Social Media And Our Communication Skills

Social media opens vast possibilities for finding connections and interactions. It also is a very powerful tool to communicate ideas. The uprisings that we have observed during last years in various parts of the world were all organised by people getting together in social media platforms. Once the message is out, it can spread to millions within seconds. The latest #metoo movement on social media was so effective that it has been selected to be the 2017 Times Magazine person of the year.

However, this popularity comes with a cost. More connection does not imply more interaction. Having grown up with social media, the new generation prefers to communicate through an online platform than to have a face-to-face conversation. Real-life interactions, however, teach us aspects of non-verbal communication: being able to read and respond to facial expressions, eye-to-eye contact or changes in tone of voice. These abilities could easily be lost in digital communication. Besides, experts relate the rising occurrence of depression, anxiety and isolation among youngsters with their excessive exposure to social media.

While communicating through social media, we often do not feel the need to form grammatically correct complete sentences. This is particularly common for youngsters and teenagers who heavily rely on emoji, acronym or short expressions. However, over time, this convenience is likely to weaken their ability to write and to communicate in formal environments. In a world becoming increasingly competitive, these skills will be the essential assets for success.

So, while we are enjoying the benefits of social media, we need to remember that the real-life friendships and face-to-face interactions are equally valuable. A balanced use of digital and face-to-face interactions can immensely expand our communication capabilities and help us to utilise our full potential.

Mehtap Hisarciklilar-Riegler, Associate Professor, Staffordshire Business School

What are ChatBots and why are they important?

At it’s simplest a chatbot is computer programme that imitates a human conversation…So why is it important?

As a hobby I support local businesses to increase sales, and over the last few years I’ve been supporting some restaurants and hotels. For a one week period I setup and ran a test using a chatbot that gave a personalised experience to potential customers on a Social Media messaging platform. This system was easy to setup and run. In general the restaurants that paid for search advertising on Google had a click-through-rate (CTR) of around 4% and Facebook advertising was around 9%. During this test week the chatbot created a CTR of over 50%, and a major increase in bookings.

With more complicated systems, including adding Artificial Intelligence (AI) or additional support from humans, chatbots can be setup to be much smarter and chat with customers plus find out what they need. Where applicable, it can also learn from previous conversations and the more knowledge it gains, the better it is able to support customers. In addition, it can have lots of separate chats all at the same time, for example H&M can chat with lots of customers to make tailored recommendations to the customers taste (see https://bots.directory/kik/health-and-lifestyle/hm).

If you’re a business owner and short of time, this support could help sell your products and services. Rather than just receiving and monitoring comments on your website, social media or messenger the chatbot could give a personalised service, converse with and sell to customers, sell other products they might be interested in and help build brand loyalty.

Chatbots are becoming a familiar both as apps and chatbot platforms. For example around the home and office are virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Echo and Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri, Google’s Google Assistant and Samsung’s Bixby. Messaging apps are amongst the most popular mobile apps today, for examples Facebook’s Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat and Viber combined have more users than popular social network apps. This has enabled businesses of all sizes to use messaging-app chatbots to expand their customer service, for example in e-commerce and sales.

SMM Marketing Platform reported that in just over six months chatbots, on Facebook alone, grew from 33,000 to 100,000 in April 2017 and some chatbots are getting great results, for example Adidas’s chatbot got 2000 new sign ups in two week and Just Eat chatbot created a conversion rate 266% higher than a simple advert.
Although it can be seen that chatbots are to become an important customer engagement tool, they are still in their infancy stage and need careful development. There are always going to be examples where humans try to sabotage the machine learning of these tools and at the moment, without some form of pre-scripted conversation, the natural-language processing and machine learning hasn’t evolved enough to enable fluid dialog between humans and bots.

Paul Dobson is a Senior Lecturer at Staffordshire University, Business School.

Free Teaching event – Purchasing and Supply Management Fundamentals Staffordshire University 15th and 16th November

Are you a student looking to improve your knowledge and employability in Supply Chain Management area?

The perfect project event is a great opportunity to do it.

