04 Sep 2023

The power of workplace training on wellbeing

Organisations that prioritise workplace training have better retention rates and higher productivity, as a result of increased job satisfaction. And their employees are happier. Involving people in aspects of work outside of their normal role and creating an environment where learning is not only part of formal structures but infuses everyday life has been shown to positively impact overall workplace wellbeing. The more expansive the workplace training opportunities available, the better the overall job satisfaction is.

The power of positive challenges

When we are being challenged in a positive way there are a number of psychological benefits. Mastering a new skill triggers off the reward mechanisms in the brain that make us feel good. A regular sense of accomplishment is correlated with increased dopamine in the brain, which not only boosts mood but makes it easier to reinforce learning. When we feel engaged in an activity that is just challenging enough and we are passionate about it, we enter a state of flow, a term coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, and which describes a complete absorption in a task. This absorption allows us to focus and be more productive. It’s important that workplace training initiatives that are seeking to also improve wellbeing factor in the value of finding flow and ask people what matters to them and helps them get in that state of mind.

One size really doesn’t fit all

One size fits all training initiatives don’t work. We’re all different.

When we design schemes and plans for our production trainees we do so with their own skills and needs in mind. We ask them what they want to learn, what their goals are, and put in place the steps to get there. Having a bespoke training plan in mind not only improves overall practical development but enhances wellbeing as an individual’s own learning process and outcomes are factored in, and so their sense of achievement and the dopamine reward when they get there is triggered at various stages.

It can be hard for organisations to do this when designing training for an entire team. However engaging with each individual at the beginning, middle and end of a programme to really understand their personal skill set and where they want to get to, helps create workplace training that enhances overall wellbeing.

If things are too challenging however they can have a negative effect on mental health and wellbeing. We all know the frustrations of being unable to complete a task. A sense of failure will do no one’s mental health any good at all. There needs to be stretch goals in mind, things that might feel hard now, testing a trainee’s comfort zone, but not ever being beyond competency. It’s all about making people see they have potential and you as a leader or trainer believe they can reach that potential.

Demonstrating that you have confidence in an individual can help make them also have that confidence in themselves, even if it takes longer to get there. University of Dundee research has demonstrated the strength of links between mental health and confidence. Their teams found that high levels of symptoms such as anxiety and depression were associated with low confidence, despite these participants going on to outperform their own expectations in skills based tests. Confidence isn’t always related to actual ability. So it’s important that the trainer-trainee relationship must be one that focuses on not only skills, but an individual’s belief in their skills.

The value of workplace reward systems

It’s really important to build rewards into workplace learning – remember that dopamine? Whether that’s celebrating with a well earned cup of tea after a task, or something bigger, such as the celebration of films on the big screen like we do with our trainees, building rewards into a workplace training scheme helps people keep motivated and focused.

Formal initiatives can address learning and wellbeing at an individual level by aiming to develop skills or resources for every single person, but by building a culture of learning into the workplace it is possible to create a happier and more mentally well team or even an organisation. It all comes down to how you approach learning. Ridiculously high standards, boring training processes or seemingly irrelevant tasks won’t motivate people, and won’t enhance their wellbeing. Instead it is essential to really tap into who your employees are, what makes them tick, what skills they need to develop, and then set in place both formal and informal learning interventions that will help them get there.

A good job can change lives

A good job can change lives because we grow and develop in a good job. And that comes down to how our skills, abilities and attitudes are enhanced through both the everyday actions. Actions in which we should be able to grow and develop. Because there’s magic in learning for all of us.


As seen in Workplace Wellbeing.