The importance of being an insider: how networks influence the small firm's engagement with formal training

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Bishop, D (2011)

Purpose\ud – The purpose of this paper is to examine the ways in which the small firm's external relationships influence its approach to formal training and training providers.\ud \ud Design/methodology/approach\ud – A qualitative approach was adopted, involving semi‐structured interviews with senior managers, in 25 small firms in South Wales. These interviews were informed by prior workplace observation and analysis of organisational documentation. Further interviews were conducted with employees in nine of the firms.\ud \ud Findings\ud – The findings indicate that the small firm's informal relationships with trusted, familiar and credible contacts – referred to as insiders, following Gibb – are central to the way in which it perceives both training and training providers. Government agencies, training providers and other traditional stakeholders generally sit outside these informal insider networks, and tend to be viewed as culturally remote by the small firm.\ud \ud Research limitations/implications\ud – The findings emphasise the need for training providers and government agencies to obtain the support and co‐operation of insider networks if they wish to promote training within the small business sector. The main limitations include the relatively narrow geographical focus and the absence of retail firms from the sample.\ud \ud Originality/value\ud – While the importance of informal networks within the small business community is now well established, the constitution of such networks and their effects on attitudes towards training providers are less well understood. The paper helps to address these gaps by starting the process of mapping insider networks and illuminating their impact on small firms' perceptions of training providers.
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