Professor Mark Saunders, Professor in Business Research Methods at Surrey Business School, was formally elected as a fellow of the British Academy of Management (BAM) and a member of the Fellows' College at their annual conference in Belfast this week.
Within my research I adopt a pragmatist approach utilizing a range of data collection methods alongside both quantitative and qualitative data analysis techniques.
Human resource aspects of the management of change:
Organisational research methods:
Mark has published on research methods, trust and organizational justice, downsizing and employee mobility. He has been a guest editor for the journals Personnel Review and Strategic Change, is a member of the editorial boards of the journals Personnel Review and Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods, Journal of Services Research and the Journal of Trust Research. He is Research Consultant to the Editorial Board of Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice.
Between 2005 and 2007 he was principal organiser of the ESRC Seminar Series: Building, maintaining and repairing trust across cultures: theory and practice (with Denise Skinner, Nicole Gillespie and Graham Dietz).
Mark has supervised 12 PhDs, 1 DBA and 1 MPhil to successful completion. He has examined over 20 doctorates.
If you are interested in studying with him in his areas of research interest, please contact him for an informal discussion by email.
Member of Editorial Board (1999 –date) and Book Reviews Editor for Personnel Review (1999-2008).
Member of Editorial Board (2004 -date) On-line Journal of Business Research Methods
Member of Editorial Board (2009 -2014) Journal of Trust Research
Member of Editorial Board (2009 -date) Journal of Services Research
Research Consultant to the Editorial Board (2011-date) Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice
Research Methods and Methodology
Faculty Director of Postgraduate Research Programmes (PhD and DBA) 2011-2014
Council Member of the British Academy of Management and organiser of the Academy's doctoral symposium 2013 and 2014
Member of ABS (Association of Business Schools) Research Committee
Fellow of Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
Fellow of Higher Education Academy
Recent clients include:
Worcestershire County Council
University of Cambridge
South East England Development Agency
Birmingham and Solihull Learning and Skills Council
Oxfordshire Primary Health Care NHS Trusts
Visiting Professor, Department of Management, University of Malta
Visiting Professor, Worcester Business School, University of Worcester
Find me on campus Room: 43 MS 03
My weekly timetable and office hours are displayed on my office door. However, if it is more convenient for you, please email me for an appointment.
Purpose: To contribute to the literature on innovation and entrepreneurial learning by exploring how SMEs learn and innovate, how they use of both formal and informal learning and in particular the role of networks and crisis events within their learning experience. Design/methodology/approach: Mixed method study, comprising 13 focus groups, over 1000 questionnaire responses from SME mangers, 13 focus groups and 20 case studies derived from semi-structured interviews. Findings: SMEs have a strong commitment to learning, and a shared vision. Much of this learning is informal through network events, mentoring or coaching. SMEs that are innovative are significantly more committed to learning than those which are less innovative, seeing employee learning as an investment. Innovative SMEs are more likely to have a shared vision, be open-minded and to learn from crises, being able to reflect on their experiences. Implications for research: There is a need for further process driven qualitative research to understand the interrelationship between, particularly informal, learning, crisis events and SME innovation. Implications for practice: SME owners need opportunities and time for reflection as a means of stimulating personal learning – particularly the opportunity to learn from crisis events. Access to mentors (often outside the business) can be important here, as are informal networks. Originality/value: This is one of the first mixed method large scale studies to explore the relationship between SME innovation and learning, highlighting the importance of informal learning to innovation and the need for SME leaders to foster this learning as part of a shared organisational vision.
