Support for micro & SME’s businesses: Survive and Thrive

Project leads: e:Prof Jon Fairburn @ProfjonFairburn and e:Kat Taylor @KatTayloruk

There are two parts to the Survive and Thrive project – a series of webinars and 1 to 1 business support. This project aims to support businesses in Staffordshire and the surrounding regions.

The webinars are designed to be interactive and resources to download during the webinars will be made available, as well as examples and the opportunity for chat and questions. If you are unable to attend the webinar then you can watch a recording.

Several of the webinars link to each other and we would encourage you to sign up for all of the webinars.

Practical Hints and Tips for Small and Micro-businesses occurred on Staffordshire Day (May 1st)Recording here

How to critically assess your business operation and ask really good questions in light of Covid 19 – 2pm May 21st Recording here

How to Create Clear Messaging & Develop Customer Relationships Online – 2pm May 28th Recording here

Strengthening your business and its future prospects: adapting your operations and supply chain management 2pm June 4th Recording here

Are you in the right place? How to connect to the right audience & analyse your performance 2pm June 11th Recording here

E-commerce 1: A fun, no techno-babble guide to having a go with electronic commerce! 2pm 18th June Awaiting editing

E-commerce 2:  A detailed navigation of the e-commerce strategy template introduced in the E-Commerce 1 webinar 2pm June 25th Recording here

How to manage your staff and their wellbeing out of the lockdown and beyond 2pm July 2nd Recording here

Introduction to advanced operations for key social media platforms 2pm July 7th Recording here

How to develop & integrate email marketing into your business 2pm July 9th Recording here

Managing change, risk and longevity – what does the future hold? 2pm July 16th

Register here

Applications for FREE 1 to 1 business support are NOW OPEN register your interest HERE

CONTACT INFO Prof Jon Fairburn or Kat Taylor

#SurviveandThrive #Staffordshire #Staffsbiz #Businesstips

Preparing for the New Normal – How accommodation providers in France are rethinking and adapting their services and what can we learn from this?

Paul Dobson, Senior LEcturer,Staffordshire Business School


It’s been a challenging, confusing and worrying time for most industries during this current Coronavirus Crisis. But the hospitality sector in particular stands to be one of the hardest hit as it struggles to contemplate how it can continue to trade successfully keeping social distancing in mind, coupled with a rapidly shrinking economy.  As part of Staffordshire Business School’s support to organisations I’ve been supporting the local and international hospitality sector and as the French businesses are ahead of us in coming out of lockdown I’ve noted some points to help prepare UK organisations.

After 2 months enduring some of the strictest lockdown controls in Europe, France is slowly opening up its economy and society. And the vast, hugely varied accommodation sector, which historically welcomes visitors across the world, is undergoing a rapid and radical revolution to ensure it can continue to attract customers in these unprecedented times.

The newly forced need to keep distance and natural sense of personal safety has fallen well into the hands of some of the self-catering sector. Private homes and villas, especially those that can offer generous outside space as well as little or no contact with others, have seen a huge demand since the 11th of May when the French Prime Minister officially declared that travel up to 100km was now permitted. The public, who have been largely “imprisoned” with massively limited scope to be outside their own homes since the middle of March inevitably have an overwhelming desire for a change of scenery. However, this is not a universal permission and policy, and restricted zones still exist across France, and indeed many local governments, even in the less-infected “green regions” are enforcing the continuation of heavy trading restrictions and forced closures of accommodation providers. But where these rules do not apply, the flood gates have opened and demand, all from customers within the 100km radius, has been significant. Also worthy of note is that the average length of stay has seen a dramatic increase for this time of year.

That’s not to say that this is return to normal times for these accommodation owners. French hospitality organisations have had a massive increase in questions about sanitation, personal responsibility and uniform industry standards on cleanliness and contact that the UK accommodation businesses will need to be prepared for when lockdown restrictions are relaxed. As of today, these restrictions haven’t been totally clarified in France, and only “best practice” guides from local tourism authorities exist online. Some of the leading booking platforms and websites for this sub sector are advising “safety gaps” between customers of, for example, 24 hours to allow any surfaces to become less likely to cross contaminate in the future. What is apparent from discussions with French hospitality businesses is that there is an increased desire for customers to have  “direct online contact” with the service rather than through  online booking platforms.  This could be a welcome shift in attitude as this not only allows peace of mind for the customer, but also less commissions for the business owner to pay to the booking platforms which have come under much public criticism and scrutiny of late because of their high charges. One of the French businesses I’ve talked to has had an 800% increase in Facebook messages, their analytics has shown an increase in both mobile and desktop visitors to their website and the number of emails has increased by over 200% compared to last year.

The B&B (Chambres d’hote) and Hotel sector have reported an uphill challenge. With a mix of different guests under their roofs, all with potentially varying attitudes to respecting the new government guidelines, this poses a significant threat to their short- and medium-term existence. However, those that can offer genuine space, especially outside, have a clear advantage over those that cannot. Going from one restrictive box to another isn’t likely to be a great draw for the new discerning needs of the Covid-19 era traveller.  Forced confinement has brought about a new desire to be out and about in nature, and burn off all those excessive calories consumed since March.

But with the high season fast approaching during which these businesses would traditionally run at maximum occupancy, the reality is that these organisations will be forced to not only give “buffers” in between guests checking out and the next ones checking in, but also run at a lower occupancy to ensure that interaction between different customers is minimized. Therefore “Making Hay whilst the sun shines” will this year inevitably bring about a lower yield, and reduce the vital cashflow which sustains many of these businesses during the quieter months. 

An example of changes implemented is the hotelier Tim Bell and Ingrid Boyer in the Auvergne region of Central France. Tim has developed their website to include a link to their Covid-19 guidance on their home page (see https://chabanettes.com/). This is updated on a regular basis and outlines their commitment to client’s safety.  He implements rapid alterations to its usual offerings and has created the foundations for business continuity and customer confidence.  He has also set up a Facebook forum for like minded accommodation owners in Europe seeking support and advice. Tim collates industry data, statistics and best practice ideas from all over the accommodation sector and share his opinions and advice with the group.

The sector in which he operates is having to rethink more radically about its traditional services to ensure competitivity and customer confidence. This ranges from the provision of catering which is leaning initially more towards a “Room Service” culture to a complete overhaul of the check-in/check-out customer touch points, looking to technology and globally recognised physical safety barriers to reduce risk of viral spread. For an industry which relies heavily on close, personal contact for their reputation and overall experience, keeping a balance between customer satisfaction and safety is proving challenging, but not impossible. Clients now expect a more sterile and distanced world, with supermarkets leading the way in some innovation and rethinking of the customer journey that the hotels are learning from, such as one-way corridors.

Until the world is safely vaccinated against the virus, the accommodation industry will have to adapt quickly and radically to guidelines, legislation and customer fears. History has told us that businesses that do this will have the best chance of survival, and those that don’t not only fear a downturn in business, but also a very visible online reputation for ignoring what is now the number one priority for the 2020 traveller – Safety.

Work-related stress: Tips for businesses

Vanessa Oakes, Lecturer, Staffordshire Business school


Stress is no longer a mental health condition that organisations can afford to ignore. In 2018/2019 12.8 million working days were lost due to stress, depression and anxiety (HSE, 2019) at a cost to the economy of £34.9bn. This cost is related to temporarily replacing absent staff, the cost of disruption to the organisation and lost opportunity costs, the cost of paid sick leave and the time required to manage employees who are off work, with an average number of days lost per case at 25.8 (HSE, 2019).

These numbers make for sobering reading, particularly if you are a business owner or a manager who has seen sickness absence related to stress, increase in your team. However, there is more than just a financial cost to the organisation. Your organisation’s reputation as an employer diminishes with high rates of absence due to stress, the engagement levels of your staff drop and in response, so does productivity and all of this happens because you are sending the message to your staff that their mental health isn’t as important as the performance of the organisation.

When it comes to proactively managing stress in the workplace, there is a lot that can be done to reduce stress before sickness absence takes hold. The CIPD’s 2019 Health & Wellbeing at Work Survey reports that 61% of organisations are recognising this as a priority, at Board level. But what can you actually do to reduce stress for your workforce?

Determine if employees are suffering from work-related stress or stress in their personal lives.

If your employees are experiencing stress at home, this will also impact their productivity too, so help them to acknowledge it and provide as much support as you can. An EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) can help you to offer support to staff without having to pry into their personal lives and will show your employees that you are concerned about them.

If your employee is suffering from work-related stress, then there is a lot that can be done to improve their environment. Firstly, take a look at your expectations of them.  Are they achievable and realistic? Do they have the support and authority needed to do their job? Are they under excess pressure to deliver? Can their responsibilities be shared by others or delegated?

Look at your absence management process – is it too harsh or too lenient? Can you build flexibility into your process to ensure you are able to support staff who are suffering with stress?

If too harsh, it may be forcing staff back to work before they are ready because there is a financial impact, or they may be afraid for their job security. These staff don’t get the time to deal with their stress before they are plunged back into it, and so may get worse over time. Are you conducting return to work interviews consistently for all staff? This is the best opportunity to determine if you employee is ready to be back at work.

Where your absence management process is too lenient, or you don’t have one, do you know why your staff are off sick? If you don’t know then you can’t help. Maybe your line managers don’t feel that they can ask such personal questions? If so, provide training to boost their confidence.

