Purpose – The purpose of this article is to discuss the potential for learning that is present for process operators in their work at a paper mill. The term learning potential is used to denote the opportunities operators have for learning in their daily work. Design/methodology/approach – A case study of the work and learning of process operators in four different shift teams in four different departments at a paper mill, using diaries and interviews, provides the data for identifying potential for learning in the work of process operators. Findings – Findings show that the work of operators is dominated by an adaptive form of learning, that is becoming better at an already known task, and solving daily work problems. At the same time there is potential for a more development oriented learning, but with a local and ad hoc emphasis in the shift teams. However, the desire and willingness of the operators is important for the utilization of existing learning potential. Research limitations/implications – In general, limitations of the case study methodology mean that it may not be possible to generalize to other industrial and organizational settings. Practical implications – The research highlights that there is potential for learning, but the “invisible” learning that is found on the shopfloor in the shift teams must be supported by the company so that it can lead to development of the organization. Originality/value – The research has indicated that potential for development has a mainly local and ad hoc emphasis, primarily through the contradictions that exists in shift teams. Nothing, however, indicates that this potential might also include development of the organizational level at the paper mill.
Journal of Workplace Learning – Emerald Publishing
Published: Sep 18, 2007
Keywords: Learning; Paper industry; Employee development
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