Helen is Principle Investigator for an ESRC Seminar Series examining people management, innovation and sustained performance – with a specific focus on medium-sized businesses (those companies employing between 50 and 499 employees). This is an exciting project for Aston Business School, which is co-hosting these seminars along with the Universities of Lancaster and Warwick. Her aspirations for the series are to bring together and enrich areas of new knowledge from leading international scholars, all of whom are passionate about these areas. Helen and others attending the event were especially inspired by the thinking and opinions of James Guthrie and Jane Zhao from the University of Kansas, who presented at the first seminar in October 2012, giving wonderful insights into how HRM can support knowledge creation and the links between motivation and capability, and how these lead to new product design and higher levels of innovation. Karin Sanders, Juani Swart and James Hayton also shared insightful and valuable ideas, especially around HR’s role in shaping ‘intrapreneurship’- the ability of organizational members to take up opportunities by improving and innovating above and beyond existing practice.
The next seminar- to be held at Lancaster University on 26th February 2013, takes a practitioner angle on these questions and draws on the professional expertise of two key note speakers- Paul Sparrow and John Burgoyne-as well as other presenters including Helen herself, who argues that learning organizations have universal qualities that are applicable across national boundaries, shaped by effective HRM practice.
Helen is interested in the role of HRM in promoting informal learning and knowledge exchange, proposing that organizations have the potential to enhance innovation where they engage in activities like coaching, mentoring and action learning. Helen is currently working on a research project addressing these ideas with colleagues from the Australian School of Business. She is also attempting to apply these principles in practice as part of a knowledge transfer partnership team, working with a professional services firm located in the West Midlands not too far from Aston University and endeavouring with the rest of the team to achieve culture change. Raising members’ orientation towards innovation is a key imperative of the project.
Exploratory learning- incorporating new and different ideas into the organization- is extremely challenging not just in terms of new thought processes but also to take account of the emotions involved. Helen is working collaboratively with Quy Huy from INSEAD Singapore to try to determine how work on emotional capability fits with strategic HR. This interest is connected with Helen’s interest in achieving innovation through people.
Helen is a co-editor of a Special Issue to be published 2013/14 in the US Journal HRM together with Karin and Jorge Gomez from Portugal, to encourage those working on the HRM process perspective to bring their work to prominence. This work will culminate in a paper which brings together various themes, in part by gaining the opinions of leading HR scholars about what the HRM process perspective means for them.
Helen sees her recent election to the British Academy of Management Council as an opportunity to progress work in these areas and to influence broader academia. Now that she is part of this group, Helen looks forward to being able to furthering and supporting this. Equally, as leader of the HRM SIG at the British Academy of Management, Helen can also give academic leadership and guidance to those who are within that SIG, so she feels these are wonderful ways and opportunities of sharing this knowledge.
Helen’s profile may be viewed by following the link, and for further information about the ESRC Seminar Series – Organisational Innovation, People Management and Sustained Performance please click on this link.