Cathy Hoy continues her series on the modern L&D leader by looking at how to build a safe and inclusive environment, where learning can flourish
Creating a safe and inclusive learning environment is essential for the success of any organisation. In an environment that respects everyone’s diverse backgrounds and life experiences, employees are more likely to be engaged in their work, collaborate effectively with one another, and tap into their full potential.
A safe and inclusive environment
To create an environment where everyone feels respected, organisations need to develop effective communication strategies that foster open dialogue between all stakeholders. By actively encouraging employees to speak up if they have any issues or questions, employers can ensure that everyone involved in the organisation feels comfortable contributing their ideas while being heard and taken seriously.
Creating an inclusive learning environment requires the promotion of diversity and inclusion in all areas of the business – from recruitment practices to team building activities. Employers should strive for diverse teams composed of individuals from different backgrounds, cultures, and life experiences. This helps ensure that everyone’s distinctive perspectives are considered when making business decisions.
Organisations should be mindful that learning settings can affect how much information is absorbed and how well it is retained by learners
When it comes to accountability organisations need to accept responsibility for their contributions and create an environment where employees can learn from these mistakes without fear of being judged or excluded. By acknowledging faults and addressing them openly with respect, organisations can make sure that everyone remains on the same page and has a chance to learn from any mistakes.
Creating a safe and inclusive learning environment is about developing the right mindset amongst all stakeholders within the organisation. Companies should actively promote empathy, trustworthiness, kindness, humility, and collaboration. These qualities will help build a safe space where employees can feel comfortable challenging the status quo and taking risks without fear of failure.
5 tips to building psychological safety in the workplace
One of the most important elements in creating a successful workplace is psychological safety. This refers to an environment where employees feel comfortable taking risks and being vulnerable, without fear of humiliation or retribution. It’s essential for fostering collaboration and creativity, as well as boosting productivity.
Here are 5 tips for building psychological safety in the workplace:
1. Create a culture of open dialogue
Encourage employees to share ideas and ask questions without fear of judgement or criticism. This can be done through regular team meetings, one-on-one conversations with managers, and other forms of communication.
2. Provide feedback in a positive way
Praise employees when they do something well but be sure to also provide constructive feedback on areas that need improvement. Doing so in a supportive and non-threatening manner will help employees feel more comfortable speaking up and taking risks.
3. Encourage learning and personal growth
Offer training opportunities for employees to learn new skills and express their opinions. This will not only make them feel valued, but it can also help build confidence and encourage risk-taking.
4. Promote a safe working environment
Make sure everyone is aware of the importance of creating a safe environment for all employees. This includes talking about the consequences of bullying and any other forms of hostile behaviour that could undermine psychological safety.
5. Respond to mistakes with understanding and empathy
It’s important for managers to show employees that it’s ok to take risks and make mistakes. Instead of punishing mistakes, help employees learn from them by providing support and guidance. This will encourage an environment where taking risks is encouraged and rewarded.
With the right strategies in place, organisations can become a safe place for employees to bring their best selves to work every day and more importantly, feel empowered to experiment and learn every day.
What about the physical environment?
We’ve all seen training rooms that are looking a little worse for wear, with pealing plaster, lumps of blue tack on the walls and cables lying around, just waiting for someone to trip over them.… you’ll not be surprised to hear that this does not create an environment conducive to learning!
A great physical learning space should be designed with intention to foster a sense of engagement and enthusiasm in the learners. The layout should be comfortable yet stimulating, encouraging collaboration and communication amongst participants.
The environment of an organisation plays an important role in how well learners absorb knowledge and skills.
A learning space can either help or hinder learning, depending on its design with environmental factors being crucial for consideration when crafting an effective L&D strategy.
Organisations should be mindful that learning settings can affect how much information is absorbed and how well it is retained by learners. To ensure that the environment facilitates and encourages learning, organisations should consider factors such as lighting, temperature, ergonomics, furniture, layout, and acoustics.
Here are 3 core areas to consider when creating a physical learning space:
1. Lighting and temperature
When it comes to lighting, natural light is best as it has been proven to improve moods, productivity, and focus. In a corporate environment, natural light and the right temperature can have a positive impact on learning. Natural light helps reduce stress levels and increase productivity, while the optimal temperature for learning is approximately 22 degrees Celsius. It has also been found that workers are more attentive when the air is not overly dry or stuffy due to poor air quality.
It’s important to pay attention to the colour palette used in the physical space, as this can have a huge influence on mood and energy levels. Warm colours like yellow and orange are best for creating positive atmospheres, while cooler tones of blues and greens will subconsciously send signals of calmness and concentration.
3. Plants and biophilic design
Plants are known to help improve concentration and focus, allowing employees to remain engaged with their work longer. Additionally, having plants around can create a more calming atmosphere which encourages creativity and brainstorming sessions.
Though often used interchangeably, the terms “biophilia” and “biophilic design” refer to two different things. Biophilia is the innate human need to connect with other living things, while biophilic design is a way of incorporating that need into the built environment.
According to a study by O’Brien & Murray, 2007: “Providing physical spaces that are open and connected to the outdoors increases mental stimuli, energy, and physical comfort levels and this, in turn, increases cognitive ability, attention and memory levels”
To read more about biophilic design and the impact on learning, look at this article The 6 elements of biophilic design
Ultimately, we must consider physical environment as well as the wider, more holistic emotional environment that we work and learn in. Consider what learners see, hear and experience when you’re reviewing your own organisation, this will help you identify changes that need to be made.
You can read Cathy’s other articles in this series as follows:
The successful modern L&D leader – part 1
The successful modern L&D leader – part 2
The successful modern L&D leader – part 3