Make Occupational Training More Impactful Using Digital Storytelling

Properly training your employees is one of the top factors that leads to the success of your business. In this day and age, digital technology is used daily by almost 35% of human beings who prefer to use the Internet and other digital technologies to keep abreast of world events, to be entertained and of course, to learn new skills and concepts.

Alex Holmes speaking at TEDxExeter 2016
photo credit: TEDxExeter / Flickr

Digital Storytelling Defined

Having a strong awareness of people’s fascination with digital technology, modern employers have a distinct advantage that wasn’t available in much of the previous decade. Digital storytelling uses computer-based narratives combining a relevant and thought-provoking story with elements of video, audio, text, graphics, and web publishing to teach new hires and existing staff about job expectations, rules of conduct, and company culture.

The average length used to tell an impactful digital story ranges from 2 to 10 minutes length in order to make the message(s) easy to absorb. You can incorporate any subject matter you wish, too. This super effective employee-training medium has been studied and used with great success in a variety of other environments including: modern consumer advertising, school classrooms, political campaigns, and across various social media channels.

Here are some examples featuring a mixture of effective digital storytelling tools and techniques being used by some of the most popular online platforms:

Why Digital Storytelling is so Important

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) places a huge emphasis on using storytelling for the various safety and health training initiatives they’re directly or indirectly involved in. In their collaborations with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the CDC has come to some conclusions about why it’s important for occupational training professionals to incorporate digital storytelling into their training protocol:

  • It has a huge influence on how people think about and react to situations in the workplace.
  • It helps trainees visualize and experience training scenarios in a way that more closely matches what will happen while on-the-job.
  • It helps form a better feedback loop in the employee’s mind as to how they should react and/or perform tasks, and why doing so with specificity is so important.

In general 40% of people are visual learners, while 50% learn best by doing. The remaining 10% learn best by listening: For example, natural musicians who can hear a note and learn how to play it without further instruction.

Digital storytelling completes this learning trifecta by using storytelling combined with visuals to make employees feel as though they’re in the same situations they’ll face on the job. Effectively, this concept has the capacity to reach everyone who sits down in your training centers.

Using digital storytelling in occupational training workshop
photo credit: Nearsoft Inc / Flickr

Tips to Integrate Digital Storytelling Tactics Into Occupational Training

The purpose of occupational training is to effectively prepare employees for the work they must perform, and to ensure that they do so safely, while complying with company rules and government regulations.

The following tips can help you craft stories for maximum impact in your occupational training plan:

  1. Make stories real to the audience: Make the characters in the story feel real, with a similar background to your trainees. Then, put them in the same situations those employees will face on the job. Remember, the more employees can relate, the more impactful the training message will be.
  2. Use a conversational, localized approach: Keep the stories very upbeat and low-pressure, talk as you would when talking to a trusted coworker or friend. Make sure the training story makes sense to the reader geographically and professionally – i.e., don’t use an example of a Fireman working in a fire hall while talking safety training to your new office staff.
  3. Stories don’t need to be long to be effective: In fact, the longer stories get, the more likely the employee is to become distracted or otherwise disinterested. Remember 2 to 10 minutes maximum.
  4. Digital stories for occupational training need to be formatted like a novel: There’s a very good reason fiction stories have a very clear beginning, middle, and end. That’s how humans best absorb stories. If your occupational training stories don’t adhere to this age-old format, they’ll be ineffective, even confusing to most. Give your story a main character with a brief backstory – challenge them – then tell how the character overcame those challenges by employing the same tactics you want your employees to use on the job when faced with similar situations.

Types of Stories That Have the Most Impact in Occupational Training

There are many types of digital stories you can tell to have an impact. Using a variety of examples to get across your message allows for more creative thinking and options when developing, and later adding to your company’s occupational training program.

Hero stories

A larger than life hero is someone that most everyone wants to hear about. When weaving them into digital stories for occupational training, heroes are the people who use their immense creativity and mental, emotional, and physical strength to overcome challenges. They should embody the company’s model of perfection at doing a given job. Weave them into your narrative by making them someone who taught the author how to do their job, or helped them through a particular job-related crisis.

Villain stories

Villains are anything but positive, but the lessons they can teach to occupational trainees can be just as thought-provoking and powerful as the hero variety. Villains don’t do what they’re told, they encourage coworkers to do the same, and regularly attempt to thwart the establishment wherever they can. Use villain stories to show the consequences of undesirable actions and behaviors, and offer alternatives they could have taken instead within the story’s conclusion.

Fool stories

The fool certainly isn’t a hero, but they’re not a dastardly villain either. The fool represents the most common worst-case scenario because he or she always either ignore protocols, or is outright oblivious to reading warning signs and making smart decisions. The fool may also suffer from common themes like complacency or over-confidence in how they do their job. The fool doesn’t have to be maimed or killed to be effective, but the story must detail how they learned from their mistakes.

Adventure stories

Adventure stories involve a large cast of characters within the fictional company you create including heroes, villains, and fools if you wish. Big polarizing events are involved like production, safety, customer service, sales, inter-company politics, etc., take place in the story and show how different people react to those events. Some people will do what’s considered right, some will do the opposite. Your job as the storyteller is to illustrate the pros and cons to each of the story participant’s actions.

Online occupational training

Digital Storytelling Can Help You Become a Well Rounded Professional

The benefits of understanding how digital storytelling works and how best to tailor it to specific audiences are enormous, especially in today’s fast-evolving tech age. Business people need to leverage the tools available to capitalize on the much-demanded marketing skills.

The question is, do you believe in what digital storytelling can offer to your business?

An online MBA program from the University of Findlay gives you all the resources you need to master this and other leadership skills that will be required in your career as an entrepreneur or HR professional. When you enroll in the program, you’ll be able to tailor your coursework specifically to the type of field you plan to work in.