Examining fundamental issues in the context of work

Employee experience at heart of research by Matthew McLarnon, PhD

Peter GlennMount Royal University | Posted: March 24, 2023


Featured researcher: Matthew McLarnon, PhD
Department of General Management and Human Resources

His PhD is in “organizational psychology" but Dr. Matthew McLarnon, an associate professor of general management and human resources with MRU’s Bissett School of Business, thinks of his research in more work-a-day terms.

“It’s an unfortunate term for what I think is a really cool area of study: how people do their work, what the experience of employees is all about,” McLarnon says of his wide-ranging research portfolio that focuses on workplace teams, employee well-being and statistical models.

McLarnon has a line of research, for example, on optimizing teams, enabling team co-operation and confidence and bolstering team identity and brand. He also studies employee resilience and well-being and how employees deal with challenges like losing a major client, getting passed over for promotion, even getting fired. Finally, McLarnon’s inquiry into advanced statistical models focuses on making sense of the “messy and complex data” available to companies and organizations, which can lead to “more informed, more well-evidenced decisions.”

McLarnon says he had always had an interest in mental processes, but what really grabbed his attention was psychology in the workplace.

“It’s applying what we know about psychology, what we know about humans, in the context of work. I just became fascinated to think about all the different issues that can be at stake in terms of how to lead, how to manage employees, how to enhance motivation — fundamental issues in the context of work.”

On the day this interview took place, McLarnon was working on a study looking at daily motivations: the motivation an employee might feel in one 15-minute time period compared to motivation in the next 15 minutes.

“It’s trying to understand the dynamics, the ebbs and flows of motivation, and how that is going to result in different performance and well-being.”

Much of the research McLarnon has conducted into teams centres on students engaged in long projects together, for example, engineering students who meet in the fall semester and work together over the academic year. Findings from that work can benefit current learners.

“We’ve learned about how they collaborate, how they open better lines of communication, how they can better share ideas, and hopefully we can help teams work together better,” he says. “Our research, which has been published widely, is meant to come back to the classroom in part to impact how our student teams learn and grow and develop new soft skills that are going to be sought after by employers.”

McLarnon has been working with a group of Mount Royal faculty to develop a minor in data analytics that will help future graduates interpret masses of available information. Looking ahead, he has a long list of interests and potential research topics.

“Every new day, every new article I read sprouts off another 15 ideas,” he says. “Research is everywhere. It is all about identifying a problem to be solved and figuring out a potential solution. It is finding stuff out about our world. It’s applying your own context, your own knowledge, your ways of knowing and doing. Research is meant to help individuals do better, be better. Together, with a broad focus on research, I think the world can be a better place.”

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