Opinion: Hot, noisy and dark: Are you asking employees to learn in an impossible environment?

Employee trainers pay a lot of attention to the content of their curriculum and the way they deliver it. But do we pay enough attention to the tangible surroundings in which we ask employees to absorb the learning we seek to impart? Dave Clemens, HR blogger and senior writer for Rapid Learning Institute, investigates.

Opinion: Hot, noisy and dark: Are you asking employees to learn in an impossible environment?
Surroundings can have a harmful impact on employee learning if they're not right. What are some of the key factors that can either make or mar the employee training environment?

    1. Temperature. According to a number of research studies carried out in schools, and summarised in a report by physical facilities expert Glen Earthman, above-average temperatures in classrooms - between 23 and 26 degrees Celsius - cause significant reductions in reading speed and comprehension. One of the studies prescribes classroom temperatures between 20 and 23 degrees for optimum learning.

    2. Noise. The studies also show that students' learning is impaired when the classroom is noisy. One study cited by Earthman concludes that the maximum desirable noise level is 40 decibels. (Compare that with the averages of 90 dB+ for bars and nightclubs - or electric drills! - 85 dB for a subway train going at full speed, 70 dB for restaurants at their busy hours, and 60 dB for normal conversation.)

    3. Lighting. Not only does inadequate lighting just plain make it hard to see, it can also literally put your trainees to sleep. According to a compilation of research done by the University of Georgia's School Design and Planning Laboratory, dim lighting causes muscles to relax and blood pressure and respiration rates to drop, with the result that the student or trainee tends to nod off. 

    4. General upkeep. Several studies cited by Earthman show not only that students/trainees learn more effectively in facilities that have been well maintained, but also that the teachers/trainers perform more effectively. Apparently, everybody feels the morale boost of learning in a clean, attractive environment.

A team effort
Now, within an organisation, physical facilities may well not be under the control of the same person who's responsible for training. This means that if you're going to positively affect the training environment, you'll have to liaise with others in Facilities Management, or Physical Plant, or whatever. 

But if you're trying to train people in rooms that have too much heat in winter or not enough air conditioning in summer, that are too close to noise sources like machines or traffic, that are inadequately lit, or that could use a cleaning and a coat of paint, it's worth the trouble to address these issues. By doing so, you have a chance to give your training results an immediate boost.

Sources: http://www.schoolfunding.info/resource_center/legal_docs/California/Williams_Experts_Reports/Williams_Earthman_report_Facilities.pdf; http://sdpl.coe.uga.edu/researchabstracts/visual.html
 - Dave Clemens is a senior writer for Rapid Learning Institute and writes The HR Café BlogYou can connect with Dave via Twitter @TheHRCafe.

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