A framework to facilitate construction contractors' learning
This research aimed at developing a framework for measuring and enhancing the learning capability of construction contractors. Construction contractors' learning relates to how they imbibe knowledge and other stimuli from their internal and external business environments and how the acquired knowledge is applied to meet the challenges of current and future business environments. The general study of learning antecedents for construction contractors has mainly focused on training of employees. Equally, a lack of a methodology for measuring the learning capability of a company has been one of the main problems for implementing organisational learning within companies. However, this research is the first attempt to provide the antecedents for learning of construction contractors as entities. The outcome of which is a learning framework for auditing learning capabilities of construction contractors as one of the significant contribution to this research. The learning framework should provide construction executives with the means for measuring the extent to which learning takes place in their corporate establishments. This should promote proactive interventions for continuous improvement of their business processes. The developed learning framework maps ten core learning processes i.e. learning dimensions that influence the learning of construction contractors and addresses improvement through: individual learning; the use of teams; internal sharing of knowledge; learning from reviews; integrating work and learning; undertaking investigations within or with others; learning from or with others; continuous renewal of business processes; search for new development; and acquiring a capability to identify and respond to future possible business processes. Parallel to these learning dimensions, this research has identified eight factors that are required if a construction contractor is to achieve double loop or generative learning. The factors are aimed at providing senior construction executives with proactive intervention strategies to overcome specific barriers to learning within their own organisations. Such factors include: objective progress on learning demonstrated through the measurement of business processes; climate of openness; committed leadership to learning; rewarding innovations; shared vision; systems thinking; personal mastery; and mental modelling. Traditionally, measures of performance have heavily relied on financial indictors. However, such measures often only indicate the level of performance rather than explain the contributing factors. Consequently, the learning framework should provide a composite measure to traditional financial measures for construction contractors for assessment of their learning capabilities. The objective of the developed learning framework is to encourage a proactive stance when addressing improvement of construction contractors for the purpose of meeting the challenges of the evolving business environment. The link between construction contractors' learning and the factors that set the condition for double loop or generative learning were found to exhibit satisfactory levels of reliability and validity. Equally, construction contractors' learning increased with performance in terms of average profit and turnover per employee from the empirical analysis. The learning mechanisms by which construction contractors address their improvement by imbibing knowledge from their internal and external business environments were identified and ranked according to the various learning dimensions. The relationships between application of learning mechanisms were examined in order to enriched the understanding of learning practices of large and medium construction contractors.