The most desired impact of the PERFECT project is an increase in the number of highly qualified students who are suitable for entering the workplace in PSM related jobs. Purchasing and Supply Management (PSM) as an enterprise function is getting more and more important as modern organizations of all types are becoming increasingly reliant on their suppliers to sustain and develop their operational and strategic performance. Therefore, the job market for PSM professionals is also growing, which means that there is not only a greater need for graduates with PSM skills, but also a greater opportunity for those that do have them.

In this PSM focused learning event, you will gain knowledge about PSM fundamentals and insights into current practice, issues and future challenges such as digitisation and sustainability in the field of PSM.

The two-day event will consist of lectures and discussions in a small training group. You will also work in smaller groups putting together a presentation based on a case study.
You will be issued with a certificate of attendance.

When will it happen? 15th-16th November 2017, 9:00-17:30
Where will it happen? Staffordshire University

Programme:
Day 1 – PSM basics
• What is the general role of PSM in organisations and which job roles are relevant?
• How to evaluate a supply market?
• How to negotiate with suppliers?

Day 2 – Future challenges for PSM
• What are future trends and challenges?
• How will digitization impact purchasing?
• How to handle sustainability standards in global supply chains?

Registration:
Please register via: http://projectperfect.eventbrite.co.uk

The number of participants is limited and places are allocated on a first come, first served basis.

The event is organised and conducted by the team of the EU Erasmus+ project PERFECT (Purchasing Education and Research for European Competence Transfer).

More project information and regular updates: www.project-perfect.eu

Marzena Reszka, Staffordshire Business School

Why do women still earn less than men?

In the nearly fifty years since the passing of the Equal Pay Act the gender pay gap in the UK has proved to be stubbornly resilient. What has changed is the way economists try to explain its existence and persistence. Fifty years ago economists used to explain differences in wages predominantly in terms of differences in experience, education and training, what collectively they termed ‘human capital’. Whilst they recognised that luck, nepotism and discrimination may be important, differences in human capital were thought to be the dominant determinant of wage differentials. It was, however, recognised that female workers were typically crowded into a narrower range of occupations and industries than males. Moreover, whilst glass-ceilings constrained many female employees’ ability to move up the job-ladder, it was also evident that employers tended to place a low premium on caring skills, which traditionally have been more associated with female workers.

More recently economists have established the importance of non-cognitive productivity-related characteristics, such as motivation, resilience and initiative, in explaining differences in wages. In terms of explaining the gender pay gap this opens up three intriguing possibilities. It may be that females are, on average, less endowed with those productivity-augmenting characteristics. This may be the result of nature or nurture and here the findings that single-sex schooling may be related to lower gender pay gaps is of interest. An alternative hypothesis is that females may have, on average, different preferences, placing a lower relative value on the monetary benefits from working. A third possibility is that employers do not reward males and females similarly for a given non-cognitive characteristic. Behaviour which is seen by employers as positive when undertaken by males, such a providing leadership in group discussion, may be viewed as indicative of a poor team-player when evident in a female employee.

If we are serious as a society about eliminating the 18 per cent gender pay gap then it may be time to pay less attention to altering the behaviour of female workers and spend more time creating more male homemakers.

Nick Adnett, Professor in Staffordshire Business School

Industry vote of confidence in UK’s first esports degree

A trailblazing degree dedicated to the rapidly growing esports industry has received the backing of the UK’s leading industry experts.

Staffordshire University announced in May that it was launching the country’s first BA (Hons) Esports degree and has been overwhelmed with enquiries from prospective students from all over the world.

The University recently invited organisations including British Esports Association, Ukie, The National University Esports League (NUEL), Fast Web Media and Codemasters to make up an industry panel and help advise on modules making up the course which aims to supply skilled graduates to the global gaming industry.

Gaming Conviction.com: “Staffordshire to offer degree in esports”

This offers the opportunity of future collaboration and companies like Red Bull have already offered student work placements at their new esports studio in London.

