Postgraduate researchers are integrated into all activities of CERIC and participate in workshops, teaching and research, as well as regularly submitting their work to leading academic journals and conferences.
CERIC encourages applications for doctoral study in its core themes of interest. Where appropriate, members will work with applicants to identify funding opportunities and prepare applications. Interested applicants should contact members of staff at the start of each calendar year.
The Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change (CERIC) warmly invites postgraduate researchers at all stages of their studies to attend and participate in our annual Doctoral Conference. Abstracts are invited from a broad spectrum of employment relations themes covering any aspect of:
- Labour Markets
- Industrial relations / trade union movements
- Human Resource Management
CERIC is pleased to offer a prize for the best presentation, which will be the costs (up to £400) to cover attendance at a leading national conference of the student’s choice. There is also a prize of £100 for the best poster.
Recently completed PhD projects
My thesis research examines the relationships between commodification, cooperation and conflict through the experiences of workers in the London hospitality industry. I am interested in the intersections of Marxist political economy, the study of the labour process, and the effects of technology on work and employment relations. I aim to conduct future research on digital platforms, automation and value production in service work.
Supervised by David Spencer, Mark Stuart, Kate Hardy
The Development of Strategic Human Resource Management in the Chinese Financial Services Sector: Understanding the Roles of External Economic Factors and the State
My doctorate has sought to understand the roles of economic factors and the state in shaping HRM at organisational level. A single case study of the Chinese financial service sector with multiple firms is used. China is a particularly interesting context to look at as it is a case where economic change and the role of the state are closely connected. It is difficult to decouple these two sets of factors, and it would seem likely in the Chinese case that both could have a profound effect on each other and on systems of HRM. Moreover, most existing models of strategic HRM assume that good ‘fit’ between practices and the environment is possible (as well as fit amongst HRM practices). Also that better fit is desirable and a means through which organisations can improve performance. But what about non-fit? Firms that are moving towards better fit, by definition, have non-fit. Through 59 semi-structured interviews with policy makers, employers and employees from the Chinese financial services sector, the key contribution of the thesis is in its examination of ‘fit’ and ‘non-fit’ of SHRM in Chinese firms. Having non-fit may be temporary, or more permanent. Some non-fit may be systematic, and may actually arise from firms trying to adapt to the external environment, or policies of the state. This would seem particularly likely during periods of rapid change. Furthermore, is non-fit necessarily a ‘poor’ outcome? Can firms still achieve good or good enough HR outcomes without close fit? My thesis seeks to Illuminate the idea that actively choosing ‘non-fit’ at both strategic and implementation level may enhance the effectiveness of organisational operation under certain circumstances. This non-fit can occur at strategic and more operational levels. I set out what these circumstances are, and how actions of the state in China may actually lead firms towards long-term non-fit in practices, in spite of stated aims of the state to move towards SHRM.
Supervised by Professor Chris Forde and Dr Hugh Cook
Disability inequality and the recruitment process: responding to legal and technological developments
This PhD project investigates how recruitment and selection practices impose social barriers for disabled people in the UK labour market. Despite the growing use of online recruitment methods adopted by employers, current literature has neglected the reactions of job applicants to web-based recruitment and selection practices from an equality perspective, in particular the voices and experiences of disabled jobseekers and their unequal access to the Internet. The study employs a qualitative and emancipatory research design, and consists of semi-structured interviews with disabled jobseekers and employment advisors, and UK employers. The aim of this study has been to represent as genuinely as possible the needs and voices of disabled people and their organisations in order to challenge social arrangements that lead to disability inequality, in recruitment and selection practices via the Internet.
Supervised by Liz Oliver, Jane Holgate and Robert Mackenzie
Career progression in small- and medium-sized law firms: experiences of a diverse workforce
My doctoral research examined how career progression takes place in small and medium-sized firms in the legal profession; the factors affecting this progression; and how and whether diversity within the smaller workforce is managed.
The impetus for this research is that despite the scholarly interest for professional service firms (PSFs), the smaller-sized PSFs remain insufficiently studied regarding diversity issues. Previous studies explore both career advancement and barriers to entry into the law, yet, they have primarily focused on larger companies. The use of intersectionality theory forms an innovative paradigm to examine gendered practices within the smaller law firm context. Data collection comprised 44 semi-structured interviews and document analysis within 4 smaller-sized law practices in Yorkshire. Data analysis using NVivo informs the case study methodology. The principal research contribution is to advance theories of intersectionality to generate more informative HR and diversity management policies; specific to the smaller PSF context.
