Developing people in organizations: Working (on) identity

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Journal Article
Studies in Continuing Education, 2004, 26 (2), pp. 175 - 193
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In recent years there has been significant growth in research that has considered the relationship between worker identity and learning at work. A key part of this relates to discussions of the ‘newness’ of various types of work manifested in discourses such as post-capitalism, post-bureaucracy and the new work order. On this basis, it is argued that a ‘new worker’ for ‘new times’ is emerging. In this paper we address how such discourses of new work and new workers relate to what is played out in sites of practice. In so doing we problematize ‘newness’ by considering contemporary work practice and worker identity not as radical breaks with the past but rather as temporalized continuities that, whilst changing, have embedded in them the traces of the ‘old’. To exemplify our argument, we focus particularly on reconfiguration of training practices in organizations. We explore how such practices are embedded in different, ambivalent, and at times competing, organizational learning discourses each proposing how people should ‘be’. To do so we examine the particularities of practice observed in a qualitative study in a large Australian manufacturing firm. The paper concludes with a discussion of how, rather than ushering in the wholesale adoption of new forms of identity, contemporary work practices can be understood as situations of conflict and plurality in which identity is held in the balance. © 2004, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
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