Professor Colin Lindsay, Strathclyde Business School and ESRC PrOPEL Hub Director, reflects on this month’s latest “SPARC” event bringing together workplace researchers and people managers to share insights on evidence-based HRM 

Since 2021, the Scottish Centre for Employment Research (SCER) at Strathclyde Business School has been leading the ESRC PrOPEL Hub (Productivity Outcomes of Workplace Practice, Engagement and Learning), a partnership of nine universities and The CIPD, the UK’s leading body for HR professionals. ESRC PrOPEL Hub research teams have been working intensively with HR managers, leaders and employees across hundreds of organisations to ensure that the best available evidence and research can be used to inform decision-making on work organisation and people management. 

In collaboration with The CIPD, our research and knowledge exchange teams have used their cutting-edge research to inform people management practice in areas ranging from conflict resolution to workplace wellbeing, and employee engagement to performance management. We have hosted more than fifty webinars, “Knowledge Into Practice” summits bringing together researchers and HR leaders, and “hacks” helping individual businesses to resolve workplace challenges. A host of webinars, toolkits and “How To” guides can be found on the ESRC PrOPEL Hub website:

It has always been important that the relationship between ESRC PrOPEL Hub researchers and the HR profession is based on a two-way conversation – that researchers are able to share their research and analysis to inform practice; but that we are also able to hear the voices of HR managers who have to grapple with people management challenges on a daily basis in organisations. That’s why, in collaboration with The CIPD, we have been working to build what we call a “Sustainable Practice Action Research Community” (SPARC) for evidence-based HRM. Our SPARC aims to create a collaborative space to help researchers to share their research and analytical expertise to assist people managers to develop evidence-based HRM strategies; and to allow people managers to explain “what’s needed” in terms of research and intelligence. 

Strathclyde Business School hosted our first SPARC day in September 2022, welcoming 45 researchers and HR practitioners to share ideas together. And 18 January 2023 saw our second SPARC event, again hosted by Strathclyde Business School. Our HR practitioner colleagues did most of the talking at this event, as we engaged in two interactive sessions about: key challenges for people management (and how the research community can help people managers to meet these challenges); and “what works” in evidence-based HRM. Among the key priorities identified by people managers: how organisations can use diversity and inclusion data to inform effective practice; the need to build better evidence on the benefits and challenges of remote and hybrid working in different organisational contexts; and how HR can evidence the need for action to assist employees to navigate the cost-of-living crisis.

Our SPARC also featured an interactive keynote led by Professor Colin Lindsay and Carolina Marin Cadavid of SCER at Strathclyde Business School, sharing insights from ESRC-funded SCER research on the potential for “job crafting” practices to support employees to innovate in the workplace. Job crafting requires managers and employees to work together to create opportunities for people to find micro-efficiencies in their work, identify opportunities for challenge and growth, and access additional support to manage job demands. We enjoyed a lively discussion on the opportunities and challenges for job crafting in different workplace contexts. 

So, what happens next? We feel that we have taken the first steps towards establishing a viable “SPARC” that can help to foster evidence-based HRM. The ESRC PrOPEL Hub and The CIPD are committed to supporting and strengthening this community of researchers and people managers. Visit our website or sign-up to our e-newsletter to find out about our regular future events.