of Lily and Jessica and can’t wait to see Ben’s Centre thrive as a result of their projects.”

Find out more about Bens Centre on their website:

Workplace mediation – Prof Paul Latreille paper discusses NHS study

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

Workplace conflict takes its toll on employees, both those directly involved or on the periphery of an issue. A recent CIPD study suggests four in ten UK employees experienced some form of interpersonal conflict in the previous year, with impacts including reduced motivation or commitment, and one in ten of those in conflict moving job or leaving their organisation. Organisations have increasingly turned to workplace mediation as a way of helping to resolve issues more quickly and easily, but few – at least outside of the US – have integrated it as part of a conflict management system.

However, Prof Paul Latreille at the Management School has recently completed a project with Associate Prof Richard Saundry at Plymouth University that investigates the implementation and operation of such a system at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (NHCT). The final report is based on a survey of operational managers and over 50 interviews with key stakeholders, and examines the key features of the system and its development, as well as providing early findings as to its impact.

In common with previous research, workplace mediation was seen to have had a significant impact on staff, with nine out of ten mediations resulting in an agreement and most respondents feeling that their situation had improved as a result. Crucially however, NHCT’s more systemic and strategic approach – which includes stress risk assessments, mediation, team facilitation, conflict coaching and training – goes beyond simply mediation, and was found to be having a positive impact on the Trust and its employees. As Prof Latreille notes: “The key for organisations is to move beyond seeing interpersonal conflict as a purely transactional issue. As managers in our survey reported, not only can conflict lead to wasted staff and management time, together with reduced motivation and productivity, it can potentially compromise patient care. Conflict needs to be recognised as a legitimate part of the organisational vocabulary, and a strategic approach to it adopted that focuses on prevention, early intervention, management and resolution.”

Although Latreille and Saundry acknowledge that challenges remain, they argue NHCT represents a unique example in the UK of an organisation that has adopted such a strategic approach to conflict management, and there is evidence that this has led to the development of a culture in which early resolution of issues is encouraged and a collaborative culture is embedded. “The evidence suggests the changes have led to significant improvements in the working environment, as measured for example by the Trust’s staff survey results for 2014. These show NHCT is now among the top 20 per cent for many of the questions, and the best for an acute trust in relation to bullying,” Prof Latreille added.

You can download the report from Acas’s website now.

In 2012/13, Latreille and Saundry were co-conveners on an ESRC seminar series which brought together academics, practitioners and policy makers. This is where TCM Group’s David Liddle – who worked with NHCT in establishing the scheme – put forward the Trust as an interesting case-study of an organisation that had moved beyond workplace mediation.

The findings from the study will shortly receive international exposure when Prof Latreille presents a paper based on the research at the Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA) Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh at the end of this month. Scheduled alongside world-leading experts from UCLA and Cornell in the AILR/LERA Best Papers Symposium, this will provide an opportunity to showcase some of the work being undertaken within the Management School aligned to its mission in respect of socially-responsible work practices.

MSc and MBA students: Make yourselves heard!

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

MS161  MS151

We want to hear what you’ve thought about your postgraduate experience at Sheffield University Management School.

By getting your feedback, we can reflect and improve our provision for future students, making small changes which may make a huge different to our student experience. To do this, the University of Sheffield participates in the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES). It is a national online survey coordinated by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) – we’re encouraging as many students as possible to complete it and give considered, honest feedback. The more postgraduates that take part, the more representative the results.

The results from previous PTESs have fed into where we find ourselves now. New facilities in which to learn and study, a wonderful Student Experience Office and courses which balance academic rigour with applied skills and practical abilities – but there’s always room for improvement, so we want as much feedback from the Class of 2013-4 as possible.

Visit to find out more and complete the survey. The deadline is 15 June 2014.



We are running a prize draw linked to PTES completion rates – the more people who take part, the more prizes available! *

50 completions: £50 Amazon vouchers
100 completions: £100 Amazon vouchers (2 x £50)
150 completions: £150 Amazon vouchers (3 x £50)
200 completions: £200 Amazon vouchers (4 x £50)
250 completions: £250 Amazon vouchers (5 x £50)


Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the PTES? The Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) is a national survey of postgraduate taught (MSc, MBA) students, inviting them to commend on their course and experience. The questionnaire takes about 15 minutes to complete.

Why should I take part? This is your chance to tell us your thoughts about your course. It is also your opportunity to tell us what you liked about your time here and the things you feel could be improved at Sheffield University Management School. There is also the fantastic prize draw (details above) – even more incentive to complete the survey!

What does it cover? PTES concentrates on your course, and includes: Your motivation for taking the course; Information you were given to help choose your course; Your experience of learning and teaching; The organisation of the course; Assessment and dissertation (or major project); Career development

What happens with the results? Your feedback is important. Over 100 universities and colleges take part. This means we can compare your experience against similar postgraduates at other institutions to see if we are supporting your learning as we should. We use the findings to improve our courses and the learning experience for future students.

Is it anonymous? The survey is confidential and no one will be able to identify you from any results. the survey asks that any comments you make should not identify yourself or any specific members of staff.

What do I need to do? You will receive an email with a link to the questionnaire. Simply click on the link and enter your username and password – you will then by prompted to complete the online form. The survey is open until 15 June 2014.

Where can I find out more? If you are unsure about anything to do with the survey, or have any difficulty, please see your course leader or email Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching, Professor Paul Latreille:


* Prize draw terms and conditions:

– All students who are eligible to complete PTES and did not opt out will be automatically entered into the prize draw
– Drawn randomly, w/c June 23 2014
– No cash alternatives offered
– Prize winners will be notified via email
– List of prize winners can be obtained after w/c 30 June 2014 by emailing

Number of judges affects decisions at the Employment Appeal Tribunal

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

According to research from the universities of Sheffield and Greenwich, appellants have a better chance of success at an Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) when a decision is made by a judge sitting alone.

Success is less likely when a judge sits with lay members, but the increase in success rates is more pronounced for employee-instigated appeals than for employer-instigated appeals.

For appeals brought by employers, this difference essentially disappears when other factors are taken into account. For employee appeals however, the difference in outcomes according to EAT composition remains significant when controlling for these other case characteristics.

These are key findings of research, carried out by Paul Latreille, Professor of Management at the University of Sheffield, and Susan Corby, Professor of Employment Relations at the University of Greenwich. The research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, (grant no RES -000-22-4154) and is based on an analysis of EAT administrative data for 4,800 appeals heard from 2001 to 2011 inclusive.

Professor Latreille said: “The policy measures being enacted from this month have been based on the coalition government’s concern to ensure tribunal resources are used more effectively, with cost saving being a key consideration. However, in the absence of quantitative empirical evidence about the impact of lay members on decision-making, policy-makers can have had little or no idea of the consequences of such change. Our research provides the first evidence concerning the potential impact of the current reforms in terms of outcomes.”

Professor Corby continued: “The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has said that lay members are unnecessary in the Tribunal system. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act will implement this on Tuesday 25 June when the default position will be judges sitting alone at the EAT. This research suggests that this change may lead to BCC members losing more appeals than before.”

“An appeal against a decision of an Employment Tribunal can be made to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) on a point of law. An appeal is normally decided either by a judge sitting alone, or by a judge sitting with two lay members – one from an employer panel and the other from an employee panel – and all three have equal votes. Essentially, if it is judge sitting alone at the Employment Tribunal below, the EAT hearing is judge sitting alone as well, although this is subject to judicial discretion.”


The Economic and Social Research Council is the UK’s largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC’s total budget for 2012/13 is £205 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.