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Management development experiences and expectations: informal vs formal learning

Karen Becker (QUT Business School, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)
Adelle Bish (QUT Business School, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 10 July 2017




Many organisations are reconsidering their investment in formal education and training, in favour of more informal approaches to learning such as mentoring, temporary assignments, stretch assignments, and job rotation. The purpose of this paper is to explore the ways in which managers have developed capabilities for their roles thus far and their preferred approaches for future development with particular consideration given to a comparison of formal and informal learning.


This paper reports on a case study conducted within an Australian nonprofit organisation focussing on the extent to which managers attribute their current level of management skills to formal or informal learning and the extent to which they would prefer formal or informal learning (or a combination) for future development.


Findings indicate a large part of the managers’ current management capabilities were acquired through informal means, and these are seen as desirable for ongoing development, however, there is also a desire for formal learning methods to complement informal methods.


Management development is a critical HRD activity however there is limited knowledge about how managers have built their current capabilities and their preferences in terms of the mix of formal and informal learning for the future.



This research was funded by the nonprofit case study organisation however, in compliance with research ethics requirements, the name of the organisation must be kept confidential. The organisation did not play a role in the collection or analysis of data nor reporting of the findings from the study.


Becker, K. and Bish, A. (2017), "Management development experiences and expectations: informal vs formal learning", Education + Training, Vol. 59 No. 6, pp. 565-578.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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