Focus on health and well-being

Communicate regularly with staff about the importance of their health and wellbeing and ask them about initiatives they think would improve health and wellbeing for all. It might be that water coolers within easy reach of desks will mean they are better hydrated; encouraging walks at lunchtime could improve the mental health in many different ways; having a space for staff to eat lunch, away from their desks means that their focus will be away from their work for at least a short time during the day. Most importantly though, ask them what they think and follow up on it! They will often have the best ideas about what would improve things for them.

Make sure that you react proactively when you suspect an employee is under stress, don’t wait for them to go off sick. This requires your managers to be more alert to possible changes in behaviour, timekeeping and work productivity and quality. Ensure that they receive training in how to start conversations about stress and mental health, and that they can signpost employees to other services if they are unable to help.

Finally, it may seem like managing stress and the related absence is time consuming, costly and unnecessary, but it has been proven to pay off. The CIPD’s survey found that three quarters of organisations who implemented proactive health and wellbeing strategies, however informal, saw a positive improvement in metrics such as morale and engagement, lower sickness absence, improved employer reputation, better retention of staff, a reduction in reported work-related stress, improved productivity and better customer service levels. Supporting your staff through difficult periods in their personal and working lives pays dividends when it comes to the success of your organisation. Now is not the time to delay!

Currently, it is even more important than ever to consider the health and wellbeing of staff as they endure lockdown and furlough leave. One thing which no organisation can offer, is certainty but there are ways of encouraging staff to maintain their health and wellbeing whether they are on furlough leave, working from home and trying to juggle childcare and other caring responsibilities. Here are a few tips:

  1. Communicate with them as regularly as you can – you may not be able to reassure them that their jobs are safe, or that things will return to normal quickly, but at least they will know that someone is still looking out for them.
  2. For staff on furlough leave, ensure that you have given them written details of their remuneration – try to avoid uncertainly building about how much they will be paid and when.
  3. Ensure that managers are in touch with their teams to ensure that each gets individual support – some employees might be coping well; others might be feeling higher levels of stress and may need more support.
  4. Remind your staff about their importance to your business, what their strengths are, how much they are valued and their latest achievements. They need to hear this now more than ever.

These steps should help you to maintain an engaged and productive (if they are homeworking) workforce during this challenging time and beyond.

What makes an entrepreneur?

June Dennis, Dean of Staffordshire Business School


We’ve been celebrating Global Enterprise Week at Staffordshire Business School this week and have welcomed some fantastic guest speakers.  What’s been very evident is that there is no one reason or way to start your own business – each guest speaker has had a uniquely individual journey and experience. In some instances, they have fallen into self-employment, in others, it was a well thought through and planned decision to do so.

So what makes a successful entrepreneur?

There are so many lists out there that can offer you the top 3 or 7 or 20 traits you must have to be a successful entrepreneur.  This is my list based on what our guest speakers shared this week!

Passion & determination – if you are to succeed, you need to be passionate about your business proposition.  What’s the point of setting up a business in something you don’t like or believe in?  However, passion alone will not be enough.  It really does help if you love what you do, but you need to be prepared for setbacks.  I can promise you that things won’t go as smoothly as you hoped. There will be times when you question whether you did the right thing.  That’s when you need to be resilient and, as they say, ‘keep calm and carry on’.

Strong work ethic & self starter – when you work for yourself, it’s very easy to have a lie-in when you don’t feel like working without realising that time is your most precious commodity.  Even when you don’t feel it, you have to push yourself to make that phonecall, finish the report or knock on the door.  You need to be disciplined.  One friend, when he didn’t have any work, used to go to the cinema or meet friends for a coffee.  Another friend would purposely post leaflets around the neighbourhood to promote his business.  Can you guess which one was most successful?

…but also a good finisher – basically, you won’t get paid until you finish the job.  And, you need to finish the job in good time.  So don’t procrastinate.  Sometimes, ‘good enough’ is better than not getting the job done in time. You won’t get repeat business if you don’t deliver on time.


Creativity – you don’t necessarily have to have a new-to-the-world invention or be able to design amazing advertising campaigns, but you do need to be a good problem solver and find ways around problems that come your way.  That’s being creative! 


Keep an eye out for opportunities – Be a purposeful networker.  You don’t have to be an extravert to develop a supportive network and you never know what’s around the corner!  Nearly every contract I received resulted in further business, either from the same organisation or as a result of them passing my details on to a third party.  For example, as a result of writing Mintel reports, I was contacted by the chief executive at the time asking if I could act as an expert witness in a court case.  The timing wasn’t great and I had to juggle domestic commitments and workload but saying yes to this one phone call provided me with the opportunity to be one of a handful of special marketing experts – and it paid well!

Know your worth – friends may ask for freebies or big discounts sometimes with the promise that you’ll get lots of publicity.  If they value you, they will pay for your services or goods.  Occasionally, they may be able to offer you something in kind, such as your first review or office space.  I got a free hair cut from my hairdresser when we spent the time it took to cut my hair discussing how he could improve his pricing policy.  It was win-win and neither of us took the other person’s services for granted. As an expert witness, I realised no one queried how much I was charging, so I increased my fees by £50-£75/day for each new quote.  I never got turned down….

