How supply chain professionals learn at work: an investigation of learning mechanisms

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Supply chain (SC) professionals and their competence play a key role in creating value and competitive advantage for companies. A considerable amount of this competence is developed at work, but little is known about how this takes place. Drawing on constructivist learning theory, the authors investigate how SC professionals develop their competence at work. Design/methodology/approach: The study takes off from a theoretical framework of workplace learning mechanisms, followed by a series of in-depth interviews with an expertise panel of profoundly competent and experienced SC professionals. Findings: The results provide detailed insights into the learning process of SC professionals. The key findings show that SC professionals use a wide range of learning mechanisms throughout their careers, and that the contribution and complexity of these mechanisms differ and change dynamically with seniority. The findings also show that learning mechanisms should not be viewed as isolated phenomena, but closely related to every-day SCM work as well as learning attitude. Research limitations/implications: By conceptualizing learning as a process, and congregating the fragmented literature into a framework of workplace learning mechanisms, this research provides a theoretical reference point for future studies. The empirical findings bring a new level of detailed knowledge on how SC professionals learn at work. Practical implications: The results can assist SC professionals, HR managers and academic program leaders in their quest to develop competence in the field of SCM. Originality/value: This paper makes a unique contribution to the human aspects of SCM literature by presenting the first study that investigates in depth the crucial but complex process of how workplace learning takes place for SC professionals in practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)738-763
JournalInternational Journal of Physical Distribution and Logistics Management
Issue number7
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Transport Systems and Logistics

Free keywords

  • Competence development
  • Constructivist learning theory
  • Interview study
  • Middle range theory
  • Professional learning
  • Supply chain management
  • Workplace learning


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