Professor Irena Grugulis

Professor Irena Grugulis


Honours and Awards

Fellowship of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS) Elected 2020

Academic Fellowship of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development 2014 – date

ESRC/AIM Fellowship 2008 - 2011

Associate Fellow of SKOPE (Oxford University) 1999 - date


1993 1996    
University of Warwick, PhD
Managerial Work and the Management NVQ (awarded October 1997)

First Business School student to be awarded a Warwick Graduate Award 1993
ESRC Studentship 1994 - 1996

1983 1986    
University of Bristol
BA Hons, 2.1 History and German

from EEC and Bristol University

1985    University of Giessen, (West) Germany


2013 Present: Professor of Work and Skills at Leeds University Business School
2011 2013: Professor of Employment Studies at Durham University
2003 2010: Professor of Work and Skills, Bradford University
2002 2003: Reader then Professor of Employment Studies, Salford University
1996 2002: Lecturer in Employment Studies, UMIST

My principal research interests lie in the (broadly constituted) area of skills, particularly the way that organisations attempt to shape their employees and the impact and implications of this for the employees themselves.  The notion of a partial coincidence of interest between employer and employee is central to much industrial relations writing but has been largely neglected in the more prescriptive human resource development literature and I have tried to remedy this omission.

My research has been funded by the ESRC, EPSRC and EU.  Recent research projects include an ethnographic study of work and skills in the computer games industry, a study of freelancers and small independent companies in UK film and TV production and research into work and skills in supermarkets.  I have published extensively including articles in Organization Studies, Journal of Management Studies, British Journal of Industrial Relations and Work, Employment and Society.

I am an ESRC/AIM Services Fellow and an Associate Fellow of SKOPE (an ESRC research centre based at Oxford).  I have been a member of the UKCESs Academic Advisory Panel and done government advisory work on skills, contributing to both the Leitch Review and the National Skills Task Force as well as advising the Singaporean government.

I have served as both Editor and Joint Editor in Chief of "Work, Employment and Society.  I have organised six major international conferences, including the Critical Management Studies Conference which I co-founded and am a member of the Steering Group for the International Labour Process Conference.

Research Grants:

  1. Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Partnership (Hugh Cook and Irena Grugulis) £101,368 July 2019 – June 2020
  2. University of Leeds, small grant Exploring and advising on HRM and management practice in call centre colleagues (Hugh Cook and Irena Grugulis) £2,000 January 2019
  3. ESRC/AIM Capacity building workshops in Yorkshire (Irena Grugulis and Kathryn Haynes) £855.  October 2009 – July 2010.
  4. ESRC/AIM Fellowship Service Work: the creative industries (Irena Grugulis) £142,040.91.  Two-year fellowship October 2008 – March 2011.  Award:  RES-331-27-0038
  5. Knowledge, skills and productivity in retailing.  Irena Grugulis, Dolores Anon Higon, Jeremy Clegg and Allan Williams.  £206,650 from the EPSRC.  September 2005 – September 2008.  Award:  EP/D01350X/1
  6. NHSU.  Scott Taylor, Irena Grugulis, Emma Bell and John Storey £7,000 from SKOPE/ESRC.  July 2004 – October 2005
  7. Critical Management Studies Seminar Series.  Irena Grugulis and Hugh Willmott.  £15,400 from the ESRC to convene and co-ordinate a series of seminars at UMIST, Warwick and Keele.  Duration:  2 years (2000 - 2002)  Award: R 45126500499
  8. Changing Organisational Forms and Organisational Performance.  Future of Work Programme. Mick Marchington, Jill Rubery, Hugh Willmott, Jill Earnshaw, Damian Grimshaw and Irena Grugulis.  Grant from the ESRC, £252,000.  Duration:  3 years (1999 - 2002)  Award L 212252038  Graded: Outstanding
  1. HRM in SMEs.  Adrian Wilkinson and Irena Grugulis.  £35,000 from the ERDF to conduct research into employment practices in SMEs in the North West.  Duration: 13 months (1997 - 1998).

    PhD Supervision:

    I am interested in supervising PhDs in any area of skills, particularly:
    Skills and work
    Skills in the creative industries
    Skills and gender
    Low skills/low wage work
    Managerial work
    Managerial skills

    I am also interested in working with international applicants to secure funding for post-doctoral fellowships (such as EU Marie Curie fellowships).  Please contact me to discuss this.

Skills, soft skills, training and development, fragmenting organisational forms, creative industries, service sector, HRM


  • Divisional Director of Research

Research interests

My principal research interests lie in the (broadly constituted) area of skills, particularly the way that organisations attempt to shape their employees and the impact and implications of this for the employees themselves.  The notion of a partial coincidence of interest between employer and employee is central to much industrial relations writing but has been largely neglected in the more prescriptive human resource development literature.  I have tried to remedy this omission.

I am currently engaged on a three research projects: research into computer games, workers in film and TV production and emotional labour in the Financial Services.

In writings on, and an ethnographic study of, Management NVQs, I have argued that the design of these qualifications prevented either a meaningful description of work or any substantive input on knowledge and skills.  Following on from this I have explored the impact that ‘managing culture’ has on employees, arguing that this is best understood as a different form of control, rather than freedom from control.  I have both written and edited work on the nature of skill, the way that ‘soft skills’ are developed and controlled, and the impact of ‘customers’ and ‘customer service’ on work processes.  Material from the Future of Work project undertaken with colleagues at UMIST has provided considerable data on the way that ‘fragmenting’ organisational forms impact on skilled work, the increasing emphasis on ‘soft’ skills and the neglect of technical ones.

I led a multi-disciplinary team on an EPSRC-funded study of employment in retail.  The project had a number of different streams (as well as integrated work on the way different disciplines viewed the area) and the one I was involved in generated extensive rich research data.  In it the contrast between tight control by head office and ideas of leadership at store level was marked.  At the same time, I also led a research project studying the employment of freelancers and small companies in the British film and television sector, following on from the theoretical developments on the Future of Work study and focussing particularly on the way people learn and develop skills. In TV and film production the shift from strong internal labour markets to fragmented freelance labour has fractured the old communities of practice, through which skills were learned at work, and enhanced the middle class advantage in securing creative jobs.

This led, practically and theoretically to another research project, a two year AIM/ESRC fellowship during which I explored the way people learn skills, the way work is organised and controlled, and the work that managers do in computer games companies.  I spent a year doing an ethnographic study of a computer games company and supplemented this with interviews with workers and key informants in the industry.

Working with colleagues at Leeds I have recently won funding from Innovate UK to examine the soft skills and emotional labour involved in financial services call centre work, particularly the work of debt collectors to vulnerable debtors.  The grant was awarded in May and we are currently recruiting a KTP Associate.

In 1998 I was invited to be an associate fellow of SKOPE, an ESRC-funded research centre specialising in skills, knowledge and performance based at the university of Oxford.  In addition to my work on skills and human resource development I have also undertaken work on the NHSU funded by the ESRC through SKOPE, ‘best practice’ human resource management, the Labour Process debate, employment relations in small and medium sized enterprises and organisational boundaries.  On a lighter note, I have written (seriously) about humour, exploring what it can reveal about organisational life as well as arguing in favour of its use as a vehicle for teaching management.  I have also written two research-based textbooks and many cases and book chapters for edited books.


  • BA Hons, History and German, University of Bristol
  • PhD, University of Warwick

Professional memberships

  • FAcSS
  • MIRS
  • BSA

Current postgraduate researchers