Rachel Gowers, Associate Dean for Recruitment in Staffordshire Business School, said: “It is vital that the degree supports the needs of those working and recruiting to this specialist sector. The industry is driving the creation of new jobs and companies are looking for people who are both entrepreneurial and tech savvy.

“Our course focuses on the business and culture of esports from developing teams, communities and a fan base to hosting esports events. We are delighted to be partnering with the businesses and organisations who can help us to fine tune the course prior to launch in 2018.”

Joana Ferreira of Fast Web Media, a digital marketing company which played a major role in promoting the first esports industry awards, said she was delighted to be part of the process.

“Being a part of this panel is very exciting for me. Having worked within digital marketing for esports for a couple of years now, it’s fantastic to be able to help mould what future esports employees look like and what it takes to run an esports business. Staffs Uni is impressively forward thinking, and this esports degree is just another testament to that.”

The University has also won the high profile backing of Ed Vaizey MP and Vice Chair of the British Esports Association.

He added: “Staffordshire University’s decision to establish an esports course is visionary and far sighted. Esports is one of the fastest growing entertainment mediums in the world, and anything that can help the UK establish itself as a centre for this exciting industry should be celebrated.”

The new degree course is in direct response to the Ukie white paper on esports. Dr Bobbie Fletcher, Associate Professor of Games Education, said: “Plans to grow the UK as an esports hub brings huge opportunities and we are well placed as a University to respond to that. Connecting with industry in this way enables us to benefit from their expertise and exciting work experience opportunities.”

Prospective students are invited to visit Staffordshire University on Sunday 22 October for an esports taster event. Taking place between 11am – 6pm at the LRV on Leek Road, Stoke-on-Trent (ST4 2DF), this is an opportunity to experience esports, get hands-on with the games and have a go at casting. It’s also a chance to find out about university teams and watch them compete in the Esports Varsity. Book here

 

Author: Maria Scrivens, Media Relations Manager

The economic benefits of a vibrant university and Business School

Dean of Staffordshire Dr Peter Jones reflects on the start of term and the economic benefits of a vibrant university and Business School in the region.

Last month the population of Stoke-on-Trent changed and transformed as the annual autumn migration to University got underway. Students both arrived and left the city and the region to start or continue their higher education. For Stoke-on-Trent there was a sudden influx of people from not just around the country but from around the world who bring a vibrancy, culture and diversity to the six towns.
This changing demographic is vital for the city and the region. Students and associated workers spending cash on renting property, in bars, eating food and even buying books – students are important for our economy. University students also provide a transient workforce providing casual labour to the region’s businesses. Importantly they will go on to become the qualified and educated future workforce. And this is vital for Stoke-on-Trent.

For a city like Stoke where we have high employment, but typically a low skilled and low wage workforce, a strong University is key and is vital in the economic growth of the city, county and region. This is not a situation that is restricted just to Stoke-on-Trent. In the late 1990s funding of the Northern Powerhouse cities resulted in massive urban repopulation and redevelopment. The growth of cities such as Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and also in the West Midlands / Birmingham meant that the smaller Midlands cities were somewhat overlooked and forgotten about.

However, the introduction of increased numbers of people entering higher education has to a greater or lesser extent be the saviour of many if these economically slowing towns and cities in the Midlands. Places like Coventry, Northampton, Derby, Leicester and Lincoln all now have growing economies where local and regional politicians work hand in with the local “new” university to invent themselves and their identity of place. With the changing role of councils and their declining budgets, the role of the university in developing place has become even more paramount.

I would argue that Business Schools have a key role in new universities as all businesses do business and, I would argue, need business graduates. Therefore, the key to the regional economic growth is a strong Business School. A Business School that is connected to the region’s employers and producing students who bring ideas and support innovation and growth by completing internships, placements and sandwich years with the region’s companies. In our digital age this input from millennials and generation Z is key for innovation and economic growth.

It is also vital that Business Schools are not just outward looking but also develop the business skills of students in other disciplines within their own universities such as entrepreneurship which will help them become the next generation of start-ups and business leaders.

