From Leisure to Retail: Lessons in Leisure

Carol Southall, Senior Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School


If current shopping trips offer any food for thought, beyond that is “not just any food”, it is that retail has much to learn from the leisure industry in terms of how to treat their customers. Beset with the accessibility issues raised by Covid-19, retailers with a physical high street or retail park/shopping mall presence are having to rethink how they do business. The ‘new normal’ is a commonly used phrase and yet, to date, the ‘new normal’ has, in so many ways, been anything but new, and anything but normal.

Two of the key areas in which there are clearly lessons to learn, are those involving queuing, so much a part of life in the UK even before Covid-19, and provision of toilet facilities. Recent news has highlighted scores of people rushing to shops on their reopening, and the ensuing lengthy queues to access those shops. Additionally, there has been negative press around the lack of available toilet facilities in public space, with councils being urged to reopen any closed public toilets. The Government’s drive to reopen the hospitality industry will further reinforce the need for public access to toilets.

Most of us know how to queue, we understand the need to do so, even if we don’t always like it. Queuing in fact is a stereotypical British institution, much like eating fish and chips and discussing the weather, it’s what people do. Given this high level of queue awareness, we might be forgiven in thinking that the organisation of a queue system is almost embedded within our psyche, and yet the variety of queue systems on any given retail park, at any given retail outlet, anywhere in the UK, is astonishing. On a recent visit to a well-known retail park, there were at least 20 different queues, all snaking in different directions, for different stores. Some made good use of barriers, some offered marked walkways to which they anticipated their shoppers would adhere. Some required people to queue past the store exit, meaning that shoppers had to walk straight past people, within a metre, as they left the store. Some had security, some didn’t. The variety was endless. What was quickly apparent however, was that queue etiquette was unilaterally present in them all. We accept whatever queue we’re placed in and wait, not always patiently, to progress along the line.

Image source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-53044826

The British have taken shopping tourism to a whole new level. Days spent at retail outlets are considered as a leisure pursuit in their own right. Overnight stays near shopping malls often combine retail ‘therapy’ with dining out, a visit to a cinema, and opportunities for a range of additional leisure pursuits, including bowling, skiing, swimming, indoor mini-golf, and a host of other leisure activities aligned to family fun. Whilst lockdown has prevented such activity in recent months, anybody venturing out to a retail park or shopping mall could be forgiven in thinking that nothing has changed. Except it has, as the queues and lack of toilet facilities show.

The leisure industries have much acquired knowledge to pass on to retail. From queue management, through experience design, to provision of necessary facilities. When asked on a radio interview what people really needed when they attend theme parks, the suggestion “a loo, a view and a brew” was proposed as fundamental to enjoyment of the experience offered by attractions. Having toilet facilities, something entertaining and visually stimulating to look at, and somewhere to eat and drink were suggested as necessities to a day spent visiting an attraction of any sort.

Rollercoaster Restaurant at Alton Towers.
Image source: https://twitter.com/altontowers/status/850770317299638272

When we go to a theme park, we understand that we will queue. The difference is that theme parks are designed with queuing systems in mind. Queue theory supports the argument that crowding and lengthy waiting times are major causes of visitor dissatisfaction. Enhancing the queue experience will encourage the customer to not only enjoy their shopping experience but will also increase the likelihood that they will revisit, which is particularly important if the high street is to stand any chance of a recovery, post Covid-19.

In the short-term putting more thought into the systems used to ensure shoppers are able to access retail outlets in more structured, better thought-out and even more entertaining way, will pay dividends, both in terms of visitor satisfaction and the ensuing profits. Added to this the installation of easily accessible, even temporary or portable public toilets, openly cleaned and sanitised at regular intervals, will help to ensure that the current economic recovery phase is facilitated and the transition to the ‘new normal’ made easier by this attention to detail, so integral to the leisure industry.

