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Do new ways of working increase informal learning at work?

Ruud Gerards (Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands)
Andries de Grip (Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands)
Arnoud Weustink (School of Business and Economics, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 22 September 2020

Issue publication date: 22 June 2021

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to provide a first investigation of how new ways of working (NWW) and their various facets relate to employee informal learning at work, while accounting for a range of known antecedents of informal learning.

Design/methodology/approach

The job demand–control model and the job demands–resources model underpin our hypotheses on how NWW would relate to informal learning. The hypotheses are tested using the Preacher and Hayes (2008) bootstrap method for mediation analysis, accounting for the potential mediating effect of the frequency with which employees receive feedback.

Findings

The analyses show that NWW positively relate to informal learning at work. This relation is mediated by the frequency with which employees receive feedback. Further analysis shows that one particular NWW facet – access to organizational knowledge – is an independent driver of informal learning, hardly mediated by receiving feedback.

Practical implications

The results suggest that managers who seek new ways to stimulate informal learning can do so by giving their employees more access to organizational knowledge, for instance, by leveraging the potential of modern ICT.

Originality/value

This empirical paper is the first study on the impact of NWW on informal learning at work. Using data on the Dutch working population, it provides novel insights for several strands of literature as well as for practitioners.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

We thank Simon Beausaert and Sanne van Wetten for their valuable comments and suggestions, and Evert Webers of Etil Research Group for facilitating the fieldwork. We also thank participants of the EURAM 2018 conference, the 2019 International conference of the Dutch HRM Network, the Universitat de les Illes Balears Business Economics Seminar, the James Cook University College of Business, Law and Governance seminar, the Maastricht University Learning and Work seminar, and the ROA poster session for their helpful remarks and questions.This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Citation

Gerards, R., de Grip, A. and Weustink, A. (2020), "Do new ways of working increase informal learning at work?", Personnel Review, Vol. 50 No. 4, pp. 1200-1215. https://doi.org/10.1108/PR-10-2019-0549

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited