6 impressive reasons humour in learning will change the way you think

Do you try to add a bit of laughter to improve employee learning? If your answer is no you may want to deploy a funnier strategy. We tell you the main reasons as to why humour is actually a crucial part of employee learning – how it can improve your learner’s engagement, memory retention and overall performance.

1. It improves memory retention

When you make learners laugh you activate the brain’s dopamine reward system. Dopamine is important for improving motivation and encouraging long term memory. This means if you make your learners chuckle you have a better chance of getting them to remember what they have learnt.

Tip: Create entertaining stories or real-life examples to explain the topic at hand. This gives you an easy way to jazz up your learning content and turn it into something funny and memorable. For example if you are training staff about health and safety in the stock room, you could create some funny characters like Dumb and Dumber who run into trouble because they don’t follow the correct procedures.

2. It improves user engagement

How likely are you to return to a learning resource if it’s dry, long and boring? When you add humour to your content you keep learners engaged enough to carry on reading. You make their journey more interesting and boost their motivation to want to learn more.

Tip: Never let your humour steal the show. If you do this, you will take away from the main topic which you actually want your staff to learn about. There is a fine line between too much and too little humour. A guide would be to include a joke or punchline in every paragraph. Any more than this and you will run the risk of sounding like a desperate (annoying) comedian who’s out of work 😬.

3. It creates a positive association with learning

Learning at work has gotten a bad rap. Employees think it gets in the way, it’s boring and tedious. These bad reviews have meant that over time, workers have built up a negative association around learning in the workplace. Humour can be used to reverse this by making learners remember their training as entertaining and fun.

Tip: In order for your humorous content to actually be funny you need to know your audience pretty well. You should create a few pilots, where you test different humour styles to find out what makes people laugh and what falls flat.

4. It relaxes your learners

Did you know that relaxed minds are better at receiving new information? Scientists have found long-term memories are likely to be formed when a person is relaxed and the memory-related neurons in the brain fire in sync with certain brain waves.

When you introduce humour and make people laugh you relax them. This is because of a few reasons: Laughter enhances your intake of air which stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles. This increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. Laughter also cools down your stress response, it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure.

Tip: Avoid using dark humour, or any kind of humour that is going to offend someone. This will make some of your learners feel uneasy and will increase their stress response. An easy rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t share the joke with your nan, don’t share it with your learners.

5. You can spread awareness

There is such a thing called the humour effect. This is where people are better able to recall information they perceive as humorous compared to experiences that are mundane or average. This means that employees are more likely to share their funny learning experience with their co-workers. This builds awareness of your training programme and encourages more employees to take part.

Tip: Never directly ask your employees to share any content. This can have a negative effect and makes them more likely to NOT share it. Their word-of-mouth needs to be organic and from the heart. If they feel like they are being forced to share something it takes away any authenticity. Rather than sharing it because they find it genuinely funny and want their co-workers to have a laugh too.

6. You can boost your relationship with employees

As mentioned above, laughter releases endorphins which make us feel good. When we feel good it makes us more likely to favour the person who has made us laugh. Employees will start to view the learning and development department in a positive light which helps you build an excellent relationship with your staff. When you have a good relationship with your staff it makes them more likely to listen to you and respect what you have to say.

Tip: Boost your relationships even more by encouraging reward and recognition. Congratulate your staff with some form of recognition when they complete learning modules and reward them when they put their learning into action. Oplift’s Achievements feature has in-built stickers and trophies which can be awarded automatically on the app for course completion and meeting objectives, this encourages a positive view of learning. They can be handed out by one another for 360° feedback and recognition.

Stickers and trophies on a computer screen

Written by Hayley Lloyd

Published 24th April 2019