And finally,

Be prepared to learn – constantly!   If you weren’t successful in getting a contract – find out why.  If you made a mistake, learn from it.  Get feedback whenever you can and look at ways to develop new skills.

Global Business Directions Conference 2019

Thursday February 7th 2019 – Location Ashley LT002, Leek Road Campus, Staffordshire University

Organisers: Hazel Squire and  Prof Jon Fairburn

Free – all welcome

Programme

9.00 Networking
9.30 Welcome and introductions  Hazel Squire and Prof Jon Fairburn
9.40 Key note speaker – Andrew Stephenson, Group People Director at Lookers plc

‘Building a customer centric organisation in the digital age’ 

10.30  Break

10.40 Salman Hamid, Director of Development at GMP Drivercare.com 

 ‘The technological aspect of today’s business’

11.30 Break

11.40  Tony Evans, Head of Leonardo and Analytics, SAP

“Digital transformation and the intelligent enterprise”

12.30 Lunchtime
 13.30 Jeanefer Jean-Charles, Creative Director  www.jeanefer.com

‘Keeping your business moving’ 

14.20 Break
14.40 Vanessa Oakes, Staffordshire Business School

‘Digital technology and new employment experiences’

15.30 Closing remarks

 

Speaker profiles

Andrew Stephenson

Andrew Stephenson

Andrew Stephenson has been the Group People Director at Lookers, one of the UK’s largest automotive dealer groups since May 2016.  Reporting to the CEO; Andrew is responsible for the HR function and people agenda for over 8,500 employees across areas in the UK and Ireland.  Andrew also leads the IT function and is responsible for customer experience across the companies 31 franchised manufacturer brands.

Andrews’ team have driven an improved customer experience through instore insight and a new online proposition.  This has been underpinned by the introduction of comprehensive monitoring of customer experience.  This independent monitoring ensures much better outcomes for customers in all circumstances and provides statistically valid measurement of customer satisfaction.  The performance on customer experience now directly links to remuneration within the group.  Andrew’s team are also responsible for the delivery of the company’s new website to support omni-channel focus on customers.  Lookers are one of the Sunday Times Top 25 Big Companies to work for in the UK and have twice featured in the Glassdoor and CMI list of the Most Inspirational workplaces.

Andrew is a Level 8 student currently completing his DBA at Staffordshire University with a study into customer loyalty. Andrew holds a MA in Strategic HRM also from Staffordshire University, is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD, a Chartered Manager and Fellow of the CMI and a Fellow of the Institute of the Motor Industry.  Andrew is also a Trustee of the national body of Citizens Advice, chairing their remuneration committee and an independent advisor to the Customer Experience Committee of HMRC.

 

Salman Hamid

Salman Hamid

Salman Hamid is a Director of Development at GMP Drivercare Limited, where Salman develops and implement Digital Technologies including bespoke systems, online automotive portal with a capability of getting live prices (APIs) and AI Technologies. GMP Drivercare helps Public and Corporate Sector organisations in Fleet Management, Grey Fleet Compliance, Telematics, Lease Car Schemes, Salary Sacrifice Schemes and more (A One stop shop).

Salman is a Staffordshire University and University of Roehampton Alumni, BSc Hons in Business Information Technology from Staffordshire University, MSc Information Systems Management from University of Roehampton and MSc Digital Marketing from Staffordshire University.

 

Tony Evans

Tony Evans

As Head of Leonardo and Analytics, Tony Evans is responsible for enabling customers to leverage SAP’s innovation portfolio, to drive business transformation and operational improvement. As the executive sponsor for SAP Machine Learning and Cloud customer adoption, Tony partners with customer executive teams to promote SAP’s next generation computing platform.

Since joining SAP, Tony has led SAP’s billion dollar North American Database business and has managed the North American financial services business as the Chief Operating Officer.

Prior to SAP, Tony has a successful track record in driving Business Process Reengineering and change management for global organisations, including PepsiCo, Lucent Technologies and IXNet. Tony has also held senior leadership positions across Oracle, BlackBerry and SAP, where he has led organisation of sales, technical and marketing professionals, driving revenue growth through partnership with customers.

Tony is an alumni of Staffordshire University, where he graduated with BA (Hons) in Business Studies and a Diploma in Marketing from CIM. Tony has an MBA in Change Management from the University of Brighton and is a qualified Project Manager with the Project Management Institute, an organisation he sat on the board of in NYC, and represented in the Global Project Management Forum. Tony also sits on the board of a successful startup, CrowdFlik where he partners with, and advises the CEO around business strategy.

Jeanefer Jean-Charles

Jeanefer Jean-Charles

Jeanefer Jean-Charles career began working across theatre, dance, television and film, including Co-Artistic Director of her company Bullies Ballerinas Jazz Productions, touring nationally and internationally. Her work has taken her to over 20 countries.

