Hard times for HRD, lean times for learning? Workplace participatory practices as enablers of learning

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – This article aims to show how in times of austerity when formal HRD activity is curtailed and yet the need for learning is greatest, non-formal learning methods such as workplace involvement and participation initiated by line managers can compensate by enabling the required learning and change. Design/methodology/approach – A qualitative cross-sectional design using a photo-elicitation interview method was used with middle-manager respondents within two case-study organisations. These organisations, UK local authorities, were selected on the basis of the severity of the austerity measures being imposed and the significance of the learning needed/changes required. Middle managers were the focus, being a managerial cadre with dual responsibilities for both implementing and initiating change. Findings – Managers' narratives of their managerial practices are analysed and show strong intentions to facilitate the learning of individuals through, for instance, enabling learning from experience and also to promote social learning within communities of practice. Narratives of community learning suggest that the managers were also supporting the creation of new forms of practice within their teams. Research limitations/implications – The research involved volunteer respondents who were MBA educated and who may, therefore, have been atypical. Nonetheless, implications for HRD policy and practice are proposed, including the need for more recognition of the role of line managers in enabling both individual and organisational learning and the need for developing managers as workplace educators. Originality/value – This paper is an in-depth qualitative study of workplace activities including participation and involvement practices using the lens of situated learning theory to highlight the importance of line managers as facilitators of non-formal learning in times of austerity. Empirical conclusions are drawn upon in refining situated learning theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)508-526
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Training and Development
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2013
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Communities of practice
  • Knowledge creation
  • Knowledge management
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Learning
  • Learning organizations
  • Organizational learning
  • Workplace learning
  • Workplace training


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