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Engage the brain in the way you train


More than ever, you need to get the most out of your training sessions. Mel Ashworth looks at a few techniques.
When budgets are tight training can often fall to the bottom of the list with fear that money spent will have a limited affect on business performance.
As the recession starts to lift and business growth starts to blossom, it is more important than ever to make sure that investment in skills development makes a real difference to the bottom line.
Helen Ashton, head of L&D at Stratford-based First Class learning and development, is an ambassador for 'brain-friendly' learning and we wanted to pick her brain about what it really means and the benefits to business.
Scientific studies demonstrate that effective linking of the different systems of the brain during the learning process improves the transfer of knowledge into long term memory. Brain-friendly learning techniques are designed to maximise this advantage.
"Get people motivated and thinking about what they will be learning before the training by sending out an invitation, with some information and a questionnaire about what they would like to achieve from the workshop."
She says that "the main consideration is to make sure that workshops are designed with the learner as the main focus and to cater for the different ways individuals learn; that way you don't waste time and money training and retraining. We all need to take in information through our senses and for the majority, seeing, hearing and feeling are dominant and opportunities to use these senses should be built into materials, exercises and activities when designing any learning event."
She suggests stimulating the senses by having displays on the walls, using music and encouraging regular movement during training sessions. She also advocates use of colourful scented pens, fresh flowers and brain friendly snacks and meals. But does it really make a difference?
To fuel our brains, we need good glucose in the bloodstream at all times, so encourage people to eat high-quality, slow-release foods and fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, cheese or vegan vegetarian alternatives, nuts, pulses, grains, beans, etc in moderation. The body is approx 70% water, which transports nutrients to the brain so plentiful supplies of water are essential for concentration.
Getting the meeting environment right is a great start to promote concentration, alertness and productivity. Make sure there is plenty of natural daylight, fresh air and space for participants to move around the room. If possible, build in opportunities to go outside during workshops.
Get people motivated and thinking about what they will be learning before the training by sending out an invitation, with some information and a questionnaire about what they would like to achieve from the workshop. This is a great way to warm up the brain to search for the relevant information on the day. Have a clear agenda and lots of different parts to the event too as the brain works better around structure. Memory is assisted by lots of beginnings, endings and time for reflection on what has been learnt. Using different parts of the room for different activities encourages group interaction and improves individuals' memories, so make sure you have plenty of space.
Taking people out of work to take part in training is expensive so you have to ensure that the training your people receive is designed to be the most effective and efficient – so they come back to work having learned what they need and more importantly being able to implement it immediately.

Mel Ashworth is partner and business development manager for First Class learning and development and has a background in strategic business development, human resources and training within the hospitality industry. She is chair of the South Warwickshire Personnel and Training Group and an active committee member for Coventry and Warwickshire CIPD

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