In a previous article, we explored how to manage training and learning within organisations. However, for training to be effective, it is essential that we have specific ways to maintain a safe and supportive learning environment. But, where do we start and what can we do?

No one likes to learn, or can learn effectively, when under stress, duress or feelings of insecurity.  Learners (i.e., Students, Delegates etc) may also have had past negative experiences, even from their school days, which can create a “bottleneck” for a successful learning experience.

The above factors should be taken into consideration when reviewing Learner’s needs. Other supporting factors to consider (but not limited to) include:

  • Health and safety consideration – such as working conditions (room layout, setting, temperature, security, comfort etc)
  • Motivating factors – both intrinsic (from within) and extrinsic (from without)
  • Learning pace – with reference to attention span.
  • Active participation without coercion but positive encouragement.
All too often technology can also be overwhelming and it is important to recognise that inability to use technology (e.g., PowerPoint slide shows) and/or failure of technology can lead to unnecessary stress. Support should be on hand immediately to assist Learners with such issues and assist towards the learning process.



Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states:

“That we must satisfy each need in turn, starting with the first, which deals with the most obvious needs for survival itself”.

When learners achieve or satisfy the needs at one level, progress to the next level becomes much easier.

To maintain a safe and supporting learning environment, we must cater for the needs of the learners with regard to the above factors and others as appropriate. It’s important to ensure that a periodic “sense check” is taken on each of the above factors during the learning process (like a checklist).

Why is it important to promote appropriate behaviour and respect for others?

Trainer/delegate behaviour and respect play a key role towards the learning process. Establishing ground rules (boundaries) provides support towards having a positive learning environment and experience.

It is important that ground rules are discussed with delegates and not “layered” in a forceful manner. As part of the mutual respect process, engaging delegates in the ground rules process promotes acceptance (for example rules related to eating or drinking at agreed times, use of mobile phones, comfort breaks). Such rules are “negotiable” rules.

Specific rules require little or no “negotiation” such as no antisocial behaviour, respecting the views and beliefs of others, equality, diversity, health, safety and welfare of individuals.

With reference to Tuckman’s Group Formation Theory, ground rules part of the cycle fits in with his ‘storming’ process, where a group starts to establish an identity. However, as the group follows through to the forming, norming and performing stages, the ground rules can come into use if there are any issues and the group drops back into an earlier stage of the cycle.  Establishing ground rules at the first session starts the group management process.

The forming–storming–norming–performing model of group development was first proposed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965, who said that these phases are all necessary and inevitable in order for the team to grow, face up to challenges, tackle problems, find solutions, plan work, and deliver results.


In conclusion, specific ways to maintain a safe and supportive learning environment are critical for the development of an organisation’s workforce.

Whilst training offers the opportunity to learn, without a supporting framework for the learning process, training becomes a “tick in the box” approach with regard to Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) within the organisation.