Moving from HRM to knowledge productivity
: a study of whether and how organizations become learning organizations

  • Helen Shipton

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Practitioners and academics are in broad agreement that, above all, organizations need to be able to learn, to innovate and to question existing ways of working. This thesis develops a model to take into account, firstly, what determines whether or not organizations endorse practices designed to facilitate learning. Secondly, the model evaluates the impact of such practices upon organizational outcomes, measured in terms of products and technological innovation. Researchers have noted that organizations that are committed to producing innovation show great resilience in dealing with adverse business conditions (e.g. Pavitt, 1991; Leonard Barton, 1998). In effect, such organizations bear many of the characteristics associated with the achievement of ‘learning organization’ status (Garvin, 1993; Pedler, Burgoyne & Boydell, 1999; Senge, 1990). Seven studies are presented to support this theoretical framework. The first empirical study explores the antecedents to effective learning. The three following studies present data to suggest that people management practices are highly significant in determining whether or not organizations are able to produce sustained innovation. The thesis goes on to explore the relationship between organizational-level job satisfaction, learning and innovation, and provides evidence to suggest that there is a strong, positive relationship between these variables. The final two chapters analyze learning and innovation within two similar manufacturing organizations. One manifests relatively low levels of innovation whilst the other is generally considered to be outstandingly innovative. I present the comparative framework for exploring the different approaches to learning manifested by the two organizations. The thesis concludes by assessing the extent to which the theoretical model presented in the second chapter is borne out by the findings of the study. Whilst this is a relatively new field of inquiry, findings reveal that organizations have a much stronger chance of producing sustained innovation where they manage people proactively where people process themselves to be satisfied at work. Few studies to date have presented empirical evidence to substantiate theoretical endorsements to engage in higher order learning, so this research makes an important contribution to existing literature in this field.
Date of Award2004
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMichael A West (Supervisor)


  • HRM
  • knowledge productivity
  • organizations
  • learning organizations

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