Research with impact helps to shape working culture
Whatever their field or current area of specialisation is, everyone in the frontline of academia has a similar ambition. They want their work to be noticed and to have an impact, and that is not always easy at a time when so many insightful projects are competing for attention and publication.
However, thanks to a careful process of selection and support, Lingnan University has found a way to bring the breakthrough work of its professors and research teams to a wide international audience.
That is confirmed not just by the number of citations, accolades and invitations to speak at influential symposia and conferences, but also by high positions on many well-respected ranking lists, which regularly compare the relative merits of tertiary institutions in Asia and around the world.
Indeed, in the most recent Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings released in mid-2022, Lingnan was ranked third in the world for “quality education”. Within the Greater China region, which for these purposes also includes the mainland, Macau and Taiwan, the University was placed in the top ten for overall impact. And it was ranked sixth for work related to promoting “decent work and economic growth” which, importantly, is one of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) intended to improve life for everyone in the coming decades.
For this particular SDG, number eight on the list, the aim is to facilitate in different countries and communities the kind of economic growth which is both sustainable and inclusive.
In essence, that requires societies to create the conditions for people to have good job opportunities, fair pay for the work they do, and the chance to achieve better prospects for themselves and their families.
In Lingnan’s case, there are two distinct aspects to this. One is to put in place governance structures and practices to ensure the well-being of on-campus staff and that graduating students are suitably prepared for the world of work.
The other is by advancing research into a broad spectrum of topics which have a direct bearing on current economic models and what’s happening in today’s workplace.
Subjects can range from corporate leadership, stress management and psychological health as the rise of technology eliminates many traditional jobs to labour welfare and working conditions for those who still find themselves at or near the base of the pyramid.
By investigating such themes relating to SDG 8 – and their ramifications – scholars have the chance to engage with society and, subsequently, inspire genuine knowledge transfer. That can lead to real change and leave a lasting impact in Hong Kong and overseas, as a number of recent or ongoing studies serve to demonstrate.
For instance, in a just approved project on “Within-person dynamics of employee performance after disruption events”, Prof Nan Wang from the Department of Management is addressing an issue of relevance to almost every employer in the aftermath of Covid-19.
Representing the same department, Prof Tingting Chen has been looking into three contrasting yet complementary topics. One is “Employee silence at work” and what it can mean for bosses, colleagues and team productivity. The second, asking whether to self-verify or self-enhance, examines the effects of self-presentation and authentic leadership on trust and performance in the corporate sphere. And the third considers how different styles of leadership can enhance an organisation’s competitive advantage and get more out of the available “human capital”.
Also from the Department of Management, Prof Yolanda Na Li has been researching themes which have an immediate resonance in Hong Kong, but elsewhere too. A prime example is a study on the role of the internet on employees’ daily work and its impact on outcomes. Another is an examination of how couriers, such a common sight in the modern urban environment, react to social media posts and the daily mistreatment received from customers. And Prof Li has now begun work on a “dual-strategy model” for how the overqualified employee can become an effective leader.
However, showing the interdisciplinary nature of Lingnan research linked to SDG 8, numerous other projects are also on the go.
In the Department of Applied Psychology, Prof Francis Yue Lok Cheung is conducting a pilot study on occupational health differences between local and new migrants from mainland China. A team at the Department of Economics is asking if Hong Kong’s current competition policy can meet the challenge of increasing economic integration with the Greater Bay Area. And over at the Department of Cultural Studies, Prof Pun Ngai is spearheading a project on “Migration, mobility and labour”.
In the latter case, the main objective is to review labour conditions and measures in place to protect the interests of migrant workers in mainland China. There will be a special focus on newer sectors of the economy such as logistics, the development of high-speed rail services, and online platforms. This will help in understanding China’s new working class in the context of the country’s evolving “infrastructural capitalism”.