This research explores how elective surgical patients make sense of their hospitalization experiences. We explore sensemaking using longitudinal narrative interviews (n=72) with 38 patients undergoing elective surgical procedures between June 2010 and February 2011. We consider patients’ narratives, the stories they tell of their prior expectations, and subsequent post-surgery experiences of their care in a United Kingdom (UK) hospital. An emergent pre-surgery theme is that of a paradoxical position in which they choose to make themselves vulnerable by agreeing to surgery to enhance their health, this necessitating trust of clinicians (doctors and nurses). To make sense of their situation, patients draw on technical (doctors’ expert knowledge and skills), bureaucratic (National Health Service as a revered institution) and ideological (hospitals as places of safety), discourses. Post-operatively, themes of ‘chaos’ and ‘suffering’ emerge from the narratives of patients whose pre-surgery expectations (and trust) have been violated. Their stories tell of unmet expectations and of inability to make shared sense of experiences with clinicians who are responsible for their care. We add to knowledge of how patients play a critical part in the co-construction of safety by demonstrating how patient-clinician intersubjectivity contributes to the type of harm that patients describe. Our results suggest that approaches to enhancing patients’ safety will be limited if they fail to reflect patients’ involvement in the negotiated process of healthcare. We also provide further evidence of the contribution narrative inquiry can make to patient safety.
Despite organizations’ widespread Internet use and ready availability of Web survey software, few studies have examined explicitly the impact on employees’ responses of using the Web as opposed to mail-based surveys (MBS). This article addresses this gap using an employee attitude survey distributed to a 50% systematic sample of 3,338 employees by mail, the remaining employees receiving the survey via a Web link. Although the return rate for the Web (49.1%) was higher than for mail (33.5%), the quality of Web returns was reduced by a higher number of partial responses and abandonments. Taking into account effect size, significant differences in response were small other than for open question content. Recommendations regarding use of Web-based surveys (WBS) are offered and areas for future research suggested.
Explaining the purpose of a research study and providing a compelling rationale is an important part of any coaching research project, enabling the work to be set in the context of both existing evidence (and theory) and its practical applications. This necessitates formulating a clear research question and deriving specific research objectives, thereby justifying and contextualising the study. In this research note we consider the characteristics of good research questions and research objectives and the role of theory in developing these. We conclude with a summary and a checklist to help ensure the rationale for a coaching research study is convincing.
Systematic Review methodology (SRm) is an increasingly popular choice for literature reviews in the Social Sciences. While compared to traditional narrative reviews SRm appears time-consuming and laborious, transparency and replicability of the methodology is argued to facilitate greater clarity of review. Nevertheless, researchers in Industrial, Work, and Organizational (IWO) Psychology have yet to embrace this methodology. Drawing on experience from conducting a Systematic Review (SR) of individual workplace performance we explore the premise: The advantages of SRm to IWO Psychology researchers outweigh the disadvantages. We offer observations, insights, and potential solutions to challenges faced during the reviewing process, concluding that SRm is worthwhile for IWO Psychology researchers
Exploring and evaluating findings from previous research is an essential aspect of all research projects enabling the work to be set in the context of what is known and what is not known. This necessitates a critical review of the literature in which existing research is discussed and evaluated, thereby contextualising and justifying the project. In this research note we consider what is understood by being critical when reviewing prior to outlining the key attributes of a critical literature review. We conclude with a summary checklist to help ensure a literature review is critical.
Researchers exploring sensitive issues need to obtain valid and reliable information. This may necessitate participants not being sensitised to the precise research focus to prevent contamination of findings. In this paper research exploring feelings of trust and distrust and emotional responses to organisational change is used to assess how a concurrent mixed methods design, utilizing a constrained card sort and in-depth interview, can enable such sensitive issues to be researched without sensitising participants. This illustrative example provides instructive guidance regarding how to apply this mixed method. It also reveals how feelings of trust and distrust and emotional responses are directly associated with positively and negatively interpreted change situations rather than misappropriated, highlighting reasons for these responses including the role of managers. The paper concludes by considering how this mixed methods design can support researching such sensitive issues in organisations.
