Our Projects

Working together, creating impact and insight

Success isn’t simply defined by shareholder value anymore. Organisations know they must consider the wider social impact of their work beyond the bottom line, but many don’t know where to start.

By providing data-driven insights, practical knowledge and solutions, the Workplace Behaviour Research Centre (WBRC) can help organisations gain clarity and direction for how to grow their success and their social impact.

Current Projects

Developing leadership in girls

Kerrie Unsworth is working with Perth College, Australia, to create and evaluate their Inside Out program. Inside Out is aimed at developing leadership in girls from their first years in school through to their last. Kerrie has worked most closely with Year 10 girls and created a three-day program that builds their self-leadership, motivation and well-being, and which gets them to question widely-held views on leadership. The program has been running for five years and the research to date has shown that the girls have benefited from it. 

Research aims

Women still lag behind in leadership indicators around the world. We aim to get girls to question existing stereotypes and beliefs around leadership and to take on more leadership themselves as they mature.

Research questions

  1. How can we improve leadership in girls?
  2. How do adolescent girls experience others granting them leadership and how does it affect their view of being a leader?
  3. How does perfectionism affect a girl’s view of being a leader and her leadership?
Job market readiness

Kerrie Unsworth, Lucy Bolton and Olivia Sampson are working with The Reed NCFE Partnership to understand what makes a person ready to enter the job market. They have developed and validated a tool for Reed NCFE (The Bestest) that enables college students and university students to diagnose their current readiness to enter the job market.

Research aims

  • How can we help young people to get jobs?

Research questions

  1. Can we create a tool that is a reliable and valid indicator of job market readiness?
  2. What factors are related to job market readiness?
Employee physiology and workplace outcomes

Gail Clarkson, Des Leach and Kerrie Unsworth are examining how a person’s physiology relates to a variety of workplace behaviours and outcomes. We know a lot about how a person’s perception of their work and their feelings about their work affect these outcomes; but we know much less about how one’s body affects them at work. A number of studies are being conducted looking at outcomes such as stress, well-being and performance.

Research aims

  • To understand the “full person” at work, not just their thoughts and emotions.

Research questions

  1. What are the best physiological indicators for stress in the workplace?
  2. How does heart rate variability affect well-being and stress?
  3. How does heart rate variability affect performance and creativity?
Job crafting

Gail Clarkson, Des Leach, Kerrie Unsworth and Anna Viragos are all working on projects examining how a person alters their job to suit their own interests and needs.  

Research aims 

  • Rather than seeing employees as passive leaves in the organisational wind, the aim of this research is to examine how employees can take control for improved outcomes 

Research questions

  1. What does prosocial job crafting look like and how can we facilitate that? 
  2. How does job crafting affect others in the group? 
  3. When will job crafting be most likely to occur?
Social entrepreneurship

Kerrie Unsworth and Rebecca Pieniazek are examining how social and eco-entrepreneurs manage the potentially conflicting goals of the social outcome and business sustainability.

Social prescribing: Moving the agenda forward

Work is currently underway in this exciting new project which aims to explore the potential use of social prescribing in primary healthcare.

As part of this internally funded study, researchers will be speaking to people from a variety of stakeholder perspectives, including those in third sector and primary healthcare organisations, in order to understand the factors which impact upon the success of social prescribing schemes.

The development of an instrument for assessing the quality of human capital in medium sized enterprises

University / Faculty:  Faculty of Business, Law and Social Sciences, Birmingham City University


Human Capital; Relationship Capital; Organisational Capital; Intangibles; Workforce; Investor, Investment strategy.




According to the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, intangible assets generate up to 80% of the value of listed enterprises. This project aims to enable investors to assess the quality of human capital in SMEs. One the flip side it provides SMEs with a way of systematically portraying the characteristics of their human capital.


Measuring and improving employee engagement and wellbeing within a UK public-sector organisation

Dr Rebecca Pieniazek, Professor Kerrie Unsworth, and MSc students are working with a UK public-sector organisation on improving their current understanding and measurement of employee engagement and wellbeing. The project gives employees a chance to have their say on the work they do, how they do it, and how it makes them feel.

