Small firm training: Just meeting the day-to-day needs of the business

Barrett, Rowena (2015) Small firm training: Just meeting the day-to-day needs of the business. Employee Relations, 37(5), pp. 547-567.

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The purpose of this paper is to explore what the attitudes of small firm owner-managers are to developing the skills of their key resources and then examine how these and other factors affect owner-managers’ preferences for training these employees.


This study of training in small road transport firms in West Australia is cast in light of the literature on human resource management in small firms underpinned by insights drawn using the resource based view of the firm. Small firms (less than 20 people) dominate this industry, while the increasing freight task, and extreme distances between West Australian ports, towns and mines highlight this sectors’ importance. Survey results from 39 small road transport firms and interviews with nine owner-managers are analysed.


Legislative, regulatory and licensing requirements were shown to be a key determinant of skills development. Employers ensured that basic standards for employee certification and qualification were met, as the penalty for not doing so would be too high. Regulations drove the need for certain types of training – licenses, fatigue management, occupational health and safety, handling dangerous goods, the Maritime Security Identification Card card, forklift license, mine site inductions – while owner-managers knew where to get the training their staff needed. Although regulation appeared most visible in prescribing what happened in relation to training for drivers, the relevance of owner-managers’ attitudes could not be ignored, nor could conditions in the firms external environment as this shaped how these requirements were met.

Research limitations/implications

The RBV is useful in showing how skill development enabled similarity in skills across firms, while the attitudes owner-managers and economic and social conditions meant what happened in firms around skill development varied. The importance of small firm owner-managers’ attitudes are clearly highlighted and shown to influence organizational decisions and choices around training, but these were not independent of the regulatory framework and the economic and social conditions within which the firm operated. The small firms in this study did engage workers in formal training when necessary but it was put in the context of the idiosyncratic approach of the owner-manager and the day-to-day needs of the firm. “Training” was essentially about ensuring certain types of skills were held by employees and then passing on knowledge to ensure the behavior of employees was consistent with the owner-manager’s vision for the firm in its current environment.


Ways industry and government can encourage training activity that goes beyond the day-to-day firm needs are suggested.

Impact and interest:

1 citations in Scopus
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ID Code: 85158
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Interviews, Training, Small Firms, Attitudes, Transport Industry
DOI: 10.1108/ER-05-2014-0048
ISSN: 0142-5455
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT (150300) > Human Resources Management (150305)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Management
Deposited On: 07 Jul 2015 23:04
Last Modified: 13 Jul 2015 00:35

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