Purpose: The first purpose of this paper is to review the practical and theoretical distinctions between training and development in the organisational psychology and human resource development (HRD) literatures. Then the paper seeks to investigate how managers responsible for the training and development function conceptualise these activities in practice, the factors that guide their decision making, how they evaluate the outcomes and the extent to which they perceive a relationship between training and development. Design/methodology/approach: Taking a critical realist perspective, 26 interviews were conducted with UK managers and analysed through thematic coding using template analysis. Findings: Managers' conceptualisations of training and development vary. Formal training is prioritised due to a perceived more tangible demonstrable return on investment. Perceived success in training focuses on improvements to job-related skills, whereas success outcomes for development are more varied and difficult to measure. Managers consider that training and development are more valuable when combined. Research limitations/implications: There is a need for further process-driven research to understand the interrelationship between training and development and to develop methods that can be used by organisations to evaluate both. This necessitates going beyond methods currently in use and including both qualitative and quantitative measures. Practical implications: Managers may take a more proactive and directive role in facilitating development than the literature suggests; consequently, their role needs to be considered more actively in HRD learning strategies. Originality/value: This is one of the first qualitative studies to explore the conceptualisations of managers responsible for training and development, highlighting the inter-relationship between training and development and the factors guiding decisions regarding these activities. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate the effect of the "transfer" process on relationships between employees' perceived organisational support and affective and continuance commitment within the context of the move to a new employment relationship as part of a public private partnership. Design/methodology/approach: Eight semi-structured interviews informed the design of a questionnaire, which was distributed to facilities management employees of a UK NHS hospital who had been seconded to a private-sector management company. This resulted in 101 effective responses (33 per cent). Findings: In new forms of employment relationship, employees' perceptions of the "transfer" process influence significantly their perceptions of the management company and their commitment to it. Positively perceived organisational support from the management company significantly increases affective and continuance commitment to the management company, particularly amongst those who feel positive about the transfer process. Research limitations/implications: This research focuses upon employee commitment to the management company. Further research is proposed to investigate different foci of commitment as well as the influence of the psychological contract. Practical implications: The effect of fairness in the "transfer" process is far reaching, lasting beyond the initial transfer. Both parties should work together to enable a smooth employee "transfer" process, supervisors particularly having a strong influence on employees' attitudes and behaviour. Originality/value: There is a lack of research regarding the antecedents and consequences of commitment of employees, who are managed by one but employed by a different organisation. This study begins to address this gap. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
This paper explores employees' reactions to the management of post-merger cultural integration in the hotel industry. Using a mixed method design incorporating a structured card sort of possible emotions and subsequent in-depth interview, data were collected from 30 head office employees. Findings highlight the importance of the human dynamics of a merger, emphasising the importance of strong leadership, open and honest communication as pre-cursors to integration and suggest the need for a pre-merger cultural audit. Merging two organisations involves the dedication of a remarkable level of resources and activities both before and after the merger and yet, a successful outcome is uncertain and is subject to effective management of cultural integration. © 2009 Taylor & Francis.
Traditional survey-based measures of service quality are argued to be problematic when reflecting individual services and turning measurement into action. This paper reviews developments to an alternative measurement approach, the Service Template Process, and offers an extension to it. The extended process appears able to measure service users' and deliverers' perceptions of service quality independently. It also enables participants to jointly agree an agenda for quality improvement. The extended process is evaluated in four service situations. The paper concludes with an assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of the process in comparison with more traditional approaches to measuring service quality.
