Employee learning and development in the small business: Research opportunities and challenges

Author: Alan Coetzerand

Abstract: This paper highlights an important need for researching learning processes in the New Zealand small business sector, and it explores special problems in small business research. The discussion is based on a review of the literature on workplace learning, the New Zealand SME sector, small business training, and researching the small firm. Specifically, it argues that in New Zealand, the small business sector constitutes a very significant part of the workplace learning context, and that there is an important need to upgrade the capacity of small businesses to develop the large knowledge and skill base vested in these organisations. How learning is orchestrated, and how knowledge and skills are acquired and developed in such organisations, are thus matters of major interest. The central theme is that there needs to be a shift of emphasis in the small business research agenda from ‘training’ to ‘learning’. For those intending to study the small business, problems in defining ‘small business’, and accessing small businesses are explored. Finally, some implications for researching learning and other complex process issues in small firms, which emerge from the literature review, are explained.