My Journey

Simon Hughes, BA (Hons) Business Management student


The journey began back in 2017, I decided to start studying the business management degree at Staffordshire University. I knew that this journey was going to include unexpected learning strategies and unknown situations. One of the main challenges was when I got the diagnosis of having dyslexia, I knew that there was something not right regarding my reading, writing and spelling. With having dyslexia, I knew that I would need extra support. The university study skills had helped by supporting me in how I needed to process the information and to give me a better understanding of how I retained the information. When I came to start my first assignment, I felt like this was a setback as I was unsure of if I had completed it correctly. When the results came out, I saw that I had passed, and it reassured me that I could pass my first year. I feel like I was able to do this as I had the support of my university lecturers Hazel Squire and Vicky Roberts, as well as my friends and my family. There were many times within that year where I was very close to giving up, this was due to how challenging I was finding it to believe in myself. However, after I had spoken to the lecturers and my family about how I was feeling, they gave me the support and said that I can do this, this gave me the boost to keep moving forward which resulted in completing the first year without having to resit any of the module subjects, this gave me a great relief.

Going in to the second year, I was feeling very anxious and apprehensive as I did not know if the year was going to be too much for me and if I was going to be able to meet the deadlines on time. The subjects were different from the ones I took in my first year in both semester one and semester two, however I was able to meet the deadlines on time. During the end of semester two I was diagnosed with a condition called PPPD (Persistent Postural-Perceptual Dizziness), this made it more difficult to focus on my assignment as I was not able to look at a computer screen for days on end due to it giving me migraines and dizziness. This condition made me feel like I could not get my assignments in on time which resulted in me nearly giving up. However, as the year progressed, I managed to hand in my assignments even though I do not know how. I had a push of support from my wife and my supportive lecturers Paul Dobson and Bharati Singh, just to name a few. They told me that I had come too far to give up now, this took place just before I had received my results for the second semester of the second year however I found out my hard work had paid off and that I had passed.

When going into my third and final year, the first semester was a challenge due to my migraines and not being able to concentrate for a long period of time, however I still had the support of all the lecturers. During the second semester, the world was hit with Covid 19, this meant that everyone had to engage in social distance learning which made it more difficult for me as I was not able to spend a lot of time looking at the computer screen. This situation was difficult as the rest of the year was uncertain, I did not know whether I would be able to make it to the end of my final year. Even though I was not able to see my lecturers face to face I was able to have a video meeting with them if I needed their support on the lectures or the assignments. They encouraged me to get through my assignments and to get them handed in so that I could fully complete the last year of my three-year degree.


Click here for more information on Dyslexia and how we can support you at Staffordshire University

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 CLOSED (All businesses that are due to receive help have been contacted).

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.

Chatting with chatbots

Keair Bailey, Msc Digital MArketing Management


Chatbots are the cost-effective way for a business to stay engaged with their customer 24/7, this blog will discuss why businesses should be including them in their next marketing implementation.

On a very simple level, a bot is just a bit of software that can carry out pre-determined actions on its own without being actively controlled. This is discussed in further detail by Neil Patel who describes it as a “wind up toy”, you build it to carry out what you want it to, you wind it up, and then you let it perform the action it was designed for.

The Customer comes first

The first advantage that a business will notice when introducing chatbots to their marketing is the speed in which the bots reply to customer support messages. This is extremely important as its very common for customers to get very frustrated when made to wait for a human over the phone on through a chat. There is no way to accommodate enough human customer support workers for every customer with a query which results in long wait times. TheModernFirm did a study on customers who have had to call in order to reach customer support, these numbers were found:

  • “67% of customers hang up out of frustration when they can’t reach a real person.
  • 75% of customers think that it takes too long to reach a human being.
  • 72% of callers who reach an automated/recorded phone line will hang up.”

These problems will result in lower customer loyalty and eventually a loss of profits.

Implementation of a chatbot would eradicate these problems, A chatbots response is immediate and a customer can have their query solved in a matter of seconds. Customers are also more likely to reach out for support if they see a ‘Live Chat’ button.

