The paper "Learning at Work" is a perfect example of a management essay. Learning at work has gained considerable importance since the last century and adult education is a necessity to move on successfully up a career path. Otherwise, a career plateau from where a person is unable to move any further tends to become a major hindrance in any career path. This essay will discuss the importance and views of learning at work with views of three different authors but the argument will challenge the views and also discuss the implications of the latter.
The change in the nature and organization of work since the end of the 20th century: The world has seen various economic developments and the most affluent have been globalization, privatization, and deregulation. Globalization has made the economy and culture internalized with reducing costs of communication and travel. Learning at work or work-based learning is an emerging concept. This concept is considered to be the engine of sustainable competitive advantage. The most important element in an organization now is the human element unlike before in the Fordist era when it was work and only work that mattered and not the human element.
Learning is essential at work but it is not only money or paid jobs that work as a motivator for learning but the environment and society affect the attitude towards learning the most. Learning at work can not be effective with the formal relationships between work-based learning and managerial controls. The concepts are a managerial perspective that is concerned with efficiency and profitability and the other is a critical perspective that is the effect of the former on working people and the society.
Investment in human capital is essential now and the concept of mutual commitment that is lifelong learning for the worker and which results in a competitive advantage for both parties. Another author has to say that it’ s not the hands that are in focus but the heart and the mind of an employee. Commitment from the employee is essential for the organization and this is the post-industrial or specifically information/knowledge-based economy. This is the machine age and workers have a different place now.
Commitment is a problem in organizations and with virtual organizations popping up it’ s a rare sight because workers are more capitalist themselves since they go for better working conditions and compensation plans. Due to this horizontal co-ordination or teamwork has gained importance and communication in all directions is welcome in order to give the freedom to workers to think and work according to their rules. The old style of command and control management, bureaucratic management, seniority are no more in the limelight since now it's about working smarter and not harder with the freedom to think, speak, create and innovate.
Stable careers are rare now since people go after self-actualization. Due to which middle managers have lost importance now are gradually being eliminated. Global competition has brought about technological changes with information sharing via the internet and the world is linked via networks with communication at its boom. Blue-collar work jobs have declined and white-collar work jobs are emerging and in full speed ahead. Organizations have changed from flatter structures of the Fordist era to open organic structures with delegation, participation, and teamwork as essential.
Part-time workers and flexible hours are more common now and income levels, standards of living have increased and improved immensely and magnanimously. Challenging views: Work-based learning is important and has gained popularity but there are factors that shape learning and influence it and those are class, race, gender, political issues and also conflicts of interest. These factors influence workplace learning and are also a hindrance. Things are not that simple since employee management conflicts, underlying tensions and politics are factors that are ignored and these impeach the learning process immensely.
The socio-economic factors are ignored and these factors write off the studies of the bold pedagogues who believe learning at work is a tool to control and improve skills at work. Another issue is sexuality and such relations that influence workplace learning and these factors are ignored once again. Inequality at work, especially women who go through this inequality and workers with “ dual roles” like a single parent and working all create hindrances in workplace learning. So it’ s not only coming up with theories for workplace learning but also making sure that the execution is effective.
A good level of knowledge in workers does not mean it can be executed in their jobs as well because there are factors that dampen this optimism. Standardized work is still common in the lower levels but now since verbal and interactive skills are a necessity so companies have formalized these procedures as well to maintain quality. Innovation is important but it has limits like with the new peer evaluation methods there are limits to this system as well.
It’ s all about striking a balance between continuity, change, convergence, and variability. Surveillance has gained popularity and now people are working even harder than before unlike what theories claim. Middle managers are still important since there are jobs that can not be done without them and although with a different name they still exist. It’ s the technical and professional labor that has benefited out of these changes at the workplace. On the job training is a good tool but often avoided and firms can use continuous innovation and skill reflective workplace as a source of competitive advantage but few have managed to do so. Implications: These changes in work and also the challenging arguments have implications.
The emergence of part-time or flexible hour’ s employment has reduced lifelong learning since these workers are not eligible to this sort of workplace learning since they have other commitments and that nullifies the theory to a certain extent. Having a knowledge economy is still a dream where workers have skills and knowledge to do all by themselves. But adult education has still gained importance since it is essential for the development of the mind and the society at large to move towards a knowledge economy.
The elimination of middle managers has led to a general term of downsizing those that are not required and this has increased stress among managers and employees. Middle managers have no incentives or motivation to work now and managers have more of a contractual relationship rather than one based on trust and mutual commitment. These factors have led to job insecurity and eventually shifts. Portfolio workers are now a common term and the trust between organizations and universities has diminished due to rigid systems of education.
Training opportunities have now gone to those with advanced educational levels and it is now the survival of the fittest! Conclusion: Work is a stressful job now with people working harder and for longer hours comparatively and workplace learning although essential is not a very easy concept to have executed effectively. There are internal factors that hinder in learning and outcomes differ due to these factors. Organizational restructuring and downsizing have created job insecurity but adult education is important to prepare workers for future jobs, development of the mind and to move the society towards a knowledge economy.
It’ s not only theories that work but also the underlying factors operating effect learning at work.
Books: 1. Bratton, J. et al, 2004, ‘Introduction to Workplace Learning’, in Workplace Learning: A Critical Introduction, Garamond, Aurora, pp. 1-9. 2.
Marginson, S., 2000, The Changing Nature and Organisation of Work, and the implications for vocational education and training in Australia, NCVER, Adelaide. 3.
Warhurst, C. & Thompson, P. 1998, ‘Hands, hearts and minds: changing work and workers at the end of the century’, in Workplaces of the Future, Macmillan, Basingstoke, pp. 1 - 24.