Barriers to participation in learning for mid-career managers in the Scottish life assurance industry
The Life Assurance industry has been through a period of rapid change as a consequence of increased competition, which is resulting in the need for structural re-organisation. The mid-career manager is arguably the most affected by these changes as the flattening structures and the need for obtaining new skills are leading to a re-appraisal of their role, while also diminishing their chances of the vertical progression that was traditionally on offer. It is against this background that an analysis of the barriers to participation in learning was undertaken through in-depth interviews with 61 managers from five of the largest Scottish Life Assurance institutions. A grounded model was developed to identify the prevalence of both intrinsic and extrinsic factors affecting participation levels. The model identified five intrinsic variables (Perceptual, Emotional, Motivational, Cognitive (General) and Cognitive (Vocational)) and three extrinsic factors (Culture, Management Development Culture and Physical Resources) and the managers were categorised against these variables according to their propensity to participate in learning initiatives. While the intrinsic barriers relating to managers perceived need for learning and emotional insecurities were important, the managers appeared to primarily attribute their levels of participation to the presence or otherwise of extrinsic variables. In particular, the organisational culture was seen to be crucial in influencing participation levels, as there were high levels of negativity surrounding the support and guidance structures for learning. The ambiguity of reward strategies was also seen to be an inhibitor, as were time pressures. Organisations need to address the issue of balancing participation in learning activities with the pressures originating from both mid-career managers private and professional lives as a potential solution to these external pressures. It was suggested that barriers to learning could be alleviated through better support and guidance and the development of a learning culture, encompassing top management involvement.