Purpose - To explore the implications for all employees' psychological contracts of a forced change from permanent to temporary employment status for some employees within an organisation. Design/methodology/approach - A random sample of 30 employees, stratified by employment status was selected. Each employee undertook a structured card sort of possible emotional responses to change followed by an in-depth interview to explore and explain their categorisation of these responses. Findings - The nature of psychological contracts and organisational attachments for both permanent employees and forced temporary workers is complex. Permanent employees generally continue to exhibit relational forms of attachment to the organisation. These, they believe, are reciprocated by the organisation. Reactions from forced temporary workers are more varied. After a period of denial, some develop a more calculative approach to their interactions. Others maintain aspects of their previously developed relational attachments. Only some temporary workers appear to recognise that their future direction is no longer a concern of the organisation. Research limitations/implications - Although only based upon one organisation, the findings suggest that the process of psychological contract adjustment is likely to emerge through gradual re-interpretation, rather than through re-negotiation. Practical implications - Management actions need to be recognised as important in re-defining the nature of psychological contracts. The transitional nature of this process may be prolonged where management imposes transactional contracts and where communication and negotiation to create clear expectations is lacking. Originality/value - The findings provide new insights into the implications of forcing employees from permanent to temporary contracts for their, and remaining permanent employees', psychological contracts. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
There is an important benefit for businesspeople who are financially literate. Financial literacy helps them to function efficiently at work because they are able to evaluate the information needed to make decisions that have financial ramifications or consequences. Research into the financially literate has tended to concentrate on personal finance issues involving the general public. The focus of this paper, however, is on small businesses owner-entrepreneurs who, in their first year, are required to understand the financial position and activities of their organisations, and thus do not need to take the activities, statements and advice of their accountants and financial advisors on trust. Using data collected from 147 small businesses over their first year of trading, the findings provide evidence of a degree of financial illiteracy which has implications for the success or failure of this section of the business community. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
For many students and lecturers evaluation is confined to some form of survey. Whilst these can provide useful feedback, their focus is likely to reflect the values and norms of those commissioning and undertaking the evaluation. For real improvements in quality to occur both lecturers’ and students’ perspectives of factors that are important need to be made explicit and understood. Drawing upon literature relating to service quality and in particular the Service Template, this article outlines and evaluates an alternative approach for establishing students’ and lecturers’ perspectives, obtaining feedback and developing an agenda for improvement. Using the example of dissertation supervision, it is argued that a revised Template Process operating within a process consultation framework can meet these concerns. The article concludes with a discussion of the applicability of the Template Process to evaluating teaching and learning.
Relationships within and outside organizations are changing, and the publishing sector is no exception. However, the roles of author and publisher remain distinct, each dependent on the other for the successful completion of a publishing project. Drawing upon research conducted in the English Language Teaching Division of an international publishing company, this article examines the authorpublisher relationship within a service context. It considers the characteristics authors and publishers identify to be integral to the relationship, and explores the extent to which the expectations and perceptions of authors and publishers differ. The research findings indicate that there is a mismatch between the characteristics that authors and publishers identify as integral to their relationship. Whilst publishers focus upon the role of the editor in the nurturing and maintenance of relationships with individual authors, authors consider their relationship to be with the whole publishing house, including the marketing and design functions.
Purpose – To explore potential mismatches between stakeholders' perceptions and expectations of key and technical skills needed for an advanced modern apprentice within the UK. Design/methodology/approach – Using data collected from the automotive sector, the template process is used to establish lecturer, student and employee stakeholder group's expectations of a person taking up employment alongside an advanced modern apprenticeship or as an advanced modern apprentice. Perceptions of the extent to which expectations are met and their relative importance are assessed. Findings – All stakeholders acknowledge that a skills gap exists across key and technical skills. However, whilst students focus on technical skills, lecturers and employees place greatest emphasis on key skills and their ability to transfer them. Research limitations/implications – Although this research is based on the UK automotive sector, the findings emphasise the importance of key skills and understanding as part of students' learning. Research is needed to establish why students appear to undervalue these and establish whether similar patterns exist in other sectors. Practical implications – The voluntarist approach to UK vocational education and training has, when combined with the need for further education colleges to be economically viable, resulted in courses that appear attractive but do not always meet the automotive sector's needs. Research is needed to establish whether this is occurring across other sectors. Originality/value – This template process offers a new technique to explore stakeholders' perceptions and expectations. The findings provide new insights into the mismatches between expectations of the stakeholders in vocational education and training.
This article commences with an overview of trust and mistrust, focusing on the debate about whether these are two ends of a continuum or distinct but interrelated concepts. Building on this review, the relationship between employees' perceptions of organizational justice and their self-categorized feelings of trust and mistrust is considered. It is suggested that organizational justice offers a useful means through which to explain and understand employees' feelings of trust and mistrust. Using case study data drawn from a UK public sector organization, the relationship between employees' feelings of trust and mistrust is explored within a change context. The data suggest that, whereas some employees perceive trust and mistrust as two ends of a continuum, others see them as distinct concepts. These findings are conceptualized as a trust - mistrust - absence triangle. Drawing on organizational justice as an explanatory theory, reasons for these findings are offered. The article concludes with a discussion regarding the coexistence of trust and mistrust and the explanatory value of organizational justice theory in understanding this.
