In competitive labor markets, promoting employees’ learning becomes a key challenge for companies. However, in small German craft companies, employee development is always connected with worries about employee turnover. This study aims to investigate the current informal learning strategies of craft workers and how they use the strategies, the effect of learning on employees’ internal and external marketability and beneficial workplace characteristics (autonomy, feedback).Design/methodology/approachAn online prestudy (N = 131) explored current informal learning strategies. In the main study (N = 526), cluster analysis was applied to identify patterns of informal learning strategies. The relations of these patterns to workplace characteristics and marketability were investigated.FindingsFour informal learning strategies were found (informal learning from oneself, from others, from other sources and from new media). Craft workers used combinations of the strategies (i.e. patterns): three learning patterns (balanced high, person-oriented and balanced low) differed in intensity and combination with the learning strategy use. More intense learning patterns were positively related to internal marketability but were not related to external marketability. Higher autonomy and feedback availability were related to higher learning engagement.Research limitations/implicationsStudies should have a broader view of informal learning strategies concerning different learning patterns. The use of new media is a learning strategy that might increase in the future.Practical implicationsCraft companies could promote different informal learning strategies without worries about employee turnover.Originality/valueThe study reveals how German small- and medium-sized enterprise employees use informal learning strategies in digitalized times and how human resources development can use informal learning strategies.
European Journal of Training and Development – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jun 20, 2019
Keywords: Informal learning; Learning strategies; Craft companies; Internal and external marketability; On-the-job learning; Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME)