The SME as a learning organisation: a New Zealand perspective in the insurance sector
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Learning remains one of the challenging themes of work. There exists a greater need to focus on the theme of learning, as learning and re-learning for both organisations and individuals is required for firms to remain competitive. Despite a vast amount of literature on the themes of professional learning, organisational learning and the learning organisation, and despite the growing interest of learning within small to medium business enterprises, little research has been undertaken. Furthermore, particular attention has being given to the ongoing development of professionals who are seen to make decisions or provide financial advice to the wider community. In the current context of ongoing change in the insurance industry, the way in which professionals are prepared for the emerging demands and challenges of professional practice required with legislation becomes a key issue for the ongoing continued professional development of financial advisers. This thesis seeks to make a contribution to, and stimulate dialogue on, how learning and re-learning is impacted by transitions enforced on professionals. It has been found that while numerous empirical studies have been undertaken, many from various disciplines on the concepts of professional learning, organisational learning and the learning organisation, no studies have taken a phenomenological approach to professional learning, organisational learning or the learning organisation within the small to medium enterprise. As the process of learning is a personal and complex process, a phenomenological approach is adopted which emphasises the importance of personal experiences. This phenomenological study used a modified heuristic approach with semi-structured, recorded, and transcribed interviews to focus on the professional learning as experienced by eight financial advisers in New Zealand Insurance Industry. Five major themes emerged from the elements of the lived experiences of the eight participants of the study. The themes emerging from the responses of the participants were; (1) professional life-world of financial advisers, (2) towards a professional, (3) continuing professional development, (4) is it better going alone?, and (5) looking to the future. This research study investigates the professional learning experiences of individuals within the insurance sector after a significant change of regulation. In general, research findings confirmed the few previous findings indicating that the experience of professional learning is never limited to a single situation, for professional learning is thought to be a process of mentalist, individual meditation on the lived experience. Additionally, this research demonstrates that the lives of professional financial advisers are largely independent of the organisational context, both in the relationship to their own small to medium business enterprises, and any independent organisations or communities they may voluntarily belong to.