Workplace Learning in Times of Organizational Change: The Mediating Role of Learning Demands

J.M.E. Van Ruysseveldt, K. van Dam, Hans De Witte, I.D. Nikolova

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Workplace learning in time of organizational change: the mediating role of learning demands

Ongoing economic, technological and organizational changes urge workers to continuously develop and improve their knowledge and skills in order to smoothly adapt to new work requirements. Organizational changes advance workplace learning by installing and increasing learning demands, i.e. pressures in the work environment which install a need for the development of new work related competences (NWC).
Our study’s first objective is to explore which kind of organizational change favor NWC development and whether this relationship is mediated by learning demands. Our second objective is to research whether these learning demands are even more beneficial for NWC development in the presence of a strong learning climate and formal training arrangements.

Respondents of a representative sample of Dutch employees (N = 1711) participated in an online survey. NWC development was measured six months after the occurrence of change events. Mean age was 43.31 years (SD = 11.21) and 57% were male. The educational level of the participants was: high school (44%), lower educational training (19%), and higher educational training (37%). SEM and moderated hierarchical regression analyses were conducted.

Workplace learning is most strongly related to ‘qualitative’ kinds of organizational change (process innovation, product innovation, task restructuring), and unrelated to ‘quantitative’ kinds of change (increasing or decreasing staff numbers, restructuring, expansion of production capacity). Learning demands partially mediate this relationship between change characteristics and NWC development. While a strong learning climate and the presence of formal training arrangements advance NWC development, only formal training participation moderated the relationship between learning demands and NWC development.

Study variables were measured using self-reports.

Research/Practical Implications
Our results show that ‘qualitative’ kinds of organizational change constitute external pressures urging workers to continuously develop and improve their knowledge and skills in order to smoothly adapt to new work requirements, even in the absence of strong learning supportive arrangements (e.g. learning climate, formal training provisions). This finding has both theoretical and practical implications in the field of change management and workplace learning.

Originality / Value
This study deepens our insight into why and how specific organizational change characteristics challenge workers to obtain new work related knowledge and skills. Previous research highlighted the importance of factors which support or enable workplace learning, such as learning opportunities at work. This study expands existing models and frameworks by integrating learning demands as an important driver of workplace learning processes in times of change.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEAWOP 2019
Subtitle of host publicationWorking for the greater good
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2019
Event19th EAWOP Congress: Working for the greater good: Inspiring people, designing jobs and leading organizations for a more inclusive society - Lingotto Conference Centre, Turin, Italy
Duration: 29 May 20191 Jun 2019
Conference number: 19


Conference19th EAWOP Congress
Abbreviated titleEAWOP 2019
Internet address


  • organizational change
  • workplace learning
  • learning demands
  • Innovation
  • informal learning


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