In recent years the UK National Health Service (NHS) has been characterised by radical and continuous change at every level. Within the literature, and the NHS itself, it is argued that successfully changing such an organisation requires the sustained commitment, trust and goodwill of staff. As part of developing and maintaining mutual trust and commitment it is widely argued that employers must meet the employee expectations which form part of the psychological contract, an important element of which, Armstrong argues, is being able to trust in management to keep their promises. Within this paper we argue that policies can be seen as a visible manifestation of management promises and present the improving working lives (IWL) policy within the NHS as an example of one such “promise” that has been made to staff in relation to areas which are important to them at a personal level. Using an anonymous questionnaire that explored areas central to IWL, data were collected from staff in five Primary Care Trusts within one Strategic Heath Authority in relation to their experiences and awareness of what was being done to address these issues. The research found that although the IWL Standard makes very public promises about work-life balance, harassment, equality and the valuing of staff, at best these have only been partially delivered.
This paper explores employees’ trust as a reaction to the management of change using the constructs of organisational justice. Following a review of organisational justice theory in relation to trust and change, employees’ reactions are considered using a case study of a UK public sector organisation. Drawing on 28 in-depth interviews with employees, the nature of trust is explored. Little difference is found between trusting and mistrustful employees’ perceptions of distributive justice. Supporting earlier findings regarding the relationship between procedural justice and trust, the research also reveals the distinct importance of fairness of treatment (interactional justice) in enabling trust.
This paper examines the role of sense-making in maintaining trust within dominant-subordinate relationships, following trust violation, addressing the question “Why do people carry on trusting despite evidence to the contrary?” Whilst recognizing the role of hierarchy, accounts of sense-making have tended to emphasise agency and shared sense-sense-making or consensual adequacy. They have consequently tended to neglect how following presumptive trust individuals may be socialized into trusting behaviour that complies with norms dictated by more powerful actors, even where a trust violation offers evidence that becoming vulnerable will result in harm. Using their trust relationship with hospital employees, patients’ sense making of trust violations in relation to their safety is examined. The contribution we make is therefore two-fold. Firstly we explore the implications for trust of how service users make sense of events where there may be opportunity for discrepant sense-making. Secondly by focusing on service users’ narratives we examine processes by which, in the face of contradictory information, trust is maintained.
For many students and lecturers evaluation is confined to some form of questionnaire survey. Whilst these can provide useful feedback, their focus is likely to reflect the values and norms of those commissioning and undertaking the evaluation. For real improvements in quality to occur both lecturers’ and students’ perspectives of those factors that are important need to be made explicit and understood. Drawing upon literature relating to service quality measures and in particular the Service Template, this paper outlines and evaluates an alternative approach for establishing students’ and lecturers’ perspectives, obtaining feedback and developing an agenda for improvement. Using the example of dissertation supervision, it is argued that a revised Template Process operating within a process consultation framework can meet these concerns. The paper concludes with a discussion of the wider applicability of the Template Process to evaluating teaching and learning.
Trust research invariably asks questions about sensitive issues, highlighting the need to build rapport and trust between the researcher and participant. It may also be necessary to ensure participants are not sensitized to the focus on trust. This chapter outlines the use of a card sort, concurrent with an in-depth interview to help overcome these issues.
A reader who picks up this handbook will, we imagine, share the excitement and frustration about trust that thinkers have experienced for millennia and that is still felt throughout the growing community of trust researchers nowadays: how trust is one of the most fascinating and fundamental social phenomena yet at the same time one of the most elusive and challenging concepts one could study. As scholars we have to reach past the undying topicality and apparent importance of trust as we apply our research methods to this challenge, only to realize their limitations when the object of study is trust. The chapters show that we have a broad array of methods that help us rise to the challenge of capturing at least part of the multi-faceted phenomenon of trust. To date, an overview of the many methods that can be used for studying trust has been missing. It is our aim to provide such an overview with this handbook, while recognizing that it cannot be fully exhaustive. Through this handbook we hope to encourage trust researchers to reflect on the methods they use, to acknowledge contributions from a variety of methodological positions and to improve methods and instruments according to the specific challenges posed by trust. Our optimism in this respect is based on the relative methodological openness and pluralism we have observed in the trust research community. Perhaps more than in other fields, our research topic prevents methodological hubris as it constantly reminds us how no method can provide the perfect understanding of a phenomenon. In line with these considerations, the editors and contributors of this volume have explored trust from a variety of directions. As trust is a concept that cannot be easily observed or even defined, the trust research community has drawn on ideas across academia to gain a better understanding of it. This book reflects on the journeys of trust researchers and through the sharing of their experiences hopes to cast light on methods for those researching trust.
