Projects and Publications

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

2015 - present

Project Lead - Helen Hughes

Work placements have for some time been considered pivotal in the career trajectory of high-flying Business graduates, providing crucial work place exposure and experience prior to employment. Graduate destination data suggests that employment opportunities post-graduation are stronger for such students, not least because these students are considered more attractive to future employers (Taylor, 1988). However, in spite of this, the benefits of a work placement are not well understood, and placements remain poorly researched overall. In particular, it is clear from comprehensive literature review that little is known about how and what students learn during placement, and how this learning translates to competency improvement; and studies that have measured learning have tended to be atheoretical. This project is exploring placements over time, to better understand the benefits that they offer to students. We are collecting data from current placement students across the university, and tracking their progression in a multitude of areas over time. We do this with a view to developing improved, evidence-based placement provision within the university, and also to enable us to contribute to the knowledge base in this emerging research domain.

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. 

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.

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


WBRC members publish in high-quality academic journals for theoretical and practical advancement.


Robinson MA, Clegg CW, Davis MC, Bolton L, Pieniazek R, McKay A. “Applying organizational psychology as a design science: A method for predicting malfunctions in socio-technical systems (PreMiSTS)” Design Science. May-17.

Quesada Pallares C, Fernández-de-Álava M, Gairín  Sallán J. “How do Spanish university teachers learn? Understanding the use of learning strategies” Revista de Educación. Apr-17.

Lockett N, Quesada Pallares C, Williams-Middleton K, Padilla-Meléndez A, Jack S. “'Lost in Space': The Role of Social Networking in University-based Entrepreneurial Learning” Industry and Higher Education. Mar-17.

Clegg C W, Robinson M A, Davis M D, Bolton L, Pieniazek R, McKay A. “Applying organizational psychology as a design science: A method for predicting malfunctions in socio-technical systems” Design Science. Feb-17.

Hughes H, MachonL, Bolton L, Clegg C. “Systems Scenarios: A tool for facilitating the socio-technical design of work systems” Ergonomics. Jan-17.

Robinson  M. A. “Using multi-item psychometric scales for research and practice in human resource management” Human Resource Management. Jan-17.


Unsworth K, Mason CM. “Self-concordance strategies as a necessary condition for self-management” Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. Dec-16.

Unsworth KL, McNeill I. “Increasing Pro-Environmental Behaviors by Increasing Self-Concordance: Testing an Intervention” Journal of Applied Psychology. Sep-16.

Acosta RN, Feixas M, Quesada Pallares C. “From discourse to action. How Engineering university teachers in Chile develop professionally and transfer their learning into practice” Zeitschrift für Hochschulentwicklung. Sep-16.

Griffin MA, Harding N, Learmonth M. “Whistle while you Work? Disney Animation, Organizational Readiness and Gendered Subjugation” Organization Studies. Sep-16.

Radburn M, Stott C, Bradford B, Robinson M. “When is policing fair? Groups, identity and judgements of the procedural justice of coercive crowd policing” Policing and Society. Sep-16.

Unsworth KL, Russell SV, Davis MC. “Is Dealing with Climate Change a Corporation’s Responsibility? A Social Contract Perspective” Frontiers in Psychology. Aug-16.

Seivwright AN, Unsworth K. “Making sense of corporate social responsibility and work” Frontiers in Psychology. Mar-16.

Chen J, Zhao X, Lewis M, Squire B. “A Multi-Method Investigation of Buyer Power and Supplier Motivation to Share Knowledge” Production and Operations Management. Mar-16.

Chen J, Sohal AS, Prajogo DI. “Supply risk mitigation: a multi-theoretical perspective” Production Planning and Control. Mar-16.


Young CW, Davis M, McNeill IM, Malhotra B, Russell S, Unsworth K, Clegg CW. “Changing behaviour: successful environmental programmes in the workplace” Business Strategy and the Environment. Dec-15.

