Free agent learners: the new career model and its impact on human resource development
Changes in the job market are affecting how employees view their current positions and careers leading to more employees (so-called 'free agents') developing portfolio careers. To maintain their long-term employability, free agents need to continually enhance and expand their expertise, knowledge-base, reputation and networks, and it has been argued that this will influence how employees view and approach their workplace learning. This article reports the findings of qualitative research aimed at exploring the free agent concept, the implications for workplace learning and the implications for human resource development (HRD) functions in organizations. The research used a convenience sample of 11 organizations from three continents, with data collected from senior HRD executives through telephone and face-toface interviews and e-mails. The results highlighted how some employees are changing their attitudes towards workplace learning, particularly those considered 'high potential' or working in 'high tech' positions. The research also identified how organizations are increasingly viewing learning as a means of attracting and retaining high quality employees, with implications for HRD functions in terms of a greater emphasis on delivery methods for learning beyond traditional training and greater emphasis on career development activities.