Supervisors: Learning on the Job is Key, says Study

Business – UConn Today

Informal, on-the-job learning is a key component of workplace education, especially for promotion-focused employees who seek out opportunities that enable them to attain their goals.
However, the consequences of informal field-based learning are not uniformly positive, and in some circumstances appear to harm how an employee’s job performance is perceived.
Those are the finding of UConn management Ph.D. candidate Mikhail Wolfson, in a recently published article in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
“Organizations spend a lot of money on training and development, an upwards of $160 billion a year in the U.S. alone,” Wolfson says. “But an estimated 70 percent to more than 90 percent of training and professional development occurs outside these formal structures – what we call field-based learning.”
Organizations spend a lot of money on training and development … But an estimated 70 percent to more than 90 percent of training and professional development occurs outside these formal structures. — Mikhail Wolfson
Yet very little is known about how informal, field-based learning behaviors relate to changes in job performance, he notes.
Informal field-based learning can take three forms: experimentation/new experiences; feedback/reflection; and vicarious learning, which is intentional observation and talking with others about their work.
“Through our research, we discovered that informal field-based learning behaviors are not universally valued,” says Wolfson, who has accepted an appointment as assistant professor at American University’s Kogod School of Business. “Ultimately it would be ideal to focus on how to create a learning-rich environment that’s engaging and non-punitive.”
Hospitals Provide Ideal Climate to Study
Wolfson and his fellow researchers studied more than 1,700 healthcare employees from 49 hospital units at a large medical center in the Eastern United States. They focused on diverse work units, ranging from nurses to surgeons, technicians to executives to the hospital ministry.
They learned that vicarious learning, or observation, is welcome in some workplaces, particularly those that are non-punitive …

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