Managerial Learning and Management Development in New Zealand SMEs
25 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2010
Date Written: November 18, 2010
Objectives Managerial capability in New Zealand SMEs has been perceived by policy makers as a factor that has constrained SME growth and development (MED, 2008). The New Zealand Centre for SME Research (NZSMERC) has undertaken a programme of research on managerial capability in New Zealand SMEs. This paper reports findings from the Centre’s 2009 annual survey of 1500 SMEs, the BusinesSMEasure. The survey builds on a previous qualitative study and is part of a programme of research which had the following objectives: (1) to understand how SME owner-managers assess their development needs and how they meet these needs; (2) to assess the extent of participation in management development; and (3) to assess the perceived impact of management development on their business.
Prior Work Previous literature and research evidence with SME owner managers suggests a low take up of formal managerial development programmes and a reliance on incidental and informal managerial learning processes (Massey et al, 2005). NZSMERC’s previous qualitative study with 25 SME owner-managers (Battisti, et al, 2009), enabled the development of a conceptual framework and typology to explain orientation to learning and management development. Further, it allowed the identification of variables that affected attitudes to managerial learning and participation in management development. The survey has enabled the testing of some of the propositions from the qualitative stage, such as the importance of sources of managerial learning and the importance of variables that influence owner manager participation in management development.
Approach The 2009 BusinesSMEasure survey involved 4,165 firms (including 694 firms who responded in the 2007 and 743 firms who responded in 2008 survey). There were 1447 usable responses after excluding 297 ineligible and unreachable firms, which gave an overall response rate of 35%, Building on the previous qualitative study and utilising the adapted theoretical framework, we have applied non-parametric analysis to examine the significance of SME profile characteristics affecting against typologies of learning and management development. Exploratory factor analysis has been undertaken on the range of variables affecting managerial learning and development to reveal clusters of variables driving managerial learning and development. Hypotheses generated by literature and theory have been tested and regression modelling completed.
Results Survey findings suggest incidental and informal managerial learning processes were predominant modes of owner-manager learning. These types of learning were associated with practice-based and proximal sources of learning, as opposed to more distal sources. Significant variables that affected the type and sources of SME managerial learning were gender, age, learning orientation and a belief of self improvement. There was a strong link between innovation and engagement in management development. Firms with at least one type of innovation activity reported to be more engaged in management development across all three types of learning i.e. incidental, informal and formal. Theoretical developments in the literature are used to provide the basis for testing hypotheses associated with learning orientation and belief in self improvement
Implications The research undertaken by the Centre was driven by a policy imperative: to investigate the causes of an underlying trend in New Zealand SMEs which suggested that there was a lack of managerial capability in SMEs and a failure of SMEs to engage with formal management development initiatives. Having revealed the drivers of managerial development and sources of learning we develop implications for supply side management development programmes and policy interventions.
Value It is arguable that we are still developing our understanding of the drivers of managerial learning and development in SMEs, which is still recognised as a research gap (Kitching and Blackburn, 2002). The contribution of the paper is threefold: we provide empirical evidence on the drivers of managerial development in SMEs; develop an appropriate framework for understanding participation in management development activities and develop a multivariate regression model to explain the nature of learning orientation and participation in management development and related activities by owner-managers in New Zealand SMEs.
Keywords: SME management, managerial development, learning, New Zealand
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