About the Centre
Over the past six years the Centre for Performance-led HR (CPHR) at Lancaster has been successful at bringing together world–class academic experts to work with top HR directors to overcome the most pressing issues facing senior HR specialists.
The Centre is analysing HR issues through a unique partnership between Lancaster University Management School and major corporations and the public sector. It was nominated as one of five Outstanding Employer Engagement Initiatives in the 2009 Times Higher Education Awards. In June 2011 the Centre came to the attention of the Financial Times, who described it "... an innovative research centre where academics and executives jointly set the agenda" that has "pioneered a new way to interact with business". It has also recently attracted a Spotlight feature from the AACSB International's Research and Scholarship Center.
CPHR featured in the FT
The Financial Times profiled the Centre for Performance-Led HR in a feature on 4 July 2011. The article describes the Centre as a place where "academics and executives jointly set the agenda," and which "has pioneered a new way to interact with business."
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The Centre moved forward two years ago with a second cohort of members into its latest work on human resource strategy, which is called Phase 3 of the programme.
This builds on the opening activity within the Centre, known as Phases 1 and 2, which culminated in a series of high impact white papers, journal articles, and a highly informative network for HR executives. This initial work, captured in the book Leading HR helped unlock and understand what strategy is within businesses, and the business and people models that need to be put in place to underpin strategic execution and delivery.
It was premised on the view that HR functions need to "reverse the arrow" when thinking about performance. Rather than trying to link suites of HR practices, or an HR structure and delivery model, to performance outcomes, we need to start with the outcome and then work back to see what each outcome means for HR activity streams.
A major theme of the Centre's current work is the need for HR functions to master both "looking out" and "looking in". The function has been "looking in" - at business strategy and performance, and at its own internal transformations - for many years now. This is still hugely important, and we continue to examine the competitiveness challenges faced by organizations. But in an age of constrained growth we have returned to an era when HR functions also have a responsibility to start "looking out" again - understanding the changing nature of work and its place in society and the issues that cut across organizations but will strongly impact the internal world of any of them.
The performance and competitiveness challenges researched by the Centre are various. They include the need to build innovation into the business model, the organisation design, culture and leadership, and to align this to the constitution and climate within teams and indivdual capability. There is a need to balance innovation with more customer centric organisation designs and the more democratic and transparent ways in which organizational performance and purpose is now viewed. At the same time, organisations are looking to develop more lean, efficient and effective business processes, but to manage cost efficiency in an intelligent and constructive way. They are having to globalize the delivery of their HR and to manage and balance people management processes across multiple geographies, with emerging and maturing markets.
Performance also has to be viewed from the individual and societal view, not just through the lens of organizational strategy. We face very complex questions now about fairness, and HR has to be delivered in ways that addresses these needs in a form that is appropriate across generational groups and across societal stakeholders. Organizations are increasingly delivering their products and services through multi-party, cross-organisation collaborations and partnerships. The risks to reputation and the challenges to capability building are complex. HR has to be designed in ways that not only manages its own workforce, but takes responsibility and ensures governance across multiple employment relationships.
We argue that the solutions to these performance-led challenges are cross-disciplinary, based on creating understandings that are informed by a range of new insights. The research agenda needs to reflect the new questions and performance challenges that are being created. The practice agenda needs to be more reflective and insightful.
To understand these challenges, the Centre continues to work with an integrated and collaborative research model, offering advice and solutions to tackle real-world HR problems in the current economic climate. It has been established as a problem-based research group that will offer advice and solutions that has the following aims:
- Generate research data and insights of specific relevance and utility to HR functions
- Help foster applied research based on new ideas and emerging trends that address real-world needs by engaging a broad range of stakeholders in the creation, interpretation and dissemination of knowledge
- Provide a reflexive, evidence-based decision-making environment through which senior HR practitioners can lead their functions.
- Disseminate such work through academic media and leading business media outlets, encouraging joint authorship
The Centre moves away from traditional simple research contracts with business towards the development of a culture of deep engagement around the key business problems that HR functions have to face. To enable this, it:
- Works with sponsors on both generic and bespoke projects that provide unique content and innovative synthesis of existing research in the field of HR.
- Ensures that work is informed by developments in other academic fields that have a bearing on the performance and effectiveness of HR functions
- Brokers research in ways that are relevant to practitioners and ensure that management fads are put into context
- Provides thought leadership (through ideas or people) based upon insights from research networks and our own analysis
- Facilitates interventions and knowledge transfer informed, designed and delivered on the basis of our own insights into learning and development methods
- Capitalises on on-going projects and company contacts in ways that inform the School’s teaching and research activities
A distinctive feature of Lancaster University Management School is that we draw important linkages between a number of our Centres and alliances, leveraging and developing knowledge across each. For HR Directors, there are clear points of contact and mutual insight, for example, between our Centre for Performance-led HR and The Work Foundation Alliance, enabling links to the work of Professor Stephen Bevan and the Centre for Workforce Effectiveness.