Workplace Learning, Culture and Performance

Industrial and Commercial Training

ISSN: 0019-7858

Article publication date: 1 April 2000




Mumford, A. (2000), "Workplace Learning, Culture and Performance", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 32 No. 2, pp. 77-77.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This is a review of the literature on work‐based learning, conducted by Tavistock for the Institute of Personnel and Development (IPD). Amongst its conclusions are: “We do not have a good picture of how much work‐based learning activity is actually going on, or what form it takes. Surveys of employers’ training and management practices are one form of data, but they focus primarily on the more planned and structured activities as part of on the job training.” One reason for this is that “in this newer understanding, learning is part of the process of production and integral to the way in which work is organised”. In addition “unlike training which has specified learning outcomes, a curriculum and pedagogy, a great deal of workplace learning is open ending and ill specified”.

The authors identify some useful international comparisons: “unlike in Germany and Japan national learning culture in the UK does not engender a widespread commitment to learning in the workplace”.

This is a useful survey and one which certainly identifies some major features requiring further investigation. The authors suggest there is a difference in whether workplace learning is associated with competencies or more general employee development schemes. To this reviewer either would be acceptable but an effective development scheme might of course have a substantial competency focus. The authors make the point (which may be obvious to most of us in the development world, but is not obvious to most managers), namely that, while people learn without recognising the fact of learning, learning is much more effective if it is made more conscious.

They stress that managers are more often rewarded for processing knowledge than for distributing it. This important point is made as part of some general comments about current emphasis on the learning organization, on which they are, quite rightly in my view, rather suspicious of the lack of evidence for real achievements.

There are two missing features. There is nothing on learning theory, to which any effective workplace learning process ought to be related. Nor is there anything about the different methods through which people learn in the workplace.

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