Social Informal Learning and the Role of Learning Climate: Toward a Better Understanding of the Social Side of Learning among Consultants

Samantha Crans*, Veronika Bude, Simon Beausaert, Mien Segers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This research examines the social side of learning among professionals in the fast evolving and knowledge intense field of consultancy. Its first aim is to unravel social informal learning by proposing a new, integrated framework of workplace learning. Its second aim is to explore the role of learning climate for social informal learning behavior among consultants. Our qualitative inquiry using interviews based on the critical incident technique illustrates that consultants engaged in deliberative and reactive learning, thereby indicating a clear intention to learn. The source of learning was often the direct colleagues and direct supervisor, which highlights the relevance of close proximity of other individuals. The consultants mainly learned from others in a passive manner, followed by proactive and collaborative learning. Finally, this study shows that granting professionals responsibility and autonomy in their learning process as well as having a leader who facilitates learning are important elements of a learning climate that enhances social informal learning. We conclude with recommendations for organizations and directions for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-535
Number of pages29
JournalHuman resource development quarterly
Issue number4
Early online date25 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • consultancy
  • learning climate
  • qualitative research
  • social informal learning
  • workplace learning

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