Firm size and workplace learning processes: a study of the restaurant sector
journal contributionposted on 20.11.2020, 11:25 by Daniel Bishop
The purpose of this paper asks how workplace learning environments change as firm size increases, and how employees respond to this. In doing so, it looks beyond an exclusive focus on formal training and incorporates more informal, work-based learning processes.
The study uses a comparative, qualitative research design, using semi-structured interviews with an under-researched group of workers – waiting for staff in restaurants. The data were collected from six restaurants of different sizes.
As formally instituted human resource development (HRD) structures expand as firm size increases are more extensive in larger firms, this leaves less room for individual choice and agency in shaping the learning process. This does not inevitably constrain or enhance workplace learning, and can be experienced either negatively or positively by employees, depending on their previous working and learning experiences.
Future research on HRD and workplace learning should acknowledge both formal and informal learning processes and the interaction between them – particularly in small and growing firms. Insights are drawn from the sociomaterial perspective help the authors to conceptualise this formality and informality. Research is needed in a wider range of sectors.
There are implications for managers in small, growing firms, in terms of how they maintain space for informal learning as formal HRD structures expand, and how they support learners who may struggle in less structured learning environments.
The paper extends current understanding of how the workplace learning environment – beyond a narrow focus on “training” – changes as firm size increases.