Learning paths of customer-facing professionals in the digital age

Stefan Hendriks*, SeoYoon Sung, R.F. Poell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)



The purpose of this study was to explore how customer-facing professionals (CFPs) created learning paths to adapt to changing customer needs in a digital environment.


Two groups of CFPs were created from a previous single-case study to examine the learning paths of the two groups. Both groups were digitally competent yet differed in their ability to adapt to the increased usage of digital technologies by their customers: adaptive or conservative CFPs. Research questions addressed perceived learning needs, learning strategies to meet needs and factors that helped or hindered success. Transcripts were coded based on the five elements of a learning path, described within the learning network theory (i.e. motives, learning themes, learning activities, social context and facilities), using the Dedoose coding software. Group findings were compared to identify similarities and differences in their learning path elements.


CFPs learning path elements varied individually and between adaptive and conservative CFPs. Individually, they varied in learning themes: digital or traditional customer-facing competencies and learning activities such as learning from experience, self-directed learning and learning from others. Drive and ambition emerged as a learning motive for several CFPs in both groups. Although small samples, adaptive CFPs saw a need for digital competencies and engaged in self-directed learning (e.g. solving problems and using digital technologies), more so than conservative CFPs. A positive work environment (e.g. healthy relationships and support from others) was perceived as necessary for success for both groups.


This study sheds light on how one's approach toward technology influences the creation of one's learning path. It shows the increased importance of digital competencies for CFPs in a digital world and how CFPs who embrace technology develop technological savviness, solve problems using online resources and experiment with technology and systems, strive for self-sufficiency and rely on self-directed learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-392
JournalThe Journal of Workplace Learning
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Informal learning
  • Learning network theory
  • Work environment
  • Digital competencies
  • Learning motives
  • Learning paths
  • Learning themes
  • Learning activities
  • FIRM


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