More information

Businesses today put a lot of emphasis on knowing everything about their customer, this is normally done through primary research. Information such as what a customer is buying is available as a company can just look at sales statistics, however, products that a customer is choosing not to buy is harder to work out as there are far more variables involved. The best way to gain this information is straight from the customers their selves, this is made possible by the mighty chatbot. Email doesn’t result in as accurate information due to the back and forth nature, a live chat allows the customer to reply naturally which leads to more accurate information.

Modern Evolution

LearningHub stats show that Chatbots will power 85% of customer service by 2020 and by 2022, chatbots will help businesses save over $8 billion per annum. If these stats stay true, which information is leaning towards, companies who HAVEN’T introduced chatbots into their marketing strategy will be left behind. Customers will simply stop doing business with company’s that require extra steps to get what they want. Together with the cost efficiency of the chatbot, It makes less and less sense to continue to pay a human to do an AI’s job. Speaking of humans, its very common for somebody working customer support to make a ‘human’ error, this could be something as simple as interpreting the meaning of a question slightly wrong which can lead to frustration or a loss of sales from the customer.

They’re taking our jobs!

While the AI in a chatbot can usually accommodate for most requests from a customer, it’s very easy for a chatbot to get stuck if a customer’s query is slightly different to its base algorithms that its been taught. Also, as a chatbot learns from the responses it receives from a customer, it can sometimes make the wrong decision internally due not being able to actually choose which decision it wants to make, it is just following the code. An example of this is a Microsoft chatbot used on Twitter being taught racist and misogynistic responses by customers in less than 24 hours, to avoid this, the chatbot must be optimised properly.

Conclusion

There is an endless supply of advantages when it comes to assessing chatbots, they can save your company money and time, improve your customer relations and customer loyalty and ultimately create a better brand image. Although, an influx of AI and bots makes the whole customer service process very impersonal and cold as suggested by Neil Patel. Neil also suggests that chatbots should most definitely be used in their marketing strategies but the businesses should also be careful as to not “water down” their marketing.

“All good things in moderation”.

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.

Recent changes in the Google’s algorithm can affect your page ranking and sales

Paul Dobson, Senior Lecturer at Staffordshire Business School


According to a number of reports Google has implemented a substantial search engine algorithm update in January, plus a number of smaller ones in February 2020 … But what does this mean for businesses?

The Google search engine uses a combination of algorithms and numerous ranking signals to deliver webpages ranked by relevance on its search engine results pages (SERPs) and we’ve seen these changes have a direct impact on the Google Analytics results and effectiveness of the customer journey to gain sales for businesses. An example of this, is the page ranking has changed to be more themed based.  However, there are ways for businesses to enable their website to be high up in the SERP. These include :-

1.  Snippets Dominate More Search Clicks

Google has changed over recent years with the aim to deliver better search results for the reader, examples include providing the answers through featured Snippets which appear above the organic results. For example, I’ve search “how to walk in snow”

For your website to take advantage of this, you need to provide clear answers to commonly asked questions in your website area of interest. These featured Snippets are evaluated and boosted to the top depending on their quality, with the results that 54.68% of clicks from Google come from featured Snippets. There are various ways to create featured snippet at the top of the page but the key ways include :-

  • Create something better than the current Answer Card / Provide updated information, and Google will prioritise this ‘Freshness’
  • Take the most frequent People Also Asked questions, listed in the Google search, and create content to match*
  • Focus on the most frequently asked types of questions: “How”, “Is” and “Why”

2. Keywords no longer work

Trying to pack key words into landing pages is no longer effective.  Google is using more natural language and wants to independently rank websites and use them as quality data sources.  Your website needs to be written as a natural language rather than trying to pack key words at the top, and consider the long key words that readers may use to find your website.  In addition, you need to consider your website as an overall themed area rather than a mixture of items or topics, for example if you’re selling car parts do not include information blogs on other areas such as toys, or if you do include other areas setup robot.txt and sitemap.xml so that Google does not to index them and get confused. 

