Traditionally training employees in the proper performance of the tasks was done in multiple ways, including using written material, demonstration and return, spoken direction, classroom training and one-on-one teaching. Each training style has advantages and disadvantages but knowing multiple ways to address the same material allows companies and their trainers to best meet the needs of the individual learning styles of the employee for the best possible outcome.
The effect of COVID on the workplace, however, has limited many of these approaches as masking and social distancing have negatively affected how well teachers can communicate information, and how well students can understand it. In addition, COVID has limited the ability of trainers to travel to remote locations to provide education in new tasks and with new equipment even as work force sizes are reduced, and workers are being asked to take on new and additional jobs.
Video training has provided an excellent medium for companies to train their employees in these new tasks, as well as allowing companies to offer refresher training on an as-needed basis without the cost of bringing in outside trainers or, in the case of prerecorded or online training libraries, without forcing employees in need of refresh training to wait until the next time a trainer will be available (or for the budget to allow for in-person training.)
Video training can be presented in several formats. Trainers can provide task training through scheduled webinars, or live Zoom/MS Teams meetings, or workers can access training through pre-recorded training videos. Live seminars offer the advantages of allowing workers to ask questions and get immediate responses, but care needs to be taken that the task can be readily seen by the audience, and that directions are clearly communicated and understood. If needed, one-on-one training can include a return demonstration provided by the worker if a camera/microphone is available.
Because pre-recorded videos can be recorded, edited, and re-recorded (if needed) to ensure that all directions are clearly communicated, as well as being able to be replayed on demand, they can provide better training to workers – but do not have the option of live interaction between trainer and worker. This can be addressed by anticipating most questions that a worker might ask and providing answers either in the body of the training presentation, or by adding graphics, FAQ pages, or the email address of the trainer.
While pre-recorded videos can be professionally recorded, edited, and produced, modern consumer video and audio recording equipment is of excellent quality (professional movies are being made on phone cameras these days) and can be purchased or rented at a minimal expense, and video editing software is readily available at varying price points. There is a steep learning curve for editing videos, however, and most of the software on the market is not ‘intuitive’.
Regardless of whether you want to host live or create pre-recorded training videos, a good video for training a task will include:
Good illumination / clear visibility
Clear task demonstration
Graphics to provide further detail
Whether being presented live or being pre-recorded, good illumination and clear visibility are essential so that all details of the task can clearly be seen. The camera should be positioned so that the demonstrator does not obscure the view, and so that no shadows are cast over the viewing area. Any equipment, parts, tools and supplies should be clean and clearly labeled; call-outs or enlarged freeze frames/ screenshots of small parts can be interspersed in the videos to make it easier for workers to identify specifically what is being used.
Each step of the task should be performed slowly so that it can be clearly seen by the viewers. For pre-recorded videos, the camera can record each step from multiple angles and the final video edited to better demonstrate the task. (Care should be taken not to use multiple angles for each step, but rather only used to enhance visualizing the task.)
While many people are visual learners, providing a clear audio track is essential for those who learn best from the audio component of a lesson. In a live training video, one of two options can be used. The individual performing the task can speak as they work, or one person can demonstrate the task while the second person provides the audio. In this case, the two should practice together so that the work is not done more quickly than the audio provided, and that the audio properly describes the work being done. As with the video, the microphone needs to be properly positioned to optimize the recording.
This is somewhat easier when the video is pre-recorded; often the individual performing the task will provide a running commentary of what is being done – however, ambient noise, poor microphone positioning, or movement on the part of the presenter may prevent the audio from capturing the description accurately. In this case, the use of a voice-over track (either by the same person or another speaker) can be used instead of the original audio track. This is also helpful when the presenter mis-speaks or makes an error.
When possible, adding a subtitle track to the video can allow workers who learn best by reading to get an enhanced learning experience. In addition, a slide can be placed at relevant points that detail the directions of each section. Alternatively, for live training, a transcription of the webinar can be made available to workers.
If you decide to do your own video production, title slides can help break a long video into a more usable format – but avoid overusing features like special effects and transitions as they can be distracting. The judicious use of effects like markers, arrows, and other indicators, however, can draw the workers’ attention to specific areas on the video.
Before hosting a live video training class or before releasing the recording, have someone who was not involved in the production review the materials, and, if possible, have them perform the task based on the class material. If they cannot do so, review your training and make any adjustments necessary. For live training, each additional training session will be easier, and changes can be made easily – but making errors, speeding through course material, and making assumptions also becomes easier. Continuing care must be taken to ensure each class delivers the necessary information.
For pre-recorded video, a consistent training class will be available each time a user needs it – but adding information or changing a procedure is more difficult. If you have your video produced by an outside vendor, this can also be expensive. If you are creating and editing your own video, you can simplify the task creating video segments that can be removed and new segments added as needed.
Last, but certainly not least, is the availability of the training for the workers. Your training might involve equipment or information that is proprietary and intended only for current users of your equipment, or who hold an active license. Restricting training to only those who should have access can be challenging.
You can limit attendance to live training easily enough, but webinars and pre-recorded training are more problematic. Webinars can be limited by inviting only those who should have access, but the possibility exists that someone else could be watching over their shoulder. Fortunately, the likelihood of this is minimal. However, most presentations are followed up by a copy of the webinar being forwarded to those in attendance, and a company might choose to retain this for future reference.
To limit access to pre-recorded videos, rather than sharing copies directly with your customers, you can place them on YOUR company intranet. Access to the intranet can be restricted to only those customers with an active agreement with your company, such as a current license or maintenance agreement. If this is a potential concern, you may want to invest in video encryption software, which allows you control who can view the video as well as prevent the video from being uploaded without your approval.
While COVID has added significant restrictions to the traditional training methods, you can turn those limitations into advantages for your company by providing user-friendly and more readily accessible training to keep your employees up to date on what they need to know, when they need to know it.