In my work as a human resources and leadership consultant, I’ve observed that many organizations have dedicated spaces where employees come together to receive training. Most of the time, these locations are basic conference rooms, which led me to wonder: what if companies could build facilities uniquely equipped to meet the needs of the human learner?
Seeking to find out what such spaces might look like and what best practices organizations would be smart to integrate, I spoke with Jonathan Webb, VP of workplace strategy for KI, a designer of 21st century interior furnishings.
Alexandra: Jonathan, how should companies go about designing the right physical space for corporate training?
Jonathan: In some ways, the key to creating corporate training spaces is the same as designing offices: flexibility. Just as employees have different work styles throughout their 9-to-5 day, new hires in corporate training have different learning styles. So recruiters have to design training spaces not only to enable the variety of tasks or lessons at hand, but to support the variety of learners they're training in a given session.
What physical design concepts best facilitate human learning and why?
Jonathan: I think it entirely depends on what the goals are within each learning session. That's why it's important to align a company's training goals with the physical learning environment. Designing a flexible training space is vital to facilitating human learning. For example, if one training task requires an individual assessment, new hires may need walled-in spaces or privacy screens to focus. But if another goal of the training program is to build relationships among teams that will soon work together, trainees may move to larger, shared work surfaces.
If an organization doesn't have a big budget for renovation, what tweaks can it make help improve its training spaces?
Jonathan: Training facilities are often overlooked within organizations, but an organization can make some effective changes without knocking down any walls. When space is at a premium, designing workspaces that can be reconfigured to accommodate various learning styles and types is paramount. Flexible furniture on casters can be reconfigured quickly. Mobile whiteboards can double as space dividers and learning surfaces to provide excellent teaming environments. A mix of high and low tables, along with several pieces of lounge furniture, can often be assembled to allow various types of group work.
How should an individual office space be designed so training concepts are top of mind? In other words, how can one use an office space to reinforce ideas learned in training and sustain the benefits of learning?
Jonathan: For many employees, there is simply not enough space within the construct of an individual workstation to support training. However, in the cases where a room is available, it’s important to have mobile tables and seating that can easily be positioned to maximize output – whether that's the number of people in the space to learn something or the type of learning that the mobility empowers, like collaborative group work. In addition, ancillary work tools such as whiteboards make excellent collaborative tools for group training projects.
At the end of the day, most training curriculums are designed to help employees work effectively and efficiently. At the heart of a lot of training is access to the right technology tools that employees need to do their work. Often times, if technology is accessible in an office setting, then training can be duplicated within a personal workspace fairly easily.