The conventional wisdom, not just in the UK but also internationally, is that the major banks are not interested in lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). One of the main factors cited is that banks find it difficult to gauge whether SMEs have the capacity and/or willingness to repay their debts. In contrast, some studies suggest that most SMEs seeking external funding are successful in their applications. The current study sets out to investigate the truth of these seemingly contradictory claims and makes recommendations for improvements in SME access to bank finance. In conducting the study, the authors made use of their 2012 national survey on the triggers for SME success (with over 1,000 SME responses), and secondary data analysis of government reports, with new data gathering methods using two SME focus groups, five in-depth SME case studies, and analysis of the major banks’ SME lending policies as presented through their websites. Access was obtained to interview the senior lending policy makers of four major banks and one challenger bank. Research revealed that the majority of SMEs seeking routes to finance avoid banks and traditional financial institutions. The main source of finance used by SMEs to start their business is personal/family savings, with more established SMEs using retained profits. Although banks are used by SMEs, they are not the primary source of finance. From an SME perspective, not only do banks not provide the capital required, but they also seem to know very little about what businesses (particularly small businesses) need. However, the picture is more nuanced than this. Of those SMEs that seek access to external finance, banks are still the primary source. Furthermore, and contrary to popular myth, the majority of SMEs seeking finance from banks do obtain it. This situation, however, has deteriorated. Before the economic crisis of 2008, 90% of SMEs seeking bank finance successfully attained it, a figure which fell to 74% in 2011. This partly helps to explain the growth in importance of alternative sources of finance such as business angels, peer-to-peer lending and crowd funding. Drawing upon the literature reviewed, the two focus groups with SMEs, and the five bank interviews, a number of key findings were derived.
There are approximately 4.5 million businesses employing less than 250 people in the UK, providing a total of 13.7 million jobs, equating to half the private sector workforce in 2011. However, while such Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are of importance, it is their durability that can be considered of greater significance. The precarious nature of SME existence has been well documented. Only about 65% of small businesses are still trading after the first three years of initial start-up. After five years, fewer than 45% of businesses will have survived. Put simply, small firms are more likely to die than larger firms. Indeed, other than size per se, the higher likelihood of death is what distinguishes small from large firms. However, multiple failures can be experienced as the springboard for later success (provided learning takes place). Much of the research into small firms has focused on their failure. The danger of this approach is that it identifies what has gone wrong, but may fail to discover what they need to get right. The approach of the current study, then, is to focus on the triggers that lead to SME success, as a way of highlighting more effective strategy decisions for firms themselves, and to inform better policy decisions for government. A return of over 1,000 survey questionnaires completed by SME owners/directors or senior managers, 20 in depth interviews and 13 focus groups, makes this one of the largest surveys ever into the strategic management of SMEs in the UK. Key findings Finance Successful SMEs are likely to use more than one source of finance to both start and sustain their business However, most SMEs only use one source of finance to start the business, the main source being personal/family savings with a smaller proportion using a bank loan SMEs with a relatively large number of employees now are significantly more likely to have funded the starting of their business using: Bank loan Remortgaging personal property Business Angels/Venture Capital finance/Grant Leasing Factoring and Invoice Discounting SMEs with a relatively small number of employees now are significantly more likely to have funded the starting of their business using: Credit card Personal/family savings Success in challenging times: Key lessons for UK SMEs 7 The main sources of finance used by SMEs to fund their businesses now are: Reinvesting profit (68%) Personal/family savings (39%) Bank loan (29%) SMEs seek routes to financi
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