Purpose – this study aims to examine which variables at the level of the individual employee and at the company level are predictors of self-directed learning in low-qualified employees.methodology – results were obtained from a sample of 408 low-qualified employees from 35 different companies. The companies were selected from the energy sector, the chemical industry and the food industry. Multilevel analysis was applied to examine which variables are significant predictors of perceived self-directed learning.findings – at the company level, the economic sector in which the employee is employed in particular played a striking role in the prediction of self-directedness, as did presence of a participatory staff policy. At the level of the individual employee, a proactive personality (a disposition to take personal initiative in a broad range of activities and situations), striving for knowledge work, past learning initiative, task variety and the growth potential of the job were significant predictors of self-directed learning.originality/value – research on the predictors of self-directed learning has primarily focused on correlational studies examining the relation between individual variables and level of self-directedness. There is little research available that systematically traces the extent to which individual as well as company factors play a role in level of self-directed learning. Nor is it clear which category of variables should be considered as the most critical. In addition, earlier research on this subject has mainly focused on a higher-qualified group of workers (employees with at least a diploma of secondary education). Factors that are predictors of self-directed learning and their relative weight might differ for certain groups of employees. This issue has hardly been addressed up to now.