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Calling all small businesses - what do you know and how do you know it?

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Academics at Loughborough University are looking to recruit people who work in small companies for a research project looking at how knowledge is learnt and shared.

Project KnowHow is being led by a team from the University’s School and Civil and Building Engineering and is being sponsored by IOSH, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health. It is exploring how people know how to do their jobs in small companies and how knowledge is shared in such businesses.

The team is interested in understanding contrasts and variations between how small companies operate compared to larger ones and exploring any variations in practice within different sectors. As well as learning about how people know how to do their job in a broad sense, the project also aims to establish how people know they are working in healthy and safe ways. The aim is to make recommendations for the future and disseminate best practice.

Researchers want to recruit people who work for, own and/or manage companies with 250 employees or less. Staff at both managerial and operational levels are sought for interviews on the phone or face-to-face. Volunteers can also complete an online questionnaire.

Companies from any sector are welcome to take part, although participants from the healthcare, construction and logistics sectors are of particular interest, together with the hotel/hospitality sector and ‘high hazard’ industries such as quarrying and mining.

Professor Alistair Gibb is leading the research team. He comments: “Learning how people learn is a very interesting process. There is not much information available at the moment and we are looking to fill that gap. Our assumption is that in small companies there may be people performing a multitude of tasks and we want to explore how people develop their knowledge and how management works for the managers themselves and their staff in SME-micro companies.”

Dr Elaine Yolande Gosling is a researcher on the project. She adds: “I have been interviewing a range of people so far from miners to pub landlords, builders to shop workers. Everyone has really interesting ways of working and this is really what we want to hear about. We are keen to hear more.”

Any companies interested in taking part should contact the research team on T: 01509 564682, E: Elaine Yolande Gosling at or Alistair Gibb at: or visit the project website at