Super Seven Skills in Esports 

On Friday 8 September our Associate Dean for Recruitment Rachel Gowers, set off on a trip to Bergen Norway to see esports in the classroom.  Rachel’s journey started off bright and early by flying to Bergen and then catching a bus into the City Centre, then catching a train, another bus which turned out to be the wrong bus before deciding to get a taxi to the Norwegian School… I would say she has definitely been on an adventure even before the esports fun commenced.

 

Once Rachel arrived at the school she was introduced by Petter Grahl Jonstad, who assisted in introducing esports to the school in 2016. Petter originally had a background in social science and used his research to find out the transferable skills acquired through sports and chess.  When creating the esports course his philosophy was to look at the whole student as well as provide general well-being. To do this he decided that students would have two hours a week of gym sessions, 1 hour of strength training and 3 hours of game play a week to make sure they had a good balance. Petter was very interested in engaging students who were non-academic and to do this he made the requirement that all students must pass all their other subjects, by doing this he has seen a general improvement in attitude, motivations, English language and overall improved communication.

Our focus is not only on the mechanics of the game, but also on how a team works, theory regarding motivation as a professional gamer and, last but not least, teamwork. Understanding the game is one thing, but if the communication does not work within the team, if the players can’t rely on each other, you practically have nothing in our opinion”
Petter Grahl Jonstad

Since introducing esports the school has become oversubscribed and students are even moving house to attend the college. The classes are taught by ex-pro gamer Sindre Rygg, who has competed in the second biggest area network called The Gathering and went to Korea to compete in The Masters of Cheon where they came fourth.

While in Norway Rachel got to meet the next generation of esports managers and players, this allowed Rachel to visualise what type of graduates will be coming out of Staffordshire Business School in the near future. Rachel spoke to three of the students studying esports and here is what they had to say:

‘Esports helps me to concentrate in other classes because I know I have to work hard.’
Christian Nilsen

‘Esports helps me to communicate and work in a team to achieve something’.
Henrik Flo Wilhelmsen

‘Esports practices your brain to think quickly and have fast reaction times.’
Jorgen Treit Brevset

Rachel has come back from Norway more driven and inspired to get the esports course ready for 2018 and cannot wait for it to be part of the Business School. She has also learnt the super seven skills that will be imbedded within the course. These skills are:

  • Decision Making
  • Multi-tasking
  • Problem Solving
  • Perception
  • Communication
  • Team Builder
  • Numeracy

Click here for more information on studying a BA (Hons) Esports degree at Staffordshire University

Joshua Lonsdale, Graduate Intern within Staffordshire Business School

Welcome to Staffordshire University!

Welcome week, more commonly known as Freshers’ week, is officially your first week at university and is the perfect opportunity for you to unpack, make new friends and find out more about your course. My advice would be to get involved with as much as you can to ensure you get the most out of this first week.

Your first day of your new independent life will begin on Saturday 16th September – Moving in day! All your hard work over the past year has paid off and now is the time for your new adventure to start as you move into your new home for the next year.

Before you can start unpacking you need to do your face-to-face enrolment in the sports hall – if you have been to one of our open days you may already know where this is but if not just ask one of our friendly Student Ambassadors and they will be happy to help. Here you will not only receive the keys to your new home, but you will also get your student card which enables you to get student discount in a wide variety of shops and restaurants!

When everything is unpacked and you have met your flatmates, it’s time to relax and have a bit of fun before your studying starts. The LRV will be hosting a ‘Moving In Party’ and this is your chance to meet lots of other first years from all different courses and enjoy yourself (please drink responsibly, DrinkAware have some hints and tips for staying safe).

On Sunday 17th September, there is a family fun day open to everyone where there will be stalls, street food, music and much more! It is also enrolment day for students who are studying off site which will take place in the sports hall.Monday 18th September is officially the first day of Welcome Week. Each individual course will give out their timetable and there will be welcome sessions where you will find out more information about your course. These sessions are important and I highly recommend that you attend – start how you mean to go on! In the sessions, you will get the following information:

  • A breakdown of your course
  • The plan for the year
  • Meet your tutors – Good first impressions are important
  • Reading/books list
  • Meet your course mates – you will be learning and working with these people so good to get off on a good start!

