Purpose – The purpose of this paper was to investigate the embedded process that enables or constrains low-income low-qualified employees’ access to workplace learning in small organizations. Design/methodology/approach – Informed by the sociomaterial approach and cultural historical activity theory, this study adopted a qualitative cross-case study method. Data were collected from three small business owners in Central Texas, USA. Data included interviews and organizational artifacts and were analyzed using a constant comparative and inductive thematic data analysis. Findings – This study extends existing literature for low-income low-qualified employees by elucidating business owners’ motivations to develop supportive employment relationships. Despite incongruent value systems, subordinates were provided equal access to workplace learning based on organizations’ needs and business owners’ value systems. Research limitations/implications – The organizations’ small size and business owners’ position as the sole decision maker potentially create a different embedded context from supervisors who are subordinates in larger organizations. Further, findings from this qualitative study cannot be generalized without caution. Practical implications – The findings from this study suggest that workforce professionals should consider the advantages of small organizations for low-qualified clients seeking employment and adult education opportunities. More research is needed to generalize findings that delineate work situations where low-qualified employees can gain equal access to workplace learning and gain access to adult learning opportunities that lead to job mobility. Originality/value – This study identified an organizational context where business owners support workplace learning for low-income low-qualified employees with incongruent value systems.
Journal of Workplace Learning – Emerald Publishing
Published: Sep 8, 2014
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