Learning and Development Initiatives in Growing Small Firms: A Comparison of Family and Non-family Firms

By Janice T. Jones.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In Australia, family businesses account for a significant portion of the Australian economy, constituting more than two thirds of all Australian companies, and employing over half of the workforce (Featherstone 2005). An overwhelming number of businesses are also small, comprising more than 90 per cent of businesses in the private non-agricultural sector, and providing work for over 3 million people (Australian Bureau Statistics (ABS) 2001). Notwithstanding their contribution to the Australian economy, the academic literature has accorded little attention to human resource management in general, and learning and development in particular, in smaller family businesses. This lack of research is surprising given the role of learning and development in creating a more highly skilled national labour force upon which organisations can draw to increase their competitiveness; and all the more surprising given the recent interest afforded to the field by the business press.

This study examines the nature and extent of differences in learning and development initiatives between family and non-family small businesses that have embarked upon different growth development pathways. The results indicate marked differences, with the incidence of learning and development programs greater among non-family compared to family firms. Further differences exist, with a significant increase in learning and development practices across the small business growth development pathways in non-family SMEs. These results suggest that as non-family businesses progress through growth development pathways, they adopt a more ‘strategic’ approach to learning and development, characterised by an increasing degree of commitment of resources to formal learning and development initiatives. In family small businesses, commitment to management learning and development also increases with enterprise growth. However, once moderate growth is achieved, there is a strong divergence of family vis-à-vis non-family firms, with significantly more moderate than high growth family small businesses adopting a range of learning and development practices.

Keywords: Family and Non-family Firms, Learning and Development, SMEs, Business Growth

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp.169-176. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 591.683KB).

Dr. Janice T. Jones

Lecturer, Flinders Business School, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Jane Jones is a lecturer in HRM. Her research interests include learning and development in small business and corporatisation of health services.

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