3. Mobile User Experience (UX) affects your ranking and Sales.

On some of the websites that we use for student demonstrations of Customer Experience, (CX) User Experience (UX) and Google Analytics (for example https://aubergedechabanettes.com/ ) we can see up to 80% of the hits to the websites are from smart-mobiles in some weeks. A website that is not mobile compatible will lose customers especially as mobile access is a growing trend. How people find information using their mobile devices is also getting more advanced, so your website must be easy to read, grab people’s attention and then can answer their questions or keep them entertained.   If you own a business based at a property such as a Hotel, Restaurant, Bar and Beauty Salon, local SEO is vitally important. Studies show that 4 in 5 consumers conduct local searches on search engines using their mobile devices. Google now allows customers, at a click of a button, to navigate to you, call you or even book directly. 

4. Websites Optimize for Voice Search such and Alexa and OK Google

With the growing use of mobile devices and home devices, voice searches are becoming an increasing trend. These searches are not only done on phones, but they can also be performed on home voice assistants such as the Amazon Echo, Samsung Smart TV, Voice Pod, etc.

Questions asked via voice instead of entering search queries are going to make short choppy keywords less relevant and therefore search terms have become more conversational and targeted. This increasing use of voice searches has already had an impact of Google’s algorithms and Artificial Intelligence systems since the search engine needs to do more work to get the relevant information that the user is looking for.

5. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the way forward.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an important technology behind Google to deliver better search results to its users to create personalized experiences for consumers.  The AI has been learning the characteristics of what makes websites of high quality or not, then classifies these web pages and determines their rankings.  Therefore, high-quality content is essential for effective SEO strategies. Users want content that is relevant, helpful, and timely, so Google tends to place websites with consistently themed high-quality content with higher search engine rankings.

If you’d like to know more about becoming an expert in using data driven strategies to lead businesses to success including how to use data to analyse, design and test elaborate customer experience systems in the customer journey to optimise growth, plus learning to work in development environments for Fitbit, Alexa and Google home and mobile devices/smartwatches/ smart home devices as well developing using cloud computing, have a look at our MSc in Customer and Data Analytics.


Author :-

Paul Dobson is a Senior Lecturer at Staffordshire Business School in Digital and Strategic Marketing. He is actively involved in supporting local and EU charities and businesses especially hospitality businesses such as hotels and restaurants. Further details can be seen at https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulmddobson/

Gender Diversity in the Workplace

Dr Bharati Singh, Senior Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School


It’s that time of the year when it’s my turn again to write a blog for the Staffordshire Business School. So, I have pondered and contemplated and deliberated on what to write and have decided to continue with the theme from last year on sharing some thoughts from working in the corporate world.

Dr Bharati Singh

For this blog, I will dwell on gender diversity. Albeit, a narrow range consisting of pay gap and equal opportunities. While I have not personally experienced any gender discrimination with regards to pay and feel that I have been treated fairly in all my various jobs and roles with the various companies that I have worked with; I am aware that this is an ongoing issue and all the companies that I have previously worked for had a gender diversity forum.

Recently, I saw a video that was advertised by one of my previous employers. It showed young girls talking about their career aspirations. There was joy in their voices. However, when they were told that men in the workplace get paid more than women, the pictures captured of these girls showed confusion, anger, bewilderment.

A 2018 report by McKinsey (a consulting firm) states that companies do not walk the talk on gender diversity. While there are more women graduates than men who are negotiating their pay and promotions, while at the same time still in the same work as men, this is not translating into equal woman representation at higher levels of the corporate chain.

