Professor Colin Lindsay PhD, MCIPD, FRSA Director of the ESRC 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.

Our team has engaged with hundreds of businesses and workplace stakeholders through a wide range of online tools and in-person workshops, you can find out more at, but perhaps one of our favourite (and we think most impactful) approaches involves inviting HR managers to a half-day People Management Hackathon. Below, we reflect on our recent Hackathon in Sheffield, and you can still sign up for free for our next People Management 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 Sheffield in early February. Senior people managers from a wide range of sectors brought their expertise, insights, ideas and challenges to the table. And over three hours of ‘hacking’ activities our ESRC: Economic and Social Research Council PrOPEL Hub experts shared their cutting-edge research and – much more importantly – practical toolkits and 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 Sara Connolly advising on assessing the costs/benefits of wellbeing interventions;
  • Paul L. Latreille PhD FRSA FLPI MCMI and Frankie Saundry sharing the extraordinary 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;
  • Martin McCracken of Ulster University challenging colleagues to think creatively about alternative approaches to performance management;
  • Our Cardiff University / Prifysgol Caerdydd colleagues Alan Felstead and Rhys Davies workshopping approaches to improved job quality based on their How Good Is My Job? tool that has been accessed by thousands of UK employees…

All participants providing feedback agreed that they had take-aways that they intended to implement in their organisation to improve job quality/workplace practice to drive employee wellbeing and productivity. We’ll be following up to try to capture practical benefits for workplaces and employees.

In the meantime, we are hugely grateful to our hosts at The University of Sheffield and the brilliant people at Inox who looked after us…

You can still sign up for free for our next People Management Hackathon in Belfast on Thursday 29 February.

You can sign up to the ESRC: Economic and Social Research Council PrOPEL Hub newsletter and find out about future events at