Learning at work : a model of learning & development for younger workers : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Human Resource Management at Massey University, New Zealand
An organisation’s competitiveness is largely determined by the capability of its workforce (Combs, Luthans, & Griffith, 2009; Den Hartog & Verburg, 2004). The development of employee capability is, therefore, an important goal for organisations and human resource practitioners. Because the workforce is ageing, organisations need to pay particular attention to developing the capability of younger, novice workers who will become the core workforce as older workers move out of the labour market. However, little is known about the process by which younger workers learn and develop at work or how organisations may be able to influence this process to enhance the development of their skills, knowledge and abilities.
To address this gap in the literature, the present study examined a model of learning and development for younger workers. The model posited that younger workers’ ‘development self-efficacy’ beliefs would mediate the relationship between salient contextual (work environment) and individual factors and motivational components of the development process.
A total of 1758 young people aged between 16 and 24 years employed full-time participated in the study. Eligible employees were invited to take part via their organisations. Organisations were selected using a multi-stage stratified random sampling method which enabled a diverse and comprehensive sample of younger workers to be achieved. The method resulted in a sampling frame comprising small, medium and large organisations from four major industries (business, construction, manufacturing and retail) located in nine medium and large urban centres around New Zealand. Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire which contained a series of questions about their learning-related beliefs and attitudes, intentions to participate in development activities, and perceptions of developmental support from their organisation, manager and co-workers.
The study found that individual and contextual factors both have an important influence on younger workers’ participation in development activities, but affect this through different aspects of the development process. Development self-efficacy mediates the influence of certain contextual and individual factors on learning motivation. In addition, other individual and contextual factors directly influence young people’s intentions to engage in development activities through their learning attitudes, motivation and career-job beliefs.
In addition, there is evidence to suggest that certain factors may be more relevant to the development of younger workers than their more experienced colleagues. Consequently, life-stage is a potentially important factor to consider when developing employee capability.