Professor Colin Lindsay PhD, MCIPD, FRSA, Director of the ESRC: Economic and Social Research Council PrOPEL Hub, reflects on the latest of the project’s series of innovative ‘Hackathons’ bringing together leading workplace researchers with HR leaders and people managers to explore how we can use cutting-edge evidence to inform workplace practice and enhance productivity.

The ESRC: Economic and Social Research Council PrOPEL Hub was established in 2020 with a mission to support people managers and HR stakeholders to access actionable intelligence based on evidence on ‘what works’ in workplace practice to support engagement, wellbeing and productivity.

The ESRC PrOPEL Hub team has engaged with hundreds of organisations and workplace stakeholders through a wide range of online tools and in-person workshops. If you would like to get involved, you can find out more at

One of our most impactful and innovative ways of working involves inviting HR managers to half-day People Management Hackathons. Below, we reflect on our recent Hackathon in Belfast on Thursday 29 February.

What do we mean by a People Management Hackathon? We have borrowed the term from the world of programming, where people come together to seek rapid solutions to complex challenges by collaborating and innovating together. For us, a Hackathon allows us to bring together leading researchers who are determined to work with people managers to co-produce actionable solutions to workplace challenges.

Our latest People Management Hackathon hit Belfast on this 29 February. And so, we took a ‘Leap’ (sorry for the pun!) into an opportunity to share insights with, and learn from, some of Northern Ireland’s most engaged and progressive HR managers. The superb Belfast city campus of Ulster University provided a spectacular backdrop for three hours of ‘hacking’, as well as lots of opportunities for networking.

HR leaders and people managers from a wide range of sectors brought their expertise, insights, ideas and challenges to the table. And our ESRC: Economic and Social Research Council PrOPEL Hub experts shared their cutting-edge research and – much more importantly – discussed solutions with people managers. Among the hacks offered by ESRC PrOPEL Hub colleagues were:

  • Helen Fitzhugh (also the primary architect of our Hackathon approach!) sharing tools on promoting workplace wellbeing… and her Evolve Workplace Wellbeing colleague Kevin Daniels advising on assessing the costs/benefits of wellbeing interventions;
  • Paul L. Latreille PhD FRSA FLPI MCMI and Peter Urwin sharing the important work of the ESRC Skilled Managers project in supporting managers’ conflict management skills;
  • Our Strathclyde Business School colleague Nicola Murray (PhD) helping managers to consider how they can facilitate employees’ job crafting as a route to improved engagement and wellbeing;
  • Martin McCracken and Keira O’Kane of Ulster University challenging colleagues to think creatively about alternative approaches to performance management;
  • Our Cardiff University / Prifysgol Caerdydd colleagues Alan Felstead, Rhys Davies and John Poole workshopping approaches to improved job quality based on their How Good Is My Job? tool that has been accessed by thousands of UK employees…

We were grateful for the positive feedback we received from Belfast participants (as well as some constructive suggestions for future events) and we will continue to look for new and innovative ways to engage managers in discussions of what might work in progressive workplace practice.

“Lots of food for thought – thank you! Great speakers and activities…” [Belfast People Management Hackathon Participant]

“I attended the performance management module and thought the combination of academic research with practical discussions very insightful.” [Belfast People Management Hackathon Participant]

We will be planning future in-person and online activities in the coming months. If you would like to find out more about the work of ESRC PrOPEL Hub partners, why not join our mailing list at