Here’s the situation: it’s 6:30 a.m. on an already busy Monday morning. I press the brew button on my pod-style coffee maker and instead of delivering the caffeinated beverage I so desperately need, it makes a weird beurk sound and the display dies. I attempt the tried-and-true unplug/replug and no dice… I really need the coffee, so I reach for the manual (which is cleverly and conveniently stored in the drawer beneath the machine) and attempt to find the troubleshooting section. I leaf through the manual for a few minutes, trying to read the tiny print, then give up and start planning my run to Starb…

Then (this is the good part) I have a flash of inspiration, Google [brand of the coffee maker + it died]. Bingo! 230,000 hits. I settle on a 59-second long YouTube video. I click, watch, fix, and in less than 3 minutes I’m sipping on a steaming hot coffee with golden yellow foam. Heaven.

The video was easy to find, it was short, to the point, didn’t focus on the presenter – it nicely isolated the issue and focused on that. Neat, simple…almost elegant.

Sound too easy? Some things just are; and that’s why they work. Don’t take my word for it. Luc Proteau, the head of the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Montreal, thinks that we humans are built to observe. According to him, there is a host of regions in the brain that comes together under an “action-observation network” – a name that, coincidentally, seems to correspond to a description of a platform such as YouTube. Dr. Proteau notes, “If you are looking at someone performing a task, you are in fact activating a bunch of neurons that will be required when you perform the task. That is why it is so effective to do observation.” If you’re a learning geek, you can find some of Dr. Proteau’s scholarly articles here. Very interesting stuff.

In-person observation is not always an option, so video can be a cost-effective alternative. It has the additional advantage of being reusable; how many times can you ask a live person to perform a demonstration before they get grouchy? Videos can be paused, rewound, watched multiple times – either when learning something new or as a refresher when necessary.

Obsidian Learning has discussed the benefits of video learning before, however, and I want to focus on a particular aspect of its use in the corporate training environment: transformation. Specifically, the transformation that can be achieved or at least supported by using video as part of your teaching, learning, and developmental strategy. At Obsidian Learning we’ve created hundreds of animations, instructional videos, infomercials, explainer videos, and eClips. Based on our experience, here are four specific examples of applications of corporate training videos that led to workforce transformation.

Explanation of difficult/complicated concepts

A multinational corporation with more than 40,000 employees spent significant resources educating a select group of its staff about the Lean Six Sigma concept. Many employees were already familiar with Lean Six Sigma, but despite the development of workshops, townhalls, and other training assets, the organization was not seeing the hoped-for results.

We proposed, designed, and executed a short, roughly 3-minute long animation not only explaining the concepts – using a simple, easy to understand analogy – but also shared tips on how to suggest improvements or report waste at every level of the organization. The messaging was designed to be as inclusive as possible, targeting employees in all sectors and all roles.

Transformation achieved: 24% increase in reported waste and suggested improvements across all departments and roles.

Change management initiative

A multinational corporation with more than 30,000 employees spent 6 months developing a new software which would help support the full lifecycle of its operations, an effort of truly massive scale. Software development involved up to 120 full-time team members, and once launched the end product would have a direct impact on approximately 30% of the organization’s workforce. As with all major rollouts, there was a need for communication and training. Obsidian Learning was tasked with the design and development of a suite of learning assets directly supporting the software launch.

Human beings have a greater or lesser tendency to resist change, and when your audience is approximately 10,000 employees you can pretty much count on there being a few intractable individuals. After chatting with the project team we decided to create a short animation which explained – in broad strokes – the fundamentals of the software. We focused not only on its functionality, but more importantly, it’s potential advantages employees. How is this going to make your life easier? How will it help you do your job more effectively? What’s at stake if you don’t use it properly? All these questions and more were visually explained in this short video.

Transformation achieved: A questionnaire sent out to a sample target audience (\~450 individuals) one month after the software rollout indicated a whopping 47% of the individuals participating were "frustrated with another new software." One month after the Obsidian Learning animation was released, this number dropped by almost half. The software launch was a success and the animation remains a staple of the company's learning system.

Technical training

A medium-sized service company with about 120 employees experienced rapid growth and sudden, increased demand for its workforce. The blue-collar positions they offered did not require an extensive technical background or education, but were associated with certain inherent risks. The company needed to bring new workers up to speed as quickly as possible without compromising safety. The management team asked us to create a learning asset which would be:

  • Highly visual with minimum text

  • Highly effective not only as a learning/training vehicle but also as an on-the-job performance support resource.

They gave us access to their best people and infrastructure. We took three cameras, closed the doors of the warehouse for 48 hours and walked out with 160 hours of footage which we reviewed, deconstructed, and reconstructed, applying proven instructional design and user experience techniques. The intuitively structured, video-based course was designed to be highly visual – 90% of the screen real estate was reserved for the video portion of the course. The inner workings of the machinery, quite difficult to access, were highlighted visually with animation, creating an augmented reality feel.

Transformation achieved: The initial basic training period for new hires decreased from 6 days to 3 days, which allowed for more hands-on time in the field. The feedback from the experienced operators (who helped create this training asset) was overwhelmingly positive, as all new hires were provided with a solid "big picture" understanding of the device, the technology, the process, and the safety challenges they might encounter.

Emotional connection

Obsidian Learning has dedicated a portion of its talents to non-profit organizations and charities whenever possible. One of our past partners is the Social Motion Skills organization. Wendy Dawson, Social Motion Skills founder and CEO, needed a communications piece that would that would establish an emotional connection with individuals unaware of the organization’s purpose and mission. Social Motion Skills provides a safe space for children with autism and other learning difficulties to learn, grow, and exercise their unique talents. The place is awesome. The positive energy is palpable, and you can see first-hand how Social Motion Skills is positively impacting the lives of the population it serves. After careful examination, we recommended and fully executed an informercial/video which explains the organization and shares the stories of several of the children/young adults that benefit from the resources offered by Social Motion Skills. We remain very proud of the final product, which you can see here.

Transformation achieved: According to Wendy, she plays the short video at the beginning of any new fundraising meeting. She no longer spends time on lengthy explanations about the organization's positive impact -- viewers can see for themselves, and hear directly from those most affected how their lives have improved as a result of their participation in Social Motion Skills' programs. Social Motion Skills continues to use the video as part of its social media and outreach strategies.

As you can see, corporate training videos can be suitable for a variety of learning and communications needs. The applications discussed here – explaining complicated concepts, change management, technical training, and establishing emotional connections – are only the tip of the video learning iceberg. These case studies demonstrate how thoughtfully designed, fit-for-purpose corporate training videos can be used to transform attitudes and behaviors across a wide spectrum of organizations and business needs.

You can see more examples of our fun, engaging, and transformational videos, animations, and eClips here.

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