Today she is the Creative Director of Jeanefer Jean-Charles and Associates, with over 20 years’ experience of devising, creating, facilitating and directing dance and movement for performance.

As a Mass Movement Director and Choreographer of large scale performances, opening ceremonies, stadium events, outdoor spectacles, carnivals and parades, the success of her work is in her unique process of empowering and skilling up teams of artists, whilst bringing together the talents, strengths and shared stories of communities in inspiring and unforgettable ways.

Career highlights include: Mass Movement Director for Roald Dahl’s City of the Unexpected 2016, Choreographer for the award winning The Return of Colmcille, Derry-Londonderry City of Culture 2013, Mass Movement Choreographer for the Coronation Festival at Buckingham Palace, Mass Movement Coordinator for all four of the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremonies, Movement Director for The FA Cup Final 2016 Opening Ceremony at Wembley, Artistic Director for The Rugby League World Cup Opening Ceremony in 2013.

Vanessa Oakes

Vanessa Oakes

Vanessa Oakes is a Human Resources and Leadership & Development professional with extensive industry experience including 10 years as Head of HR at an international Environmental and Engineering consultancy and 6 years as a lecturer on the CIPD’s professional HRM programmes.

Vanessa brings a wealth of experience in how digital technology will affect your experience as a candidate looking for a job, to how it will affect you in your future employment.

She has worked with Social Media tools to approach passive candidates for opportunities within her organisation, she has implemented Applicant Tracking Systems which monitor the status of applications, she has worked with online tools which recorded attendance and monitored productivity and performance and software which measures and records employee engagement. These digital tools provided essential data which allowed managers to better manage their teams, improving the overall performance of the organisation.

She will give you a clearer understanding of how digital technology will become a key part of your employment experience.

Free MOOC on Purchasing and Supply Management (PSM) Fundamentals

  • Self-study course
  • Free of charge
  • Material available

What is this course about?

More than half of the total turnover of a modern industrial firm in Europe is directly transferred to suppliers and the bulk of supplies is no longer of domestic origin but European and international. Network economies with a low depth of production and high reliance on international suppliers let firms struggle to cope with the complexity and the new responsibilities. There is no harmonised skill profile and competence set for Purchasing & Supply Management (PSM).

This course arises from the Erasmus+ project “Purchasing Education and Research for European Competence Transfer“ (PERFECT) (www.project-perfect.eu) which develops a harmonised curriculum in PSM and aims at an increase in the number of highly qualified students who are suitable for entering the workplace in PSM related jobs in any size of organization and industrial setting.

For Sttafordshire Business School Dr Steve Kelly (now at Edge Hill) and Marzena Reska were the staff involved in the project.

What do you learn in this course?

  • Identify the basic role, benefits, processes and aspects of a PSM department and a variety of specific job roles.
  • Apply a range of purchasing techniques and tools to purchasing activities.
  • Describe cross-functional connections between purchasing and other departments, and departments’ connections to external stakeholders.
  • Identify opportunities and challenges when acting as the interface between internal customer requirements and external supply networks.
  • Understand the impact of supplier relationship management on PSM performance and apply collaboration tools.
  • Evaluate trends and developments in PSM and interpret their consequences.

How is the course structured?

Over the course, you have the chance to participate in the following sequences on Purchasing & Supply Management (PSM) basics.

  • Introduction to project PERFECT
  • Definition and Meaning of PSM
  • PSM Organisation and Roles
  • PSM Processes
  • Strategic Procurement
  • Offers, negotiations, contracts
  • Supplier Relationship Management
  • Procurement Technology & Digitalisation
  • PSM Controlling
  • Risk Management in PSM

Enrol free now: www.oncampus.de/weiterbildung/mooc/perfect?lang=en

Funded by the ERASMUS + PROGRAMME

 

 

 

Disclaimer
The creation of these resources has been (partially) funded by the ERASMUS+ grant program of the European Union
under grant no. 2015-1-DE01-KA203-002174.
Neither the European Commission nor the project‘s national funding agency DAAD are responsible for the content or liable for any losses or damage resulting of the use of these resources.

Introducing Dr Alyson Nicholds, our new Associate Professor

 

Dr Alyson Nicholds, Associate Professor (Business Management), Staffordshire Business School

I am delighted to be joining Staffordshire Business School as Associate Professor (Business Management).  This is my 5th University, having previously worked at Leeds Beckett, Birmingham, Middlesex and Coventry in various teaching/ research roles.

Dr Alyson Nicholds

Dr Alyson Nicholds

I’m probably best described as an ‘interdisciplinary’ academic of all things Public Policy. What this means, is that I bring to bear all my past professional experience (as Nurse, Health Promoter and Development Officer) to analyse, empirically, ‘what works’ in health, social care, urban, science and technology policy.