It is not only in the corporate world that the pay gap between the genders is high but also in the world of sports. Serena Williams, a US tennis player and winner of 23 grand slams, had spoken out on this matter more than a decade ago which finally led to Wimbledon being last on the block of grand slams to equalise the gap in 2007. However, the gap remains across other sports. Some argue that this is because women sports earn less money, but this was not the case with women’s soccer, which has led the US women’s soccer team filing a gender discrimination lawsuit.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 22: Serena Williams speaks on stage during keynote conversation at 2019 Watermark Conference for Women Silicon Valley at San Jose McEnery Convention Center on February 22, 2019 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Marla Aufmuth/WireImage)

Globally, there remains a 32% gender gap as per a 2018 report by the World Economic Forum. It states that the progress towards closing this gap is rather slow with more countries regressing rather than progressing. The countries with the highest parity are the Nordic countries. They can do so due to the explicit support of policymakers towards gender equality in all public and private aspects. Hence, for countries to remain competitive and inclusive, policymakers will require gender equality to become critical to a nation states human capital development.

A 2019 research report in HBR confirmed that higher gender diversity leads to more productivity in firms in relation to market value and revenue. However, countries which did have liberal policies towards childcare and parental assistance, such as Japan, still do not benefit due to stiffly patriarchal work cultures. Another research by Australian Government states that a more inclusive environment helps retain employees. 

What is needed is a monumental shift in thinking as to why gender diversity is important. Just a few companies or a few countries cannot help the cause; the requirement is a cultural change. Where women make almost 50% of the world population, it is imperative to recognise gender diversity as a need of the hour towards enhancing organisation performance and attracting and retaining top talent. 

Click below to learn more about the courses we offer at Staffordshire Business School:

Hult Prize 2020 – Save Our Planet by Student Entrepreneurship

The Hult Prize returns in 2020 and we’re on the hunt for students across Staffordshire University to enter as teams in this year’s competition ahead of the closing date on Tuesday 3 December 2019.

The Hult Prize is both the world’s largest student enterprise competition and the world’s largest movement for social impact. Students from universities around the globe compete to win $1,000,000 in start-up funding to start a business that solves a pressing social issue.

For 2020, the Hult Prize challenges teams from universities globally to build bold businesses that:

 1. Have a positive net impact on the environment with every sale completed, dollar earned, and decision made; and

 2. Reach no fewer than a million consumers within a decade.

Hult Prize 2020 Challenge

This year’s business challenge concerns climate change and is our chance to show the world that our institution is dedicated to Impact. There are many benefits of competing apart from the chance to win the $1,000,000 in start-up funding. 

Students will get to hone their business skills, develop exciting business ideas, engage with fellow students from every part of our planet, and represent the university at a global level.

They will compete across hundreds of cities en-route to regional finals and the summer Hult Prize Accelerator. A final round and awards ceremony is hosted by Former President Bill Clinton each year at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting.

Staffordshire University Students with Other International Students at the Regional Finals in London, 2019.

How do you compete in the Hult Prize at Staffordshire University?

All students need to do is develop an idea and form a team. 

Each team (of between three to four students) should fill the form here and click the submit button.

This will qualify them for our on-campus event which takes place on Wednesday 4 December at LT001 Ashley Lecture Theatre (Leek Road). At the event each team will get ten minutes to pitch their idea to our judges and will go through five minutes of questioning.

Where can I get more information or register for the Hult Prize 2020?

Visit the Staffs Uni page on the Hult Prize website to register teams and/or to contact Tolu Olarewaju our University Hult Prize Campus Director.

Important Dates:

Friday 29 November 2019:
Q&A Session at LT001 Ashley Lecture Theatre (Leek Road) – 2 pm.

Tuesday 3 December 2019:
Team Registration Deadline – 6 pm. All teams must register here.

Wednesday 4 December 2019: The Main Event On-Campus Team Business Idea Pitches.
Venue: LT001 Ashley Lecture Theatre (Leek Road) – 11 am to 1 pm.

All students and members of staff are welcome to watch the business idea pitches.

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.