The purpose of this paper is to explore the beliefs held by managers about their roles as facilitators of learning with their employees in a public utilities organisation.
The research was based on Ellinger and Bostrom’s (2002) study in to managers’ beliefs on their role as facilitators of learning in learning orientated firms. Abductive research logic was employed in a small-sample in depth qualitative study using critical incident interviews.
Managers in the study conveyed strong self-efficacy and outcome beliefs confirming the central role in workplace learning of line managers who adopt a coaching approach. Key new insights were also found in managers’ beliefs on acting as role models within the organisation; and their beliefs on the need to manage skills-related organisational risk.
A key limitation of the research is inherent in the use of critical incident technique as it provides information on the nature of “atypical events” as opposed to more gradual, tacit and typically on-going learning at work.
The managers’ belief map derived from the data provides a context specific “target of change” with which to challenge the wider organisation regarding the learning facilitation. The research also shows how industry specific contexts may provide specific pathways for developing managers in their role as facilitators of learning.
The value of the research is two-fold: firstly in providing further validation of the findings from Ellinger and Bostrom’s (2002) research on managers’ beliefs on the effective facilitation of workplace learning. Additional insights on managerial beliefs regarding role modelling and succession planning are identified and the implications for management development discussed.