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Exploring human resource work design, learning mechanism and TQM: through the lens of activity theory and contextual learning theory

Suchitra Ajgaonkar (Symbiosis International University Symbiosis Centre for Management and Human Resource Development, Pune, India)
Netra Neelam (Symbiosis International University Symbiosis Centre for Management and Human Resource Development, Pune, India)
Abhishek Behl (OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat, India)
Le Trung Dao (University of Finance ‐ Marketing, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
Le Dang Lang (Thu Dau Mot University, Thu Dau Mot, Vietnam)

The TQM Journal

ISSN: 1754-2731

Article publication date: 26 August 2021

Issue publication date: 18 January 2022

857

Abstract

Purpose

This research examines the effects of the context on the relationship between work design, learning mechanism and total quality management (TQM). The exploratory study examines the differential effects in context on how human resources and their activities are strategically managed for achieving TQM. Two theoretical frameworks – activity theory and contextual learning theory – are concurrently used for analysis. Specifically, the manufacturing companies, the authors examine are (1) technology-intensive company which has bought technology from a global foreign establishment (MU1), (2) technology-intensive companies having their own technology (MU2) and (3) labor-intensive units (MU3) of varying organizational sizes.

Design/methodology/approach

This case study-based research consists of 27 in-depth interviews with managers and employees of different hierarchies in each manufacturing unit. The authors interviewed them using semi-structured questions that were pre-validated by five senior HR experts from the manufacturing industry. Document analysis, multiple site visits and website content helped triangulation. The data are coded and analyzed using Dedoose software for qualitative research.

Findings

Activity diagrams for each manufacturing unit provides task and interaction analysis. Within and cross-case analysis address complexity and challenges of contextual reality, influences on work design and learning mechanism. HRD executives must recognize that there may be well-differentiated learning behaviors that align with organizational strategy. The learning behaviors may not be well-differentiated and become very dynamic. This dynamism may be characterized by double loop and single-loop learning feeding into each other.

Practical implications

This study provides substantial practical implications for HRD and other managers in the manufacturing sector.

Originality/value

The new theoretical framework adds to organizational behavior studies through multi-level and cross-contextual approach. It informs strategic combinations and interactions between internal and external context, and learning needs implicating work design and TQM.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Funding: No funding declared.

Conflict of interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Citation

Ajgaonkar, S., Neelam, N., Behl, A., Dao, L.T. and Lang, L.D. (2022), "Exploring human resource work design, learning mechanism and TQM: through the lens of activity theory and contextual learning theory", The TQM Journal, Vol. 34 No. 1, pp. 70-101. https://doi.org/10.1108/TQM-03-2021-0085

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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