Asia Pacific Education Review

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 5–20 | Cite as

Competence development in the workplace: concepts, strategies and effects

  • Per-Erik Eilström
  • Henrik Kock
Article and Report


In spite of the expectations that exist regarding efforts to develop competence and in spite of the large amounts of resources devoted to it, there is a marked lack of empirically-based research on competence development in companies and other organizations. The purpose of this article is to present a review of research on strategies for competence development in organizations, their prerequisites and effects. More specifically, the following three questions will be addressed: (i) Why do organizations invest in competence development? (ii) What effects can realistically be achieved through competence development? (iii) What characterizes successful strategies for competence development in organizations? Before these questions are dealt with, different views of the meaning of the concepts of competence and competence development are presented and discussed.

Key words

competence competence development workplace learning strategies effects 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adler, P. S. (2004). Skill trends under capitalism and the socialisation of production. In C. Warhurst, I. Grugulis, & E. Keep (Eds.),The Skills That Matter. Houndmills, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  2. Alvarez, K., Salas, E., & Garofano, C. M. (2004). An integrated model of training evaluation and effectiveness.Human Resource Development Review, 5(4), 385–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Becker, G. S. (1975)Human capital: A theoretical and empirical analysis. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bell, E., Taylor, S., & Thorpe, R. (2002). Organizational differentiation through badging: Investors in People and the value of sign.Journal of Management Studies, 39, 1071–1086.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Billett, S. (2001). Learning through work: workplace affordances and individual engagement.Journal of Workplace Learning, 13(5), 209–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown, P., Green, A., & Lauder, H. (2001).High skills: Globalization, competitiveness and skill formation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Burke, L. A., & Hutchins, H. M. (2007). Training transfer: An integrative literature review.Human Resource Development Review, 6(3), 263–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Collins, R. (1979).The credential society: A historical sociology of education and stratification. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  9. Colquitt, J. A., & LePine, J. A. (2000). Towards an integrative theory of training motivation: A meta-analytic path analysis of 20 years of research.Journal of Applied Psychology, 85(5), 678–707.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Edwards, R. (1979).Contested terrain. London: Heineman.Google Scholar
  11. Eilström, P-E. (1997). The many meanings of occupational competence and qualification.Journal of European Industrial Training, 21(6/7), 266–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Eilström, P-E., & Nilsson, B. (1997).Kompetensutveckling i små- och medelstora företag: En Studie av förutsättningar, strategier och effekter [Competence development in SME’s: A studie of conditions, strategies, and effects]. Linköping: CMTO och Institutionen for pedagogik och psykologi, Universitetet i Linköping, LiU-PEK-R-199.Google Scholar
  13. Eilström, P-E. (2006). Two logics of learning. In E. Antonacopoulou, P. Jarvis, V. Andersen, B. Elkjær, & S. Høyrup (Eds.),Learning, working and living: Mapping the terrain of working life learning. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  14. Gill, A., Kock, H., & Eilström, P-E. (2005).Why do small enterprises participate in a programme for competence development? Paper presented at European Conference on Educational Research (ECER), Dublin, Ireland.Google Scholar
  15. Gooderham, P. N., Nordhaug, O., & Ringdal, K. (1999). Institutional and rational determinants of organizational practices: Human resource management in European firms.Administrative Science Quarterly, 44, 507–531.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hendry, C., Jones, A., Arthur, M., & Pettigrew, A. M. (1991).Human resource development in the small to medium size enterprise: Final report to the employment department. Sheffield: Employment Department.Google Scholar
  17. Hendry, C, Pettigrew, A., & Sparrow, P. (1988).Linking strategic change, competitive performance and human resource management: Results of a UK empirical study. University of Warwick, Coventry, England: Centre for Corporate Strategy and Change.Google Scholar
  18. Holton, E. F. (1996). The flawed four-level evaluation model.Human Resource Development Quarterly, 7(1), 5–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Høyrup, S., & Eilström, P-E. (2007).Arbejdspladslæring, forudsœtninger, strategi/metoder, resultater [Workplace learning: Strategy/methods, results]. Copenhagen: Nordisk Ministerråd, TemaNord.Google Scholar
  20. Illeris, K. (2004).Adult education and adult learning. Malabar, FL: Krieger.Google Scholar
