How do you create a positive learning climate?

Career and lifelong learning

In a positive learning climate, everyone involved sees learning as a plus, with the benefits outweighing the tough challenges. Studies show that a positive learning climate contributes to an organisation’s performance.

Taking the temperature

What is the learning climate like in companies in Flanders? A team of Vlerick researchers – Katleen De Stobbeleir, Kim Bellens, Tina Davidson and Fauve Delcour – conducted a survey analysing the building blocks of a positive learning climate. A total of 1,082 employees, managers and HR professionals from 13 different companies shared their perception of their own and their company’s attitude towards learning. The survey analysed formal training as well as informal – on-the-job – learning. It identified five building blocks, or conditions, for a positive learning climate: accessibility, support, autonomy, sense of connection and transfer. The questionnaire used in the survey was fine-tuned and formalised into the Learning Scan, a tool that organisations can use to take a snapshot of their current situation as a starting point for making improvements or to benchmark against others.

How do you make it stick?

The survey showed that organisations recognise the importance of learning, but often struggle to put it into practice. Companies that score high on learning climate have a strategic focus on career-long learning and their C-level management actively supports learning and development initiatives. These companies also invest in the coaching of their line managers and learning is embedded in all HRM processes.

Learning transfer is a crucial success factor. For most organisations, it is also the biggest challenge. After a training session, people should be given the time and opportunity to apply their new knowledge on the job. This is the best way to make it stick and to keep people motivated.

How you create a positive learning climate depends on the context of your organisation. But one thing is certain: it is a shared responsibility between employees, management and HRM professionals.

Building blocks for a positive learning climate

  • Accessibility: to what extent do people have access to training and education / are mistakes and differing opinions tolerated?
  • Support: to what extent are training, education and on-the-job improvement supported?
  • Autonomy: to what extent can people direct their own learning process?
  • Sense of connection: to what extent do learning needs and training match / do people feel connected with their colleagues?
  • Transfer: to what extent can the learning be applied in practice?

Get started!

As part of the survey, the team developed the Leerklimaat Kompas (Learning Climate Compass), consisting of the Learning Scan, a manual for HRM professionals to help them assess and improve their organisation’s learning climate, and learning guides for employees and managers with plenty of useful advice and tips. The Learning Scan is also included in the manual and the learning guides. Questions? leerscan@vlerick.com

Award-winning research

The survey was sponsored by the European Social Fund (ESF) and was chosen as ESF ambassador of the year 2012!

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