I do this by exploring ‘why policy fails’, but this is not by evaluating the impact of policy is (i.e. rationally), but by analysing ‘why practitioners do what they do’ (i.e. the accounts that professionals provide of their practice). We call this more novel type of research ‘discourse analysis’ and it works by paying close attention to the language embedded in what practitioners say and do i.e.:-

  • How professionals ‘describe’ how they do what they do (‘functionalist discourse’);
  • How professionals ‘interpret/ frame’ why they do what they do (‘constructivist discourse’);
  • How the context ‘shapes/ constrains’ what professionals say and do (‘dialogic discourse’);
  • How society ‘influences’ what it’s possible to say and do (‘critical discourse’)

Discourse analysis is therefore important because it addresses some of the limitations of more rational/ scientific approaches to traditional policy analysis which typically ignores the human voice. Hence, much of my early work has involved applying the second type of discourse (constructivist discourse) to real-life cases, as with my PhD, which revealed regeneration professionals’ shared experiences of the barriers to effective regeneration in the East and West Midlands[1] [1a].  Indeed, this was so compelling, that I’m now reanalysing this data using the third type of discourse (i.e. dialogic discourse) to understand ‘why actors don’t do what they say’!

Other work, using this more ‘constructivist discourse’ approach, involved a large scale NHS funded study (Post Doc) to ascertain the value of different joint commissioning arrangements in health and social care (i.e. in 6 NHS Trusts in England)[2]; and scientists’ preferences for sharing knowledge in a global network (i.e. the large-scale physics experiment known as the hadron collider at the CERN facility in Switzerland) [3].

More recently I’ve been working with colleagues from Birmingham and Middlesex to analyse how formal and informal leaders prefer to lead in sub-national urban development places (i.e. the Smart Cities policy initiative)[4]. My latest work explores the practical applications of all of this type of discourse work in transforming the social outcomes of public policy through greater reflexivity in management learning. In future blogs, I’ll be writing about this and the different ways we might better research these complex types of policy problems, to address widening social and economic inequality.

[1] http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/3495/1/Nicholds12PhD.pdf

[1a] Alyson Nicholds (2011) Making sense of urban policy failure in complex times, Regional Insights, 2:2, 18-20, DOI: 10.1080/20429843.2011.9727924

[2] Helen Dickinson, Stephen Jeffares, Alyson Nicholds & Jon Glasby (2014) Beyond the Berlin Wall?: Investigating joint commissioning and its various meanings using a Q methodology approach, Public Management Review, 16:6, 830-851, DOI: 10.1080/14719037.2012.757353

[3] Mabey, C. & Nicholds, A. (2015) Discourses of knowledge across global networks: What can be learnt about knowledge leadership from the ATLAS collaboration? International Business Review, Volume 24, Issue 1, February 2015, Pages 43–54. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0969593114000754

[4Alyson Nicholds, John Gibney, Chris Mabey & Dan Hart (2017) Making sense of variety in place leadership: the case of England’s smart cities, Regional Studies, 51:2, 249-259, DOI: 10.1080/00343404.2016.1232482

A Recipe for Success

Written by Angela Lawrence, Associate Dean at Staffordshire business school


There’s an Autumn nip in the air, the Great British Bake Off has begun and the annual McMillan World’s Biggest Coffee Morning is just around the corner. Kenwood mixers are whirling into action in kitchens across the UK.

Meanwhile, bags are being packed, goodbyes said, and freshers are itching to begin their university life. Around the World lecturers are preparing to welcome their new students and planning for the academic year to come.

It strikes me that these two situations have something in common. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that all lecturers are good bakers (far from it!), but there is something vaguely familiar about the nurturing, caring principles of baking and lecturing; the desire for a good outcome and the commitment to working hard to achieve this.

Quality Ingredients

Ever tried baking a cake with less than quality ingredients – with a dodgy cooker and scales that don’t quite weigh correctly? The chances are your cakes won’t turn out to be as good as you would like them to be. Quality, fit-for-purpose equipment and excellent ingredients are needed to guarantee the bake that you are looking for.

When choosing a university to spend three or more years of their life at, prospective students similarly seek quality – high rankings in the league tables and TEF, good NSS scores, high levels of student satisfaction and committed, highly qualified academics. A quality university is needed to turn out a top-notch, highly qualified and work-ready graduate.

The Recipe

Even quality ingredients can’t ensure a perfect bake if the recipe is wrong. One too many eggs or not enough baking powder and the cake’s a flop.

The same balance needs to be considered within the course that a student selects. The onus is on academics to create a balanced mix of exciting learning content, activities, guest lecturers, trips and course materials to ensure that students learn exactly what they need to know. Miss out a vital ingredient and students will struggle to achieve success in their assessments.