Wednesday 20th September is the Students’ Union Day and is the highlight of Welcome Week! This day hosts the ‘Freshers’ Fair/Commercial Fair’ (located in the LRV) where you can get your hands on lots of freebies, discounts, vouchers and food! The ‘Clubs and Societies Fair’ (located in the sports hall and Brindley outpost) is also held on Wednesday and gives you the chance to browse and join up to a number of the hundreds of clubs and societies that are run across the university.

On Thursday 21st September, the LRV is hosting a ‘Laser Tag’ event, 16:00-21:00 and entry is free!

Friday 22nd September is the last day of Welcome Week and is the launch of the LRV‘s new club night ‘Eclipse’.

Don’t forget to check out the wristbands available to purchase that will guarantee entry to the Move-In Party, special events and club nights. Click here to get yours!

For more advice on what to do and where to go during welcome week click here.

What Goliath can learn from David

In Business Schools all over the country and beyond we tend to focus on large and often multinational corporations, and the overarching focus on providing shareholders with the greatest possible return on investment has been identified as one potential contributor to the 2008 financial crisis (see for example https://www.forbes.com/sites/shawnoconnor/2013/05/15/the-responsibility-of-business-schools-in-training-ethical-leaders-2/#3102f64960bd). 

My current research leads to conversations with barbers, microbrewers, tattoo artists, baristas, tailors, street artists and denim heads who are participating in the resurgence of traditional trades rather than CEOs of multinational corporations. These entrepreneurs all have two things in common and that is the importance of having a trade and a purpose that goes beyond only making a living. They all refer to their colleagues as an integral part to their success, and they don’t define themselves as managers or leaders, but as master brewers or floor sweepers. They have an identity, authenticity and presence that go way beyond any suit and tie.

Talking with these individuals I am becoming more and more convinced that Goliath has much to learn from David. Whilst David believes in success with and through his people, Goliath too often believes in success despite of his people. Whilst David is acknowledging individual contributions, Goliath is often referring to staff as replaceable overheads. Whilst David is focusing on providing the best possible service or product, Goliath is more concerned about often meaningless and short term KPIs. Whilst David’s eye is on securing sustainable organisational success, Goliath’s is on personal short term success, sometimes at the cost of his very own existence.

Yes, David also needs to be successful and make a living, but he has a whole different approach to doing so which I believe Goliath can learn from.

Professor Rune Todnem By
@Prof_RuneTBy

Sustainable Supply Chains in the Tourism Sector

The fundamental principle of a Sustainable Supply Chain (SSC) rests on collaboration between companies and their suppliers, and their willingness to link their aims and essential operational processes to create unique, international, market satisfying resources that will satisfy their customers and help them gain competitive advantage.

Companies from various sectors have come up with different strategies and tools to influence their suppliers towards better environmental and social practices. All these companies believe that no enterprise can exist independently, and the success of every enterprise depends on its supply chain partners. The nature of the strategy adopted (collaborative or forced compliance) depends upon factors such as the type of business, levels of competition, and size and influence of buyer and supplier businesses.

The action

The most basic action that a company can take is to develop its own environmental policy or any other document with which the company can communicate its environmental goals and expectations to its suppliers.

The next common approach to SSC is gathering information that indicates the suppliers’ environmental compliance status, and on the existence and status of suppliers’ environmental management systems and the type or quality of materials used by them.

Tour Operations and SSC

Tour operators provide holiday packages comprised principally of accommodation, transport, excursion/activity providers, ground handlers, and food and craft production. A distinction is here made between mass-market and specialist operators. Mass-market operators typically sell standard beach holidays based holidays in mainstream destinations, and specialist operators typically offer niche products based on specialised activities in less mainstream destinations.

