Employee perceptions of their workplaces as learning environments

Alan Coetzer (Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand)

Journal of Workplace Learning

ISSN: 1366-5626

Publication date: 18 September 2007



The purpose of this article is to contribute to an understanding of how diverse groups of employees perceive their workplaces as learning environments, and to cast light on the learning processes of these diverse groups of employees.


This study was designed to examine employee perceptions of: the extent to which their managers create conditions in the work environments favourable to learning and enact behaviours in one‐on‐one settings that are likely to foster learning; and their sources and methods of learning. Data were gathered from 464 employees in 31 small manufacturing firms through self‐completion questionnaires and analysed using descriptive statistics and t‐tests.


Results for six demographic groups are presented to provide a comparative view of employee perceptions. The research found that the two comparison groups within three demographic variables (tenure, age, education) differed markedly in how they perceived their workplaces as learning environments. However, the various comparison groups seemed to agree that workmates and observational processes were central to learning.

Research limitations/implications

The research reveals demographic variables that appear to be important in studies of employee learning in small firms. These variables are: tenure, education, and age. Future research should examine owner‐managers' perceptions of the workplace learning environments and employee learning processes.

Practical implications

Managers may need practical help in managing the learning of diverse groups of employees, and in understanding the potential differences in employee learning processes.


Departs from small business research practice by providing an employee perspective and examining informal learning processes, as opposed to training practices.



Alan Coetzer (2007) "Employee perceptions of their workplaces as learning environments", Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 19 No. 7, pp. 417-434

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: https://doi.org/10.1108/13665620710819375



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Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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