The Temperature

Too hot an oven and your cake will burn. Too cool an oven and your cake won’t rise. Getting the temperature right is as important as having the correct recipe.

Lifelong friendships are made at university, so a good balance between studying and fun is needed. The correct work-play balance creates an environment in which students flourish – without the fun some students struggle with the pressure of study and can be tempted to drop out. Too much fun and grades may suffer. A good university seeks to provide exactly the right balance between social and study. Student Unions, personal tutors, pastoral care and student guidance teams are all there to support students in getting it right.

Decorations

Jam and cream fillings, a sprinkle of icing sugar here, a coating of chocolate there and your cake is more than a cake, it’s a thing of beauty. It’s those finishing touches that make your cake the one that everyone wants to take a bite out of.

Similarly, a degree is not enough. Employers are inundated with graduate applications for advertised vacancies, and applications that stand out are those where the candidate has more than just a degree. Work experience, success in student competitions, self-awareness, confidence, professional presentation, global awareness…these are many of the added extras that lead an employer to choose YOU over other applicants.

Staffordshire University has a recipe for success. A university that has risen to within the top 50 universities in the league tables, been awarded a gold in the TEF, achieved one of the highest graduate employability rates in the UK and provided a supportive and fun environment in which students flourish.

Would you like a taste of our recipe? Come and visit us at one of our Open Days to find out for yourself – we can promise you a delicious time.

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Is there a panacea for low productivity ?

By Ema Talam   on twitter as @ematalam

Productivity differences between different producers exist and persist, even among those operating within the same industries (Syverson, 2011; Van Reenen, 2011). Achieving higher productivity is of an utmost importance for firms as it leads to better firm performance and leads to increased profits. These increased profits can be used for future investment and wage rises.  The panacea for low productivity is often sought, however, the factors determining productivity are numerous, differing in their scope, level of influence and complexity.

One of the factors determining productivity is innovation. While some studies establish that innovation in general is positively linked with productivity (Movahedi et al., 2017), some limit this link to product innovation (Cassiman and Golovko, 2011). Porter (1990) argues that firms often have no choice but to innovate, as they face competitive pressures coming from their buyers or competitors.

The productivity of a firm may be determined by talents and practices of its managers. Bloom and Van Reenen (2010) have shown that firms that employ better management have higher labour productivity. Management practices differ widely both among different firms and different countries. They are influenced by numerous factors, some of them being: product market competition, labour market regulations, relationship between ownership and management of a firm, education of managers and workers, etc. (Bloom and Van Reenen, 2010).

Quality of inputs is another factor that determines productivity. Rather than clinging on basic resources (or lack of those), it can be argued that productivity is mainly determined by superiority of labour and capital inputs (Porter, 1990; Syverson, 2011). Education, training and experience can all affect quality of labour inputs. Quality differences of capital inputs can influence productivity (Syverson, 2011). The lack of basic resources can push firms to innovate and improve (Porter, 1990). It has been shown that differences in intangible capital and IT can also affect productivity (Syverson, 2011).

Another significant factor that can influence productivity are different decisions regarding the organisation and structure of a firm. Different process improvements through learning-by-doing can also influence productivity (Syverson, 2011).

Productivity spillovers and competition are important external determinants of productivity of a firm. Productivity spillovers occur mainly within the same or similar industries. Competition can hugely affect productivity and firms can face competitive pressures from both other domestic and foreign firms (Syverson, 2011).

The theoretically established ‘learning-by-exporting’ hypothesis states that exporting can improve productivity of a firm. On the one hand, a firm participating in an export market is exposed to a larger competition. On the other hand, by participating in an export market, a firm can gain new knowledge from its buyers and competitors (Wagner, 2007). Some empirical research has confirmed this hypothesis (Damijan et al., 2010).

As discussed above, productivity of a firm is influenced by a numerous factors. Some of the above-mentioned factors can be influenced to a greater extent than the others and some of those factors require shorter periods to be adjusted than the others. However, given that there is variety of factors, their complexity and the level of their potential interactions, the question still remains: is there really a panacea for low productivity?

References:

  1. Bloom, N. and Van Reenen, J. (2010) ‘Why do management practices differ across firms and countries’, The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 24(1), pp. 203-224. Available at: https://www-jstor-org.ezproxy.staffs.ac.uk/stable/25703489 (Accessed: 24th June 2018)
  2. Cassiman, B. and Golovko, E. (2011) ‘Innovation and internationalization through exports’, Journal of International Business Studies, 42(1), pp. 56-75. Available at: http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.staffs.ac.uk/stable/25790105 (Accessed: 28th March 2018)
  3. Damijan, J.P., Kostevc, C., & Polanec, S. (2010) ‘From innovation to exporting or vice versa?’, The World Economy, 33(3), pp. 374-398. Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.ezproxy.staffs.ac.uk/journal/10.1111/%28ISSN%291467-9701/issues (Accessed: 24th March 2018)
  4. Movahedi, M., Shahbazi, K., & Gaussens, O. (2017) ‘Innovation and willingness to export: Is there an effect of conscious self-selection?’, Economics: The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, 11(25), pp. 1-22. Available at: http://www.economics-ejournal.org/economics/journalarticles/2017-25 (Accessed: 1st May 2018)
  5. Porter, M. (1990) ‘The competitive advantage of nations’, Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/1990/03/the-competitive-advantage-of-nations (Accessed: 4th June 2018)
  6. Syverson, C. (2011) ‘What determines productivity?’, Journal of Economic Literature, 49(2), pp. 326-365. Available at: http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.staffs.ac.uk/stable/23071619 (Accessed: 30th April 2018)
  7. Van Reenen, J. (2011) ‘Does competition raise productivity through improving management quality’, International Journal of Industrial Organisation, 29(3), pp. 306-316. Available at: https://ac-els-cdn-com.ezproxy.staffs.ac.uk/S0167718711000208/1-s2.0-S0167718711000208-main.pdf?_tid=48b828f4-40fc-4fad-a130-5cec9cbc83ab&acdnat=1530139607_684e48c04c59ac476baa4ece54f7c606 (Accessed: 22nd June 2018)
  8. Wagner, J. (2007) ‘Exports and productivity: A survey of the evidence from firm-level data’, The World Economy, 30(1), pp. 60-82. Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.ezproxy.staffs.ac.uk/journal/10.1111/%28ISSN%291467-9701/issues (Accessed: 16th April 2018)

 

 

Recent Trends in Microfinance

The term Microfinance is derived from the word microcredit which means “small credit” in simple terms. However, with the expansion of services from Microfinance Institutions (MFIs), different people, agencies, and institutions have defined Microfinance differently. Generally, microfinance is defined as the provision of financial and non-financial services from microfinance institutions to low-income households and small business who were excluded by commercial banks.

The term Microfinance now covers a wide range of product and services such as microloans, savings, insurance, and remittance. Some scholars believe that the first formal microcredit institution was “Grameen Bank”, which was established in 1976 in Bangladesh by Dr Muhammad Yunus, a Nobel peace prize winner in 2006.

The term Microfinance covers a wide range of product and services such as microloans and savings.

The institution was set up as a non-profit institution to provide small credit, especially to women in the rural part of Bangladesh because it was difficult for them to receive loans from commercial banks. Over time, Grameen Bank grew in popularity and customer base and more MFIs started to emerge following the Grameen Model.

What is the Grameen Model?

The Grameen Model was created by Grameen Bank of Bangladesh which has currently the widest replication in many developing countries across the world. In Grameen model Five unrelated, self-selected prospective borrowers are formed and required to make a savings deposit and payment on a loan at given period. The institution does not evaluate these loans as individual loans but as group loans and also leaves members to do most of the management and financial services.

First, two members of the group will receive the loan and then the group members determine the rotation of access to credit, and after timely repayments, an additional two members receive loans. If any member in a group fails to make an installment payment on time, then the borrower or group will be cut off from the future borrowing. However, if the borrower/group makes payment on time and in an orderly manner then bigger loans are granted in the future.

The Grameen model provides credit to the very poor in rural areas without requiring any collateral. The model also has low transaction costs and focuses on women. The Grameen Bank approach is currently being applied in many countries. A few of such countries are Bhutan, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Chile, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Zambia Some developed countries like Canada, France, and the U.S., have also adopted a version where it is being used to help people become income generators.

Trends in Microfinance

Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) have had global influence and spread around the globe because microfinance has been regarded as one of the effective tools for fighting poverty. Initially, MFIs depended on donations, grants and government subsidies. However, in last decade, some microfinance institutions have realised that they might need to make a profit to provide continuous service, cover their administrative, financial and operational cost, and also budget for the future development without needing any government funds or donations.

In recent years, MFIs have been focusing slightly more on their financial side and as a result, the industry is moving towards profit-oriented MFI’s which means that these MFIs are applying market-based principles. This implies that we have had three stages of MFI’s since their conception which can be seen from the following figure.

Trends in Microfinance Institutions

Some of the first microfinance institutions to adopt the profit-orientated approach were Bank Rakayat Indonesia (BRI), K-Rep in Kenya, Mibanco in Peru, First Microfinance Bank (FMFB) in Pakistan, and CARD Rural Bank in the Philippines. Similarly, PRODEM, the leading Microfinance NGO in Bolivia, transformed into a financial bank called BancoSol.

In conclusion, although MFIs were established as non-profit institutions to provide social services, it seems that microfinance institutions are becoming more like profit-oriented institutions for various reasons.

Sanjib Sherpa (sanjib.sherpa@research.staffs.ac.uk) is currently undertaking his PhD study at Staffordshire University in the area of Microfinance under the supervision of Dr Tolu Olarewaju.