It can be argued that sustainability in tourism depends strongly on the development of better linkages between supply and demand. As intermediaries in the supply chain, tour operators are in a position to influence destination management on the supply side, and consumers on the demand side.

This requires management of environmental, socio-economic and cultural issues through the supply chain. Environmental aspects include sustainable transport development and sustainable use of resources; reducing, minimising and preventing pollution and waste (e.g. solid and liquid waste, emissions to air); conserving plants, animals, ecosystems and protected areas (biodiversity); and conserving landscapes, cultural and natural heritage. Socio-economic and cultural issues encompass a number of aspects, including contribution to the economic development and the well-being of local communities; preservation of cultural identity; respect for human rights local communities’ and indigenous peoples’ rights.

Some operators have built supply chain initiatives on the production and distribution of local sustainable food and crafts, but some work with local suppliers to promote local sourcing. For instance, local sourcing is often a key part of the product, and it also features as part of a portfolio of tourist attractions for mass operators in excursions and promotion of local bars and restaurants.

Most large hotels that have worked with local food producers have found it requires constant supervision and commitment, and success is often linked to championing of local sourcing by hotel chefs. It may also require training and technical support and investment in order to gather supplies from different producers that meet the quality and quantity required.

The key aspects in SSC initiatives depend on good working relationships with suppliers, organisational cultures that are supportive of sustainability principles, and organisational resources to invest in sustainability. Initiatives to date have focused more on setting environmental, rather than socio- economic criteria, and industry-wide approaches play an important role in encouraging and supporting implementation of SSC.


The Benefits

So why might a business wish to apply a sustainable tourism supply approach – what are the principal benefits?

All supply chains can be optimised using sustainable practices. Sustainability in the supply chain encapsulates a number of different priorities:

  • Environmental stewardship
  • Conservation of resources
  • Reduction of carbon footprint
  • Financial savings and viability
  • Social responsibility

Managing supply chains in a sustainable manner can help businesses in not only reducing their total carbon footprint, but also in optimising their end-to-end operations to achieve:

  • Improved credibility, visibility and brand reputation
  • Improved access to markets
  • Greater operational effectiveness leading to cost savings and profitability

We have created a free online tool to help you develop. Our training tool was developed by and with the tourism industry. This free online training covers 11 modules to complete with short quizzes at the end of each module. This tool helps you to design your own strategy in relation to your individual business needs.  All you need is an internet connection.

Click here to register and start your free online training today:  http://smartour.dcnet.eu/

Marzena Reszka

SMARTOUR logo

References:

Davies, T. & Chaill, S. (2000). Environmental implications of the tourism industry. [Online] Available from: https://www.csu.edu/cerc/documents/EnvironmentalImplicationsTourismIndustry2000.pdf

BSR. (2003) Supplier Environmental Management. [Online] Available from: scholar.google.co.uk

Lippmann, S. (1999). Supply chain environmental management: elements for success. Environmental Management. [Online] 6 (2), 175-182. Available from:  http://www.sciencedirect.com

Miller, G. & Twining-Ward, L. (2005). Monitoring for a sustainable tourism transition: the challenge of developing and using indicators. Oxfordshire: CABI Publishing.

Crotts, J., Aziz, A., & Raschid, A. (1998). Antecedents of supplier’s commitment to wholesale buyers in the international travel trade. Tourism Management. [Online] 19 (2), 127-134. Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261517797001040

Tapper, R. (2001). Tourism and socio-economic development: UK tour operators’ business approaches in the context of the new international agenda. International Journal of Tourism Research. [Online] 3, 351-366. Available from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com

TOI & CELB (2003). Supply chain management for tour operators: a handbook on integrating sustainability into the tour operators’ supply chain systems. Paris, Tour Operators Initiative, Center for Environmental Leadership in Business.

 

Useful links

https://blogs.staffs.ac.uk/business/2017/04/10/service-quality-in-tourism-the-road-less-travelled/

Project website – http://www.smartourproject.eu/
Twitter @tourismsu   #SMARTOUR
Facebook page -Sustainable Tourism in Europe https://www.facebook.com/smartourproject