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Supporting employees in their development: Exploring the role of tailored support in informal learning

By Stephen JJ McGlynn


Informal learning is relatively underexplored in the work psychology literature, with most existing efforts tending to focus on formal learning or general workplace learning. This thesis develops understanding as to how employers can best support their employees’ informal learning, using samples drawn from a large UK energy firm, a small UK charity, and an international telecoms business. The study is of a mixed methods design: a qualitative study, in which 31 interviews and 900 open-ended survey responses are thematically analysed, explores the barriers that learners may face when attempting to engage in informal learning, as well as the roles that other groups of people play in supporting, or hindering, learners’ informal learning. The quantitative study tests hypotheses relating to personality (curiosity, proactive personality, Big Five, age, tenure) and situational factors (interpersonal support, time demands, autonomy) that may predict informal learning, contrasting how these relate to formal learning and intention to develop. Relative importance analysis and mediation analyses are also carried out so as to better understand the importance of, and the processes that may underlie, these antecedents. Differences between groups of employees are also tested. The findings from both studies are discussed separately, and are later integrated to form a broader understanding of how employers might support informal learning. Together, both studies offer new suggestions for both research and practice, especially in terms of curiosity, autonomy, and the consideration of support sources outside of the workplace. The study is one of a few to focus on informal learning, and is the first to consider the differences between informal and formal learning, and between incidental and intentional informal learning

Publisher: 'University of Sheffield Conference Proceedings'
Year: 2016
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