Tag Archives: work


What was done last week:

  • developed the Moodle site for the E-Learning Strategy & Policy course on the MSc Digital Education and I’m really looking forward to delivering the course over the next 12 weeks or so
  • started reading lots of personal learning environments (PLEs) in terms of their implications for learning and development in organisations given that PLEs permeate organisational boundaries. People work in networks of relations that ignore institutional boundaries so why don’t we think about management and organising also in terms of networks?
  • continuing to read and think about actor network theory and online learning
  • marking lots of dissertations – with some, its a joy, with others… not so much
  • I also learnt how to clean my dogs teeth – strangely enjoyable activity for both of us (chicken flavoured toothpaste in case you were wondering).

Week notes [16082013]

This my first week note since returning from holiday so it’s really been pretty much a fortnight involving:

    Reading and commenting on seven chapters of student dissertations and one complete draft dissertation
    Submitting the penultimate progress report on the Lang2Tech project as well as completing a few small tasks for that and the Propound project
    I’m continuing to get to grips with Moodle as I amend an online course
    Experimenting with Trello for project management
    Slowly progressing on my PhD paper on Actor Network Theory; revising a conference paper for submission to a journal and final amendments of a book chapter.

So it’s been a productive period really. Why? Well a lot fewer meetings has helped as I’ve been able to schedule some reasonable chunks of time for larger tasks. I’m far from where I want to be in terms of scheduling (a kind of modified maker schedule) but am continuing to improve but the key problems remains attempting to progress across too many different activities.

UFHRD Conference – 7 June 2013

… and here we go on the final day of the UFHRD Conference on Friday 7 June. I’m only covering the opening keynote and then travelling home.

The keynote is by Stephen McNair  (Centre for Research in the Older Workforce) “Work and Learning in Later Life”.

Mostly talks to policy audiences which, compared to an academic audience, have a very different view on what is evidence. Will be discussing research in to the training of the older workforce including a study funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

What should we care about the older workforce? As we can see long-term rising lide expectancy that will continue – we have acquired 20 years additional lifespan over the last 100 years. Also fertility rates are low and so the population is ageing and so oler age support ratios are deteriorating. The UK fertility rates are not as poor as in eg, Finland and Japan due to migration into UK.

Also the issue fo the loss of talent and experience is a critical weakness for business and so need to retain the more experienced workers. This is a serious problem in the engineering sector, especially nuclear engineering, sector.

Legal changes have abolish age discrimination including mandatory retirement.  But also the rise and harmonisation in the state pension age. More older people are working which is a striking change in the last 15 years. Many older people have a choice of whether to work or not and how they work shifting the balance of power in the employment relationship.

The older workforce in the UK: the labour market freezes at 50 in terms of career progression/ promotion etc. and if you’re unemployed at that age you are very likely to remain unemployment – as an unconscious discrimination process. But it is easier to stay in a job for longer indicating the strength of being *in* the labour market. Many organisations have no older workers – a third of firms have never employed someone over 50. After 50, the workforce is increasingly female, in larger organisation and in the public sector and the implications of this in the financial constraints is unknown. At 60 the older labour force splits according to gender and qualifications and work is increasingly part-time and self-employed.

most older people like work and want to stay in work especially if they could work more flexibly including phased retirement. Some want progression and new challenges. Older people are motivated by: interest in the job; status and respect; social engagement; finance and a sense of purpose and structure in life. Finance is almost never in the top three in surveys but may be a British reticence in discussing money (compared to surveys in USA).

Returning to work is harder for older workers with lower qualifications, with partner not in work and work experience in a declining industry.

Higher qualifications increase employability where gained early in a career and it is not clear that qualifications in later life have a positive impact on careers and employment.

So there are two models of older workers: a dynamic force contributing to innovation and growth vs a marginal group used to fill short-term gaps in the labour supply. Older people are not recruited unless the employer is “desperate” despite the benefits of employing older workers.

“The learning and work in later life” study looking at training and work in later life to inform public policy- see here. Included primary and secondary analysis of workers, policy=makers and employers. Most employers did not report a skills problem with older workers and most older workers felt their skills matched the jobs or that they were over qualified indicating an issue in underemployment. The self-employed especially reported being very over qualified as did older, older workers.

Training participation concentrated in the 25 – 55 age range and then falls. Training is more common  for women and in well-qualified, high status occupations, higher social class and those in full-time employment. There is less training of older people in the private sector. There is no evidence of older workers refusing training. Also experience of training is positive. But training tends to be for shorter duration but this is a preference of older workers.