Supervised by Professor Catherine Cassell and Professor Jennifer Tomlinson
An ethnographic study of the UK Fire and Rescue Service entitled ‘Know and Tell; Understanding Knowledge Transfer in the UK Fire and Rescue Service’
My thesis seeks to make a contribution to both the theoretical and empirical understanding of knowledge transfer in organisations. In particular, it explores and articulates how tacit knowledge is transferred within (and through) communities of practice. It does so via a single longitudinal case study of Northern Fire, the fourth largest Fire and Rescue Service in the UK. There is a paucity of studies on the UK Fire and Rescue Service and the extant literature is sparse. My thesis offers a unique insight and perspective into how fire fighters construct knowledge and make sense of their everyday reality within communities of practice. Adopting a qualitative ethnographic approach, this research sets out a detailed exposition of the transfer of knowledge throughout Northern Fire. Focus groups of some 58 fire fighters together with 14 semi-structured interviews of senior management, support staff, HR and IT functions were undertaken. In addition, drawing upon Orr’s (1996) ethnographic account of photo-copier repair personnel, participant observation was used to explore the daily working lives of fire fighters. Participant observation examined how Red Watch, a fictional name given to a group of fire fighters, transferred tacit knowledge and skills as a community of practice. The thesis also explores organisational memory loss. It extends our empirical understanding of how knowledge is both forgotten and retained on a both a voluntary and involuntary basis.
Supervised by Professor Irena Grugulis and Dr Hugh Cook.
James won the Emerald / EFMD Outstanding Doctoral Award (Highly Commended) for his research in HRM sponsored by Personnel Review.
Can employment restructuring be implemented responsibly? A case study of SteelCo’s ‘Socially Responsible Restructuring’ process
My doctoral research explored the implementation of a responsible restructuring process at a UK subsidiary of a multinational steel company, SteelCo. Responsible restructuring has been proposed as a managerial strategy to ameliorate the negative effects of employment restructuring and redundancy processes on employees, emerging in both academic and European policy literature. The research proceeded through a qualitative case study of SteelCo, following its claims to have conducted a putative ‘socially responsible’ restructuring process wherein 1700 jobs were cut between 2011-2015. The central contribution advanced in my thesis is that the concept of responsible restructuring is more appropriately characterised by a best fit approach, demonstrating a departure away from the prevailing emphasis on best practice approaches in the Strategic HRM literature and associated policy documentation. The findings from the SteelCo research therefore identified a range of contextual variables pertinent to the implementation of responsible restructuring. SteelCo’s responsible restructuring process was thus shaped by the contingencies of local organisational and institutional factors, the particularities of industrial relations, the histories of restructuring and the occupational identity of the workforce.
Supervised by Ian Greenwood, Robert MacKenzie and Jane Holgate
This thesis investigates the impact of the recent economic downturn on the training practices of British small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Extant research has paid only limited attention to the impact of the recent recession on training, while the training responses of SMEs to the economic crisis remains an unexplored area. The study focused specifically on SMEs operating in the Yorkshire and the Humber region. The data were gathered through a multi-method approach that included a survey of local SMEs, interviews with key informants from peak-level organisations and a qualitative investigation of small firms themselves.
Supervised by Mark Stuart and Chris Forde.
Socio-economic experiences of Central Eastern European migrants in Yorkshire
The project’s aim is to explore working and non-working lives of the accession countries’ citizens in Britain. In particular, I am interested in a number of themes: migrants’ livelihood strategies, interactions with social support groups and the affects of EU citizenship on labour migration from post-communist Central Eastern Europe. Furthermore, on the basis of research findings, I critically examine the view portraying Central Eastern European mobility with the enlarged EU as a predominantly circular and temporary phenomenon. The study employs a qualitative research design – the main bulk of data is expected to be collected via biographical semi-structured interviews.
Supervised by Robert MacKenzie and Chris Forde (LUBS funded).
Getting learning into the bargain: trade union strategies for bargaining over learning in the workplace
Supervised by Mark Stuart and Hugh Cook.
The Perceptions and Prospects of Future Professionals
This PhD research project explores current perceptions of the meanings and experiences of ‘professional’ work and the ‘professional project’. More specifically, it is focused on the changing profiles and perceptions of trainees in UK accounting firms. The project will utilise insights gained from examinations of national statistics as well as interviews with senior partners and trainees in UK accountancy firms. Contemporary perceptions of professional socialization and organizational and occupational commitment will be investigated. The professional education of accounting trainees, and the varying stages at which this takes place in different employment models, will also be explored.
Supervised by Chris Forde and Robert MacKenzie (ESRC Funded).
My thesis was on The Internal and external vulnerabilities of high performance work systems. It focussed on the implementation of strategic HRM practices in the retail sector, the sustainability of high performance work systems during recession and retrenchment, and the interacting dynamics between trade union representation and organisational HRM systems.
Key findings exposed vulnerabilities, both internal and external, of HRM systems to losing their soft outcomes because they are typically derailed by management seeking to increase short-term profit. The thesis demonstrates the channels through which HRM systems are used to improve profitability, which is often through work intensification rather than commitment focussed channels, by illuminating the complex social processes through which this is achieved.
Supervised by Chris Forde and Rob McKenzie.