Five minutes with…Kate Shacklock

Associate Professor Kate Shacklock

Associate Professor Kate Shacklock is a passionate teacher whose research encompasses the human resource management aspects of worker retention. We spent five minutes with Kate to learn a little more about her work…

In what area/s does your current research interests lie?

My overriding field of research is HRM [human resource management], and within that, the intention [of employees] to stay and go (or quit)… Management in the form of supervisors and first line supervisors have an impact on outcomes like retention, effective commitment, job satisfaction etc.. Retention is the glue to all of this, but intergenerationality is in nearly all cases, the outcome of such attention.

[Consequently] my favourite areas of interest…are older workers and the multigenerational workforce. Anecdotally, in my teaching and research…people say they notice a difference in the way people work. [This] intergenerational tension…is…a problem that needs a solution, such as the training of…managers [and knowledge about] how we get the best out of everybody.

I also work with a team of researchers in aged care and police [work environments].

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on revising and resubmitting a journal article about bullying in police in Australia. Our findings suggest this is [occurring from the] top down, and preliminary results say that women are suffering from task-directed bullying (nonphysical). Anecdotally women suffer [the effects of bullying] more and those that do are [employed] part-time. [Our team is interested in clarifying whether]…people are being bullied, or if they perceive they are being subject to it. How do we qualify bullying? Or is it a perception?

I am also working with New Zealand and South Australian researchers in the area of aged-care carers: what makes them stay and leave? And their careers – they basically don’t have one: no support, [pay scale] levels, and nowhere to go [when their client no longer requires support].

Are there ongoing or emerging trends in your field/s of research?

In my time in working in HRM and researching the attraction and recruitment [of employees] and [their] retention, for me there is a consistent message: make sure you’ve got the right person… [and] you as an organisation know how to keep the right people. But managers are not trained to know how to have the difficult conversations. How many of us have actually [been invited to] sit down with our managers and been asked “What will take you keep you in your job and keep you happy”!?

Have there been major developments or key findings that have directed the trajectory of your research?

There are changes in the field all the time – they keep me excited and interested! China, for example, has stopped its one child policy – it can’t be funded by the people working and an ageing population. It is a huge problem and [China is] trying to catch up now by suggesting that people have more babies. In Australia, the extension of working lives – encouraging older workers to stay at work – means more [household] income and spending on health [preservation]. [As a result, from the employer’s perspective, the] medical conditions that they will tolerate are fewer: healthcare is a huge [consideration in work]….But because we have a pension scheme in Australia, people will continue to work [only] until they can fund their retirement.

Finally, are there challenges in your field/s in trying to bridge the gap between research, practice and policy?

Regarding intergenerational workplace tensions, anecdotally there are clear differences but it is hard to prove it….Practitioners [are not engaged in the debate] and the Government thinks they’ve got it sorted; but they look at it from a finance perspective….not…the management perspective. So how do we get to the practitioners? People become managers because they can do the competencies of their job but no one has trained them in what that means, so if their values aren’t in accord with [those of whom they are managing]…then people leave.

I also benefit a lot from teaching at postgraduate level, having direct access to my students’ stories as managers themselves in the workplace.