Geimer JL, Leach DJ, DeSimone JA, Rogelberg SG, Warr PB “Meetings at work: Perceived effectiveness and recommended improvements” Journal of Business Research. Sep-15.

Ciras-Cali A, Pineda-Herrero P, Quesada Pallares C, Janer-Hidalgo A. “Training for innovation in Spain” European Lifelong Learning Magazine. Sep-15.

Pineda-Herrero P, Quesada Pallares C, Espona-Barcons B, Mas-Torelló O. “How to measure the effectiveness of VET workplace learning: the FET-WL model” Education + Training. Aug-15.

Quesada-Pallares C. “Digital Simulations: effects on self-efficacy and learning transfer” UAB Divulga. Aug-15.

Birdi K, Leach DJ, Magadley W. “The relationship of individual capabilities and environmental support with different facets of designers’ innovative behaviour” Journal of Product Innovation Management. Jul-15.

Griffin M, Learmonth M, Elliott C. “Non-domination, contestation and freedom: The contribution of Philip Pettit to learning and democracy in organisations” Management Learning. Jul-15.

Quesada Pallares C, Pineda-Herrero P, Stoian A, Duran-Bellonch MM. “Factors affecting Spanish and Catalan women participation in training” Journal for Educators, Teachers and Trainers. Jun-15.

Quesada-Pallares C, Fernandez-de-Alava M, Rebollar-Sanchez EM. “The current situation of gender differences in non-formal and informal learning activities in the Spanish adult population” Bordón. Revista de Pedagogía. May-15.

Davis MC, Coan P. “Organizational Change” The Psychology of Green Organizations. Mar-15.

Quesada Pallares C, Gegenfurtner A. “Toward a unified model of motivation for training transfer: A phase perspective” Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft. Mar-15.

Quesada Pallares C, Espona Barcons B, Ciraso Calí A, Pineda Herrero P. “La eficacia de la formación de los trabajadores de la administración pública española: comparando la formación presencial con el eLearning          Revista del CLAD” Reforma y Democracia. Feb-15.

Griffin M, Humphreys M, Learmonth M. “Doing Free Jazz and Free Organizations, "A Certain Experience of the Impossible"? Ornette Coleman Encounters Jacques Derrida” Journal of Management Inquiry. Jan-15.


Chen J, Tan KT, Tse YK. “Quality risk in global supply networks” Global Supply Chain Quality Management Product Recalls and Their Impact. Nov-14.

Unsworth K, Yeo G, Beck J. “Multiple goals: A review and derivation of general principles” Journal of Organizational Behavior. Nov-14.

McClelland GP, Leach DJ, Clegg CW, McGowan I. “Collaborative crafting in call centre teams” Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. Sep-14.

Griffin MA, Hodkiewicz MR, Dunster J, Kanse L, Parkes KR, Finnerty D, Cordery JL, Unsworth KL. “A conceptual framework and practical guide for assessing fitness-to-operate in the offshore oil and gas industry” Accident Analysis and Prevention. Jul-14.

Unsworth KL, Fielding KS. “It's political: How the salience of one's political identity changes climate change beliefs and policy support” Global Environmental Change. Jul-14.

Davis MC, Challenger R, Jayewardene D, Clegg CW. “Advancing socio-technical systems thinking: a call for bravery” Applied Ergonomics. Mar-14.

Clarkson GP “Twenty-First Century Employment Relationships: The Case for an Altruistic Model” Human Resource Management. Jan-14.

Molina R, Unsworth KL, Hodkiewicz M, Adriasola A. “Are managerial pressure, technological control and intrinsic motivation effective in improving data quality?” Reliability Engineering and System Safety. Jan-14.

AL-Tabbaa O, Leach D, March J. “Collaboration Between Nonprofit and Business Sectors: A Framework to Guide Strategy Development for Nonprofit Organizations” Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Non- Profit Organization. Jan-14.