Reasons for not training: perception that the return is low and so is not a valued investment (especially by line managers); poor management and a ‘conspiracy to under-perform’ between the workers and line managers as older workers training needs may be complicated to negotiated; qualifications tend to be over valued over experience.

Training tends to be provided by employers to rectify performance and for promotion (so favour younger workers); employers are more likely to support older rather than younger workers; reporting that employers support training of older workers but also report employers favour training younger workers; ICT has changed attitudes to training and learning; few employers and employees think training helps older people re-enter the labour market (although some employers think qualifications will help).

Fit between motivation and training – training and interesting work self-reinforcing; social benefits and sense of control over life and bridging world of work in to retirement all suggest importance of training. But where training is being imposed by employer or some external body; if seen as a criticism of an individual’s competence for longer-serving employees and where perceived to lead to loss of status, isolation etc.. training is not beneficial.

Influences on training: workplace learning culture; perceived career stage; job mobility; evident need; cost effectiveness and full-time status all support training take-up.

The older workforce is distinct but diverse. Older workers think their skills are adequate or they are over qualified. But the decline in learning is real

Need for positive role models and challenge stereotypes and promote importance of training to reduce career risk. Need joined up policy form govt (between Dept Business, Innovation & Skills and DWP), tailoring training and understanding what works in training including segmenting the older workforce and work-life balance issues are important.

If you’re fifty, what are you going to do over the next 20 years? England does have a national careers service (but at same time as it stopped advertising government services). Mid career review (at 50 years)  project to be piloted by NIACE through the national careers service: is there demand; what are the issues and what are the best models for delivery?


Is there evidence on the stereotype of older workers finding it difficult to learn (not just training)?

Evidence on older peoples’ learning processes is very limited and tend to be focused on particular older people rather than for older people as a general population. But inked to a change in understanding of what is meant by learning and expanded to a wider range of activities.

There is evidence of legislation having a positive impact. For example, the right of appeal on retirement decisions has lead to employers and employees having conversations and arriving at mutually beneficial solutions.


So that’s it – we’re just hearing about the next conference in Edinburgh 2014 hosted by Edinburgh Napier University.

The Future of Work

This post from Neil Usher (@workessence) sums up nicely the dilemmas presented in the future of work discourses:

The future of work: it’s going to be dispersed flexible agile dexterous and very bendy and driven by presence-mimicking technology and sophisticated collaborative tools replicating our everyday functionality that mean we don’t have to be in the office at all ever again (hooray, maybe) so we don’t need to commute with all of the other people who don’t have any choice because they are condemned to process monitored roles in the taylorist tradition like this black and white photo of an old office with people sitting in rows at typewriters and so our carbon footprint shrivels to that of an amoeba until we take the whole extended family on holiday to the Caribbean and yet the office is actually quite useful and brings us together because there is really no substitute for genuine face-time especially if you have a café with real lattes and of course you can’t go for a beer online and so we may well need the office after all because it’s a club and a club is a good thing. Isn’t it?

The whole post is worth a read – slowly or, as he recommends, at speed!

WeekNotes [25012013]

I thought it was time for another round-up of what I’ve been doing since the start of the year:

– drafting two sections for reports on teaching and learning approaches to transversal competence development for the Propound project

– submitted a conference paper on the Lang2Tech project  for  the International Technology, Education and Development Conference (INTED 2013)  jointly authored with Robert Chmielewski. The abstract can be read here

– drafting a conference paper for the Universities Forum for Human Resource Development conference on how Twitter chat events for professional development

– overseeing the start of the new term  (although I have very little teaching this term)

– lots of meetings and discussions trying to get to grips with how or even whether the MSc programme I manage will be continuing after this year.


Nomadic work

These are the notes I took at a seminar on 11 May 2012 by Barbara Czarniawska at the Edinburgh University Business School on Nomadic Work.

The seminar presented some initial research on nomadic work asking the question: who are the contemporary nomads?

Suffering of “nomadness” and how to define nomadic working. Czarniawska asked if she is a nomad as she has worked in eight places and five countries? Nomadic workers are telecommuters or home workers or mobile workers who perform their work in multiple locations. Or are they people who do nomadic computing, but then what is nomadic computing?

Nomadic work was understood as “doing work while travelling” – see George Clooney in “Up in the Air” – seen as workers changing work and living places often, which is common in UK and spreading in the rest of Europe.

