Change and Learning in the Workplace

By Richard Parsells.

Published by Change Management: An International Journal

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Change is a commonplace occurrence in today’s organizations. In order to survive in an extremely competitive marketplace, organizations and their employees undergo change frequently. The ability to manage change and to learn from this experience is now viewed as a key competency for sustainable competitiveness in most business markets (Conner, 1998). However, while change management processes are employed and followed, a high percentage of change efforts are judged to be unsuccessful by upper management (Cenek, 1995; Clegg and Walsh, 2004). This suggests the need to further investigate the capacity to successfully accommodate change. Change has been closely associated with learning, which possibly suggests how one accommodates change may have some relationship with one’s level of learning readiness. The purpose of this study was to explore the research question: How do people at varying levels of self-directed learning readiness (SDLR) describe their experiences during an organizational change? Do people exhibiting varying levels of SDLR report experiences in organizational change that are qualitatively similar or different? If similar, what are these similarities, and if different, what are these differences?
Using a case study approach, nine individuals with varying levels of SDLR as measured by the self-directed learning readiness scale (Guglielmino, 1977), were followed over a six-month period as they experienced a change in their workplace. Data were collected using interviews and critical incident reports. Four themes emanated from analysis of the findings: Thoughts and feelings about change were not expressed in distinct stages, rather they recurred throughout the length of the study; those with higher self-directed learning readiness(SDLR) used more direct problem solving techniques rather than emotional avoidance; those with higher SDLR experimented more, took more initiative, and were more resourceful; and, learning at work is a social process. Implications for practice and future research are presented.

Keywords: Workplace Change, Employee Capacity for Change, Self-directed Learning Readiness

Change Management: An International Journal, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp.61-71. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 302.810KB).

Dr. Richard Parsells

Assistant Professor, New College, Master of Arts in College Student Development, St. Edward’s University, Austin, Texas, USA

Rich Parsells is currently an assistant professor and the director of Master of Arts in College Student Development at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. He holds an MPA, MBA, and Ph.D. in adult education. His research interests are in the areas of adult learning, self-directed learning, change management, learning organizations, and the culture of student engagement in higher education.