The thesis was submitted in August 2019 and examined in December 2019, which was passed with minor corrections. The corrections were submitted in January 2020 and were approved in February 2020. The PhD will be awarded in the July 2020 graduation ceremony.

Project outline:

The study will investigate innovation and best practice in skills development in the workplace in Scotland, drawing comparisons with the rest of the UK and other countries. It aims to explore how employee-led workforce learning can be encouraged to deliver employee-led innovation that leads to competitive advantage, employment growth, and increased productivity. 

The research will further give insight into how existing knowledge is shared, used, stored, and created within organisations and aims to identify factors that underpin and contribute to successful workplace learning and innovation, determining how skills innovation within the workplace is facilitated by organisational culture and strategy. It aims to research and demonstrate how a skills agency can support innovation in the workplace as well as create recommendations, that are practical and also workable, to policy makers concerned with the skills agenda in Scotland.

Project summary:

Innovation has been regarded as valuable to competitive advantage in the changeable global economic and social climate since the 1970s (Anderson, De Dreu & Nijstard, 2004, p.149). In the case of Scotland, the Scottish Government has recognised the importance of investing in innovation since at least the early 2000s (e.g. Michie, Oughton, & Frenz, 2001) and has made efforts to improve innovation within the Scottish workforce. This is demonstrated within current social and economic policy (see The Scottish Economic Strategy, The Scottish Government, 2015).

This PhD, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and supported by Skills Development Scotland, investigates innovation and best practice in skills development in the workplace in Scotland, drawing comparisons with the rest of the UK and other countries. It aims to explore how employee-led workplace learning can be encouraged to deliver innovation, with specific focus on the learning of innovative work behaviors. Innovative work behaviors are behaviors relating to intentional generation of new ideas within a role, group or organisation whereby the idea is implemented within the organisation once created (Battistelli, Montani & Odardi, 2013, p.27). This will lead to the development of a framework to explain how workplace learning can support innovative work behavior development within the workplace.

The research will comprise three stages of empirical data collection and analysis. Firstly, training information will be examined using data from the Community Innovation Survey and associated Eurostat data. This secondary data analysis will explore relationships in training, skills development and factors that influence innovation that require further qualitative investigation during the main research study.

The main study will carry out case studies of three organisations to explore how organisation culture and strategy influence workplace learning. Case studies (based in the UK and across Europe) will explore determinants of successful workplace learning as well as highlight contextual influences that give rise to the development of innovative work behaviors. This will comprise three main elements:

  1. Interviews with leadership staff to explore how organisational strategy, leadership, organisational culture etc. influences workplace learning and the development of innovative work behaviours;
  2. Interviews or focus groups with managers to explore how organisational culture, strategy and other factors influence the development of innovative work behaviours amongst employees;
  3. Interviews and focus groups with employees (non-managerial workers) to explore how organisational culture and other factors supports the learning of innovative work behaviours. This will be supported by a quantitative questionnaire distributed to non-managerial workers.

Additionally, a quantitative survey will be deployed as part of the case studies.

Finally, representatives of agencies responsible for promoting and providing training, such as (SDS), will be interviewed to understand their perspectives on workplace learning and training success. This will include discussions on potential constraints. Results from the interviews will be used in a workshop where findings will be presented to employers and agents. The workshop will allow further data to be collected. Two focus groups will discuss the findings from the interviews and add further contributions to the work (post-viva).

The research will contribute to the gaps in knowledge by: (1) establish how individuals and collectives develop capabilities to innovate; (2) develop knowledge on specific requirements for individuals to develop innovative work behaviours, with focus on influences of organisational culture and strategy; (3) highlight contextual differences in the relationship between workplace learning and innovation. Practically, a framework (or set of guidelines) will be created to explain how workplace learning can be used to specifically enhance individual innovation capability. This will have practical value for implementation by skills agencies such as Skills Development Scotland.


Anderson, N., de Dreu, C. K. W., & Nijstad, B. A. (2004). The routinization of innovation research: a constructively critical review of the state-of-the-science. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 25, 147–173.

Battistelli, A., Montani, F., & Odoardi, C. (2013). The impact of feedback from job and task autonomy in the relationship between dispositional resistance to change and innovative work behaviour. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 22(1), 26–41.

Michie, J., Oughton, C., & Frenz, M. (2001). The Community Innovation Survey, an Analysis for Scotland. The Scottish Government, Edinburgh. Retrieved from:

Scottish Government (2015). Scotland’s Economic Strategy, March 2015. Scotland, UK. Retrieved from:

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