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Dr Emma Thirkell

Assistant Professor

Department: Newcastle Business School

Dr. Emma Thirkell is a Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management at Newcastle Business School, celebrated for her pioneering approach to education and her substantial contributions to the field. As a testament to her exceptional dedication, Emma has been honoured with multiple awards for teaching and learning, including Lecturer of the Year, Outstanding Teaching in the Classroom, and a Distinguished Teaching Fellowship. Her commitment to educational excellence is further evidenced by her successful acquisition of funding for Teaching & Learning Enhancement projects, showcasing her proactive stance on educational innovation.

Emma has been instrumental in shaping the future of HRM education through her Programme Leadership, such as the Senior People Professional Higher Apprenticeship. This sector-leading, innovative Level 7 programme, designed in collaboration with industry, underscores Emma's adeptness at bridging the gap between academic rigor and industry needs, preparing her students for the challenges of the modern workforce.

In research, Emma's interests are deeply rooted in flexible working, work-life balance, talent and people resourcing, and organizational change. Her insightful investigations into these critical areas of HRM are aimed at addressing contemporary challenges in the workplace, contributing valuable knowledge to the field and influencing practice.

Emma's teaching philosophy is centered around immersive and experiential learning, as evidenced by her creation of the award-winning #HREscapeRoom. This innovative educational tool has gained international acclaim and has been adopted by universities worldwide, demonstrating Emma's influence on HRM education beyond her immediate environment. Additionally, her co-creation of The HR Creative, a podcast series, exemplifies her commitment to connecting HR theory with practice, providing students and professionals alike with valuable insights into the intricacies of human resource management.

Emma is also a proactive participant in the CIPD Northern Policy Forum, a platform that allows her to engage deeply with the CIPD's efforts in shaping public policy across critical workplace issues such as health and wellbeing, inclusion and diversity, and pay and reward. Her involvement not only supports her professional knowledge but also contributes to the CIPD's capacity to influence government consultations and policy-making, ensuring that recommendations and practice guidance for employers and policymakers are informed by robust expertise and insights. In recognition of this, in March 2024 Emma was invited to an event at the House of Lords.

Through her dynamic approach to teaching, research, and collaboration with industry, Dr. Emma Thirkell continues to make significant contributions to the field of HRM, shaping the next generation of leaders and innovators.

Emma Thirkell

Dr. Emma Thirkell's research is characterized by a twofold focus:

Firstly, central to Emma's HR research is the exploration of people and talent development within diverse work environments. This aspect of her work explores how skills, training, and leadership contribute to professional identity and business improvement, reflecting on the broader implications for organizational change and adaptation. 

Secondly, Emma's interest extends into the realm of pedagogy, specifically how educational practices can evolve to meet the demands of a digital age. Her innovative projects in this area, including the gamification of learning and technology-enabled teaching, aim to enhance digital literacy and prepare both educators and learners for future challenges. Her recognition as a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, particularly for her work in developing digital Escape Room games, has garnered attention from a variety of institutions, further highlighting her impact on modern teaching methodologies.

In addition to these core areas, Emma is engaged in research that examines the lived experience of innovation in higher education, touching on themes such as organizational inertia and academic identity. Her collaborative efforts with Kingston and Birmingham Universities on developing an AI Literacy Study Assessment Tool illustrate her forward-thinking approach to equipping students with the skills necessary for thriving in an increasingly AI-integrated world.

  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • Re-imagining hybrid pedagogies: lessons from the pandemic using the Diffusion of Innovation model, Thirkell, E., Munday, D. 21 Jul 2023, Building the Post-Pandemic University, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar
  • Lean towards learning: connecting Lean Thinking and human resource management in UK higher education, Thirkell, E., Ashman, I. 30 Nov 2014, In: The International Journal of Human Resource Management

  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • Other: Developing an evidence-based health and wellbeing resource pack to improve employee engagement 2021
  • Other: Re-imagining Good Work: Remote & Hybrid Working Principles for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises 2021
  • Invited talk: OneNote Escape Rooms 2019
  • Other: “Escaping” traditional technologies through a OneNote Escape Room 2019
  • Other: To the escape room! How business schools are embracing games 2019
  • Other: Unlocking the padlock – using an Escape Room to teach Business students 2019

  • Management PhD June 16 2016
  • Human Resource Management MA September 01 2008
  • Management Studies BA (Hons) June 30 2007
  • Chartered Management and Business Educator CMBE 2019
  • Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert MIEE 2019
  • Fellow Higher Education Academy FHEA 2011
  • Associate Member Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) 2008


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