Ian Bennett UK [IB], Winfried Heidemann DE [WH], Monica Lee UK [ML], Jim
McGoldrick UK [JM], Denise Thursfield UK [DTh], Jim Stewart UK [JiS]
I've got an observation and a response. First, an alternative source, Bob
Hamlin, and quote on planning. As Bob says, ‘a plan is that which is changed’.
Second, there is a lot of evidence in EC funded research that employees
do not engage in lifelong learning and that is defined as a problem in
those projects. But, why is it a problem and is their motivation the real
cause if it is a problem? Winfried and Ian are offering the best solutions
if the problem is employees, workers’ motivation to engage in lifelong
learning. But, why should they want to? And, why does that matter if they
are content not to engage?
On motivation: in the presentation yesterday on ten large organisations,
the learners when questioned picked motivation as the top of their list;
they felt they needed to be motivated to get engaged; that's why I picked
upon that point.
There is a statistic that came in the open in the plenary yesterday. In
the EU there is an excess of 170 Mill. employees in SMEs. I think there
is a big issue about reach. Maybe the technology is the answer, but I think
Ian has said it's only a medium.
My argument is maybe the problem is being wrongly defined. I would like
to refer to John and Denise’s argument in their paper at this conference.
As I understand it, they are saying there are lots of opportunities and
resources available to employees to engage in learning, maybe lifelong
learning. So more of that is not a solution. But, why define the employees’
lack of motivation to engage with the opportunities a problem, if they
themselves don’t? If they haven’t wanted all of the opportunities etc.
why blame them for not using them?
An organisation has a need to implement skills; learning is a process;
they have an obligation to maintain skills; and people are employed on
the basis of qualifications; they have got years to go; it's little use
to take the traditional learning and stick it on the web; this is unlikely
to motivate, and it doesn't make use of what is possible.
I think motivation is not only a matter of human beings; also organisations
have to be motivated to learn and to change. As we all know, not only human
being are conservative, but also organisations are conservative, and the
bigger they are the more conservative they came to be. So I think the point
is to establish mechanisms which allow organisations to undergo training
and to learn, and which also allow individuals to learn, to change themselves
in their environment.
I'm just a little bit concerned about the focus on individual motivation.
That’s not what this paper was about. I think that the reasons why people
do not participate in learning are much more complex than their amount
of motivation. I think research needs to look at the material structures
in which people live and work, and we need some understanding of the contextual
power relations within which people are expected to engage in these learning
programmes. It's not about motivation, its about the material structures
One answer: We made an analysis of a database in Germany on individual
participation in continued vocational training. The result of this multivariate
analysis was that individuals engage in continued training if they have
the impression that they can use it. That helps them that there is an outcome.
If they do not have this impression, if they are forced to learn and to
participate, if they do not find that it is something for themselves, for
their career or for themselves personally, then they are not engaged to
participate in training and learning.
Can I come back: I think Denise has made an interesting point. I used to
teach sociology at work, which is why are people motivated or not motivated.
Because, if you can capture the essence of what motivation is, you can
solve all the problems of productivity. If I remember from all of the literature,
sometimes people are motivated extrinsically, they do that for the money
and do think that's enough. There are some people who buy into learning
opportunities because they change with what they want to do, to change
at a certain time in their life, and a certain time in their career. There
are other people who just not bother; they don't care about flexicurity,
the world doesn't appear to them in those terms.
What a colleague of mine and I found, over a number of years on a programme
of lifelong learning within the company NCR, was a very complex network
of reasons. There were enormous benefits to employees if they engaged in
education for all, in training and development and educational opportunity
that broadly related to the work, not specifically to the job. There were
technicians who upgraded to engineers, engineers went on the managerial
courses, senior professionals ended up doing doctorates. An interesting
finding was the argument about mutuality: the employees benefited and the
company benefited; the company benefited by a highly skilled group of people
remaining with them and not leaving. But there was a large population also
in that company who didn't bother. I wish I knew the answer to that; they
didn't see it as something for them; the opportunity was there, but they
didn't feel that they had to take this up. so I think it's somehow an unanswerable
That reminds me of work that a PhD student was writing. What she did was
to look at the career progression of employees in the financial sector
who are responsible for caring for others. One of the findings was that,
although there were development opportunities available to them and lifelong
learning policies in place, many people did not make use of them.
This was partly because of lack of time, but also .it was heavily influenced
by the attitudes of the supervisors and line managers. Some people
talked of the way or manner in which supervisors answered their requests
as being off-putting... Just because something is right, or is available,
doesn’t mean that it is socially acceptable to make use of it. I think
there's something about organisational culture as well as policy and practice.
In a study we did on the best companies to work for, the employees are
not claiming that they are better paid; what comes out at the top each
time is that there is a good environment for work, which encourages them.