But does it matter and to whom? It matters to the employers as it creates new demands for employees and employers in terms of functioning of the workplace, issues of supervision & control (“how to control people at a distance?”). Perin Constance (1991) referred to increase work intensity of home workers in part driven by guilt, but managers concerned as they have no role in terms of supervision. The idea of presence and its link to the panoptic supervision as a perspective of what management is about. For employees Czarniawska suggesting that the label of nomadic work acts to emplot (emplotment: assembling a series of events into a narrative with a plot. For Czarniawska theorising is a form of emplotment) their work-life stories.

Czarniawska decided to study these working-life stories where people chose nomadic work as the main plot of their work-life story from digital immigrants and digital natives. The digital immigrant rejected the label and argued for digital elders as the creators of the computing era. Digital immigrant works as IT consultant to avoid being employed and “wants to compete under his own terms”. What makes him different is that he reads manuals! But is bitter of IT sector as sexist and agist, suseptable to fashions and hype and ignorant of history, eg, that cloud computing developed in the 1970s.

The digital native, aged 30, changes temporary jobs as a digital native researches digital natives working in research institutions. He has “constructive ideas” which relates to not listening to his bosses. He never reads manuals but rather Googles as a just-in-time knowledge resource. Has a continual sense of being in “deep water and not knowing if he would sink or swim” due to the sense of temporary nature of his work. Nit sure if having a stable place of work would be better.

In comparison, both are single men. One is an (real world) immigrant and the other is an itinerary worker. Distinguishes between workplace and country nomads as latter works in different countries but similar workplaces. ‘Nomadness’ can be from individualist ideology or from acknowledgement that the world is big and worth exploring. Both have an entrepreneurial mindset.

Is there a template for a work-life plot of a nomad? There was no concept of “life on the road” nor of “from rags to riches” that this is not about accumulating wealth. Also neither referred to “the internal wanderer”. Main relevant elements include the “travelling apprenticeship” in the earlier stages of the career that continues through work-life. An element of being dispossessed. There is also the Simmelian idea of the stranger as a paradoxical idea of being within a group but has not belonged to the group from the begnning and imports qualities into the group which “cannot stem from the group itself” (Simmel 1959 [1909], p 402) – for nomads, everyone is a stranger in their groups.

Eurobarometer 2010 study found vast majority of younger people would like to work overseas. People form Northern Europe look to Southern Europe because of climate while going from South to North for better work conditions, East to West for better work opportunities and West to Eastern Europe for new market opportunities.

Conclusions: nomadic workers include tradition nomads who go to where the work is but return to “home” and the “homeless minds”. Modern nomads tend to travel alone, less so as couples and rarely as groups. nomadic careers include both joys and sorrows of loneliness, uncertainty but meeting new pepole, making new friends and explorng new places, Seen as the price you pay but the price can become too high and then the life plot collapses.Nomadic computing is now ubiquitous and mobility increasingly a requirement for employees

Suggestions for further research: comparing nomadism in different professions and industries, eg, management consulting which also includes a team nomadism and the concept of liminality, or potential leadership develop programme of global firms as “apprentices travel from country/ region to country/ region for different work experiences across the same firm; comparative studies of the same generations across different places to reveal the local translations of gobal trends.

More monkeys with typewriters

I completed Jemima Gibbon‘s book Monkeys with Typewriters just before Christmas. As I mentioned in my comments on the first chapter here, I enjoyed the span of sources drawn on such as Arie de Geus and his book, The Living Company to de Moivre on distribution curves to Charles Darwin. As such, I found the “novelistic approach” of the book a powerful way of making-sense at different levels of social media at work and so is a useful companion to Andrew McAfee‘s book on Enterprise 2.0. What also comes through very strongly through the six chapters is the diversity and warmth of relations between people facilitated by but not limited to social software. Technology may enable and extend relationships but does not replace more traditional notions of friendships, acquaintances and collegiality – the limitations of an fb ‘friend’ are well understood.
The chapter titles: ‘co-creation’; ‘learning’; ‘openess’; ‘passion’; ‘listening’ and ‘generosity’ reflect the importance of attitude and ethos in really gaining the benefits of social media and, to some extend, the culture of the organisations that understand the potential in the medium. The Tuttle Club is an obvious hero here – and team Tuttle pointing the way to how alternative organsiation forms are more feasible on the back of social media.
A good and timely book.

joyful working

It is possible. See Dave Pollards post and then buy the book!

Changing jobs

My blog routines have become even more erratic of late – the reason being a spate of job applications, interviews etc. The result is I’m moving to a new job next month – its an academic role so very different from what I’m used to and know (at least I assume it’ll be very different!). As a result, some of the focus of this blog may change (but probably not a lot). More to follow (a) when I’ve been on holiday and (b) when I’ve started in the new job.

Change is good!