Picking Up The Scent of Learning Retention
How do you make your classroom training more memorable? If you’re like most instructors, you’ll incorporate audio and video and even some physical activities. Adding these elements is great, but they engage only three of the five senses of your learners: sight, hearing and touch.
But what about smell? Did you know that of all the senses, your sense of smell is the one most tied to memory? In fact, the olfactory system (your sense of smell) has only two synapses—or connections between nerves—from the smell receptors to the highest level of the brain, making it the shortest path of any sense. So, what if all you had to do to increase the memorability and positive emotional connection of your training was to add some smell? Does that sound too good to be true? With a little planning and proper execution, it can be easy. Here are some tips to try out for your next training:
Survey work spaces for smells: After you’ve scheduled upcoming training, take a few minutes to tour the everyday work environment. Try to identify pleasant, safe smells that people would encounter everyday (such as fresh coffee, hot cinnamon rolls or peppermints). Because the goal is to connect what is learned in the training room with what is recalled in the job space, look for smells that you can replicate in the training room. You may want to make the smells a little more potent in the training area, so that the connection to those smells is stronger.
Add smell to the work spaces: If everyday work areas are either odor-neutral or have smells that aren’t easily replicated, you may want to add new smells, such as mint, cinnamon, lemon, rosemary or orange. In this case, look for the areas of the work environment where training recall will be the biggest priority. Then make a small investment in a scent diffuser that you can use during the training and leave in the work space. If you are training employees who work across large areas, you can get even more creative. In this case, strategically vary the scents you use during training, and then add the specific scents that you used for training different tasks to the locations where the specific task will be completed.
Use caution: A concern when adding new smells to the workplace is to know which scents to use and in which amount, since their presence may irritate some employees. Based on a 2016 legal case, fragrance sensitivity is being added as a protected disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. People are more sensitive to multiple compound fragrances found in scent-added products like perfume, air deodorizer, detergent, deodorant and the like. So, it’s safest to stick to essential oil diffusers, which are less likely to cause irritation than scented products. Also, be careful what smells you replicate in the training area. If you are training employees who work with harsh chemicals, fuel fumes or other hazardous material, these smells are obviously not the ones to bring into your training.
Do it for the “smell of it”: Adding a scent element to your training is a cheap, easy and low-risk solution to help implant new information in the memories of your learners. Give it a try for your next training session. Then, if you have the ability, ask those who have gone through your scented training if they noticed that recalling information was easier around the scent in the work space.