  21. Illeris, K. (2005). Lifelong learning and the low-skilled.International Journal of Lifelong Education, 25(1), 15–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Illeris, K. (2007):How we learn: Learning and non-learning in school and beyond. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Jackson, S. E., & Schuler, R. S. (1995). Understanding human resource. Management in the context of organizations and their environment.Annual Review of Psychology, 46, 237–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Karasek, R., & Theorell, T. (1990).Healthy work: Stress, productivity and the reconstruction of working life. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  25. Kirkpatrick. D. L. (1959). Techniques for evaluating training programs.Training and Development Journal, 13, 3–9.Google Scholar
  26. Kirkpatrick, D. L. (1996). Invited reaction: Reaction to Holton article.Human Resource Development Quarterly, 7(1), 23–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kock, H., Gill, A., & Eilström, P-E. (2007).Practices of competence development in the workplace: Relations between learning environments, strategies and learning outcomes in SMEs. Paper presented at The Second Nordic Conference on Adult Learning, Linköping, Sweden.Google Scholar
  28. Kraiger, K. (2002). Decision-based evaluation. In K. Kraiger (Ed.),Creating, implementing, and managing effective training and development (pp. 331–375). San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  29. Larsson, S., Alexandersson, C., Helmstad, G., & Thång, P-O. (1986).Arbetsupplevelse och utbildningssyn hos icke facklärda. [Work experience and educational points of view of the low-skilled]. Göteborg, Sweden: Göteborg Studies in Educational Sciences 57.Google Scholar
  30. Lorenz, E., & Lundvall, B-Å. (Eds.). (2006).How Europe’s economies learn: Coordinating competing models. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Meyer, J. H. (1977). The effects of education as an institution.American Journal of Sociology, 83(1), 55–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Meyer, J. W., & Rowan, B. (1977). Institutional organizations: Formal structure as myth and ceremony.American Journal of Sociology, 83(2), 340–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mintzberg, H. (1983).Power in and around organizations. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.Google Scholar
  34. Mulder, M. (1998).What makes training programs effective? Evaluation of effectiveness of projects in the field of corporate education. Paper presented at the AERA Conference, San Diego, April, 1998.Google Scholar
  35. Nordhaug, O. (1991).The shadow educational system: Adult resource development. Oslo: Norwegian University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Offe, C. (1976).Industry and inequality: The achievement principle in work and social status. London: Edward Arnold Publication.Google Scholar
  37. Pfeffer, J. (1981).Power in organizations. Marchfield, MA: Pitman.Google Scholar
  38. Pettigrew, A. M., Hendry, C., & Sparrow, P. R. (1988).Training in Britain: A study of funding, activity and attitudes: Employers’ perspectives on human resources. London: Training Agency, HMSO.Google Scholar
  39. Powell, W. W., & DiMaggio, P. J. (Eds.). (1991).Introduction. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  40. Powell, W. W., & DiMaggio, P. J. (Eds.). (1991).The new institutionalism in organizational analysis. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  41. Ram, M. (2000). Investors in people in small firms: Case study evidence from the business service sector.Personnel Review, 29(1), 69–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rubenson, K. (2006). The Nordic model of lifelong learning.Compare: A Journal of Comparative Education, 36(3), 327–341.Google Scholar
  43. Rubenson, K., & Willms, D. (1993).Human resources development in British Columbia. Vancouver: Centre for Policy Studies in Education, UBC.Google Scholar
  44. Salas, E., & Cannon-Bowers, J. A. (2001). The science of training: A decade of progress.Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 471–499.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Scott, W. R. (1995).Institutions and organizations.Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  46. Scott, W. R., & Meyer, J. W. (1991). The rise of training programs in firms and agencies: An institutional perspective.Research in Organizational Behavior, 13, 297–326.Google Scholar
  47. Skule, S., & Reichborn, A. N. (2002).Learning-conducive work: A survey of learning conditions in Norwegian workplaces. Cedefop Panorama series; 30. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.Google Scholar
  48. Spicer, D. P., & Sadler-Smith, E. (2003).Organizational learning in smaller firms (Working paper No. 0329). University of Bradford, England: School of Management.Google Scholar
  49. Tannenbaum, S. I., & Yukl, G. (1992). Training and development in work organizations.Annual Review of Psychology, 43, 399–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Tichy, N. M. (1983). Managing organizational transformations.Human Resource Management, 22(1/2), 45–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Tuomisto, J. (1986). The ideological and sociohistorical bases of industrial training.Adult Education in Finland, 23, 3–24.Google Scholar
  52. Warhurst, C., & Thompson, P. (2006). Mapping knowledge in work: proxies or practices?Work, Employment and Society, 20(4), 787–800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Education Research Institute 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.HELIX VINN Excellence CentreLinköping UniversityLinköpingSweden
  2. 2.HELIX Graduate SchoolLinköping UniversityLinköpingSweden

Personalised recommendations