Brain-friendly techniques can transform workplace learning

The report, ‘Neuroscience in action: Applying insight to L&D practice’, reveals how several high profile organisations including Volvo, Fitness First, BT and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust have used insights into how the brain works to enhance learner engagement, improve customer service and reduce staff turnover and training costs. It also offers L&D and HR practitioners an overview of what neuroscience is, as well as practical advice on how to implement effective neuroscience techniques with minimal investment.

Later this week, three of the L&D professionals featured in the report will share their experiences with delegates at the CIPD’s Annual Conference and Exhibition, in partnership with IBM. Beverley Aylott, head of leadership at Imperial College Healthcare NHS trust, and Karen Bailey, head of competence development at Volvo, will join Jan Hills, partner at Head Heart and Brain, and Ruth Stuart, CIPD research adviser and author of the report, on the conference platform at Manchester Central on Thursday 6 November.

Beverley Aylott, Head of Leadership at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, has been reaping the rewards of applying neuroscience to learning design and delivery at the trust. She started from scratch to create new in-house leadership and management development programmes informed by neuroscience. She has since launched four new programmes designed to increase learner engagement, with practical exercises and open, interactive environments: “As a long standing “brain-friendly” convert, I am really excited by the growing interest in neuroscience and I grasp every opportunity that I can to learn more about this fascinating field. For me neuroscience lends significant scientific weight to what in essence is common sense for designing and delivering engaging, learner-centred L&D interventions,” comments Aylott.

Ruth Stuart, L&D Research Adviser at the CIPD, adds: “We’ve heard a lot about neuroscience in the press recently but we haven’t heard much about the organisations who are applying these techniques, which I think has led to some scepticism. But this report proves that neuroscience can inspire new, more effective approaches to people management and can provide a valuable evidence base for existing practice. We’re seeing tangible positive changes in business performance from those organisations who are encouraging staff to take a step back, analyse what boosts their productivity and how to get others on side. It’s definitely time for more organisations to start thinking about how the principles of neuroscience can help solve their business challenges.”

The research concludes with some key recommendations for L&D professionals, HR practitioners and leaders, including:
• Knowledge of how the brain is structured can help learners build self-awareness, improve their personal effectiveness and contribute to greater business performance.
• A deeper understanding of neuroscience could help organisations embed change more successfully. For example, by analysing social interactions to inform how changes are communicated and received, BT was able to transform leadership styles across the business and saw enhanced performance as a result.
• Practitioners should be careful to avoid ‘neuromyths’ and recognise that, as with any scientific discipline, advances are constantly being made. They should lend a critical eye to the latest neuroscience findings, be diligent when applying neuroscience in practice, and only work with experts with sound credentials.