Research that impacts the world

Dr Andrew Timming FCAHR, UWA Business School

With both a PhD from Cambridge and experience as a strategy and HR consultant, it’s not surprising that Andrew Timming FCAHR believes in making sure research has a real world impact. This belief also explains why he became a certified academic member of AHRI.

If you want your efforts as an academic to change how people think about work, it helps if you’re researching areas that are simultaneously thought provoking and practical. Andrew Timming FCAHR has that covered three times over.

Timming’s first main track of research is employee selection systems and employee selection decision-making. “In that vein, I primarily research and study the effects of physical appearance on people’s perceived employability. So, the question of whether more attractive people are perceived as more employable in certain jobs.”

The second area of research is in ‘employee voice’. “This examines the idea that those who are on the receiving end of managerial decisions should have some say over those decisions,” says Timming.

Employee voice includes things like the ability to decide how your daily work is organised, when you start and finish, and influencing policy decisions. Timming and fellow researchers used a sample of more than 14,000 workers across 27 countries and found that employees who were allowed more of a voice in their organisations tended to be more politically engaged in society. This particular study gained national media attention.

“There’s a strong argument that employee voice is actually good for democracy,” he says. “In a lot of cases we spend more time at work than we do with our families and so the workplace becomes a testing ground for our wider attitudes and behaviours in life.”

The third area of research Timming focuses on is workplace bullying and mobbing studies, “especially in relation to physical and mental health”. He currently has a grant to examine the issue of bullying and stress among local government professionals. One issue of particular interest is the source of bullying. If you’re a public servant, in a very real sense your bosses are the people who vote for you.

“Bullying doesn’t always come from employees. In many of the cases where Local Government CEOs experience work-related bullying, the bullying comes from members of the public,” says Timming.

Out of the ivory tower

“If I had to identify an underlying philosophy that I take in relation to my job it’s that academics need to do a much better job of engaging with society and with organisations, and start to look outward rather than inward,” says Timming.

“I’m of the view that the age of academics sitting in the ivory tower and never coming down is over. Frankly, the public isn’t going to tolerate that for much longer. As academics, we need to stop writing research that no one else reads – even we don’t read it,” he adds with a bit of a laugh.

“We publish these articles and the information basically starts and ends there, it doesn’t often reach out and impact the wider society. The university [UWA] has recently set up the Institute For Public Policy – and the underlying thrust of this institute is to encourage academics, like myself, to start engaging in research that has a real world impact in terms of improving the communities and societies in which we live.”

His decision to get recognition from professional bodies is a reflection of this philosophy. “Organisations like AHRI and the CIPD can provide a bridge to industry for academics, so they can channel their ideas into arenas where they actually matter.”

‘Too easy’

Timming became an academic fellow of the CIPD several years back. “That process was pretty rigorous,” he says. “You basically get audited by the CIPD and you have to prepare all the paperwork to demonstrate that you’re a thought leader in human resource management. And there’s an interview with three fellows of the CIPD.”

Thanks to a reciprocity agreement, academics certified with the CIPD can quickly streamline their certification with AHRI. So when the state president of AHRI in Western Australia got in touch and invited Timming to one of their events, he enquired about the reciprocity agreement between the two HR associations. From there, it was a very quick journey to local certification.

“It was ‘too easy’, to use a Western Australian term,” he says. "I went straight through.”