Research aims

  • WBRC is collecting more nuanced data about employee engagement and wellbeing within the organisation, alongside capturing a more holistic view of other social and behavioural phenomena which inter-play with levels of engagement and wellbeing. WBRC are using both quantitative and qualitative data collection methods.
  • The project does not just consider ‘normal’ times at work, but also times of adversity – something which is becoming increasingly more common to the modern organisation.
  • The research also aims to capture the views of remote workers within the organsiation, who do not always participate as frequently in their engagement surveys.
  • The project has the potential to explore how we can aid the organisation in the future in assessing their employee engagement and wellbeing, alongside related phenomena, in a more reliable, valid, and holistic way. In addition, it has potential for us to, in the future, build on the research findings to make actionable changes to increase employee engagement and wellbeing within the organisation.

Research questions

  1. In what ways do levels of, and perceptions of, employee engagement differ across different types of employees within the council? (Project 1)
  2. What other factors (behavioural, emotional, organisational etc) facilitate or inhibit an employee’s level of engagement? (Project 1)
  3. To what extent, and in what ways, do trust, perceptions of diversity practices, and majority/minority grouping relate to engagement? (Project 2)
  4. Does an employee’s level of personal resilience relate to their level of engagement, and under what conditions is this relationship more important? (Project 3)
Understanding the Value of Work Placements

Helen Hughes is engaged in pedagogical research, exploring how students derive value through their work placements, and how work placements help to shape the career trajectory of new graduates. The research employs mixed methodologies, and explores the longitudinal consequences of work placements on students’ skill development, knowledge acquisition and subsequent related career progression.


Questionnaire design

Dr. Mark Robinson of WBRC is engaged in an ongoing programme of research examining social science research methods. Effective research methods are essential to provide the evidence to underpin effective decision making about organizational performance and wellbeing.

One of Mark’s recently published journal papers examined and evaluated existing best practice in questionnaire design and administration, focusing particularly on the use of multi-item psychometric scales. The full reference of this paper is as follows, together with a weblink from which the published PDF file of the paper can be freely downloaded (open-access):

  • Robinson, M. A. (2017). Using multi-item psychometric scales for research and practice in human resource management. Human Resource Management. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hrm.21852 

The paper offers evidence-based practical guidance for academics, researchers, students, and practitioners who use questionnaires to collect data. Some of these key guidance points are now summarized below:

  1. In the main section of your questionnaire, each question or statement should be accompanied by a set of 5-7 equidistant response points with balanced verbal response anchors (e.g., “strongly agree”).
  2. Use a minimum of 3-4 questions/statements to measure each variable and check they measure the variable in a reliable and valid way.
  3. A reliable and valid set of 3+ items measuring the same variable is referred to as a psychometric scale, or multi-item scale, or simply a scale.
  4. When developing scales, the following process should be followed: (1) generate preliminary items, (2) evaluate preliminary items, (3) administer preliminary items, (4) implement participant feedback, (5) analyze preliminary item data, (6) administer revised items, (7) analyze revised item data, (8) criterion validate psychometric scales.
  5. Throughout the scale development process, the following types of reliability and validity should be assessed: internal reliability, test-retest reliability (where relevant), content validity, construct validity, and criterion validity.
  6. Detailed step-by-step practical guidance on all of these issues is provided in the journal paper, together with accompanying diagrams and tables.

Important note: Among other uses, this journal paper is intended as a teaching resource for training courses and educational courses in questionnaire design. It has been published open-access with a CC BY 4.0 Licence, so that it may be freely accessed, freely distributed, and its content freely used provided that attribution is made to the original source:

  • Robinson, M. A. (2017). Using multi-item psychometric scales for research and practice in human resource management. Human Resource Management. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hrm.21852

Finally, if you find this guidance about questionnaire design useful, you may also find the following recently published book chapter by Dr. Mark Robinson useful as it explains the research contexts in which questionnaires are used:

Specifically, this chapter provides general guidance about social science quantitative research methods, including measuring variables (operational definitions, reliability, validity) and research design (scientific principles, experimental designs, correlational designs).

Keywords: measurement, multi-item scales, psychometric scales, questionnaires, surveys, psychometric questionnaires, questionnaire design, survey design, questionnaire items, survey items, rating scales, response points, verbal anchors, Likert scales, Likert rating scales, scale development, psychometric scale development, factor analysis, questionnaire identification codes, numerically coding responses, calculating scale scores, research methods, quantitative research methods, organizational psychology, work psychology, occupational psychology, organizational behaviour