26, 2002 in TECH BIZ MAGAZINE
Training Rooms Should Embrace Flexible Design
by Warren Kieding
IS DEPENDENT on intensive and ongoing training,
even in a down market. It's unavoidable and as important
as keeping the lights on.
There's no such thing as doing business the old-fashioned way in high tech. Planning and preparing for obsolescence is part of the cost of doing business. So is training, and it's not cheap. Consequently, training facilities must be an integral part of a high-tech company's culture.
From a real estate standpoint, we've seen a number of advanced technology companies make two primary errors when planning their training facilities in this down market.
They either commit a significant block of square footage to be used only for training, or they dispense with training rooms altogether, opting for off-site education.
Neither option is negative. In fact, a large, dedicated training room might be a perfect fit for a firm that must perpetuate training at or near 100 percent of normal business hours. Or a small, specialized advance tech firm may benefit from sending a half-dozen key players off-site regularly rather than tie up valuable space in the office.
But problems arise when technology companies are not thorough in defining their training requirements before making facilities decisions that they either cannot undo or can reverse only at a high cost. Neither option is desirable in this marketplace.
Due diligence is the key. A high-tech firm, especially in a down market, must first thoroughly consider its training requirements before making any kind of real estate decision.
1. What types of training will take place?
2. Will it be interactive-based, with trainees learning on PCs?
3. Will it be more of a classroom setting, where an instructor will lecture using audiovisual equipment?
4. What will be the length of each session, and how many trainees will attend?
5. Can the facility accommodate any class size?
6. Are training sessions for staff only, or will customers come in to train?
7. If outsiders are brought in, will
the systems and facilities be secure?
These are a few of the critical questions that shape how high-tech training facilities should be planned and constructed. For example, if a company intends to maintain a continuous interactive training regimen, then a dedicated room, wired for PCs, lighting, and other peripheral equipment, probably would be the best option since computer desks or tables are not easy to move, break down or store. This would be a static environment used specifically for training.
If training is not as intensive, the design should be more flexible, in which the room could be used for other purposes when training is not ongoing. But such rooms must be quickly and easily convertible.
One option is to employ the use of soundproof, movable walls to divide a large training area into smaller group-training rooms, or even ad hoc conference areas. This spatial flexibility allows for rapid expansion - or contraction - as class size and corporate requirements dictate. Another option is to design a semi-enclosed break area that doubles as a training/conference room.
In this case, multipurpose seating and tables are left in place, and the training materials are brought in and taken out. Even with an interactive requirement, laptops, manuals and other materials are used, stored and secured in nearby closets or cabinets. Mobile lighting and white boards are wheeled in for lecture training, and easily wheeled out when the room is converted. Flexible teleconferencing and videoconferencing equipment either could remain in the space, or be brought in and taken out to be stored nearby when necessary.
The kitchen for this type of break area is designed as a nook just adjacent to the training area. Employees not in training may use the refrigerator or food prep equipment without disturbing anything that might be occurring nearby.
The accent here is on space flexibility. The more flexible and easily convertible, the more versatile the space. Moreover, flexible and convertible spaces promote in-house training. The more a training space can be divided or converted for multifunctioning, the less the need to take people out of the office.
Though outside training does have merit for certain specialized requirements, it also means employee downtime for travel and the cost of using outside facilities.
In the end, the irony of today's most efficient office training facilities is that they're really not training facilities at all. The advanced technology of office design and office equipment has allowed for nontraditional versatility, in which any space can be divided, converted and utilized for a number of different activities.
In this economy, minimizing waste is critical.