5 ways to make training videos that workers will watch

Gone are the days of films filled with executives at desks prattling on about proper practices. Get your camera, get out on site, seek out your frontline experts, and pump up the rock music.


You get the dreaded email: It’s time to watch another training video.

They invariably include actors using “humor” to remind you of important safety issues. The jokes and scripts are so hokey that you and your colleagues focus more on the silliness than the substance.

Some co-workers even outmaneuver the system and fast-forward to where they acknowledge having watched the videos. The company gets a digital signature of acknowledgement, but have you and your team learned anything to ensure a safer workplace?

Workplace rules and safety are serious, but there is still opportunity for fun and creativity.

Here are five ways you can build better employee training videos to help your organization accomplish its objectives:

1. Create a kick-ass opening montage. Don’t open training videos with simply your organization’s logo fading up from black. Spark attention by editing a fast-paced opening montage. For branding and consistency, start each video with the same rock ‘n’ roll approach. Include quick, tight shots of actual employees at work. (Do not substitute stock video.) Raise audio levels to bring the scenes to life. Create bold, short graphics that zoom or slide onto the screen to display and reinforce your company’s core values. Add quick transitions that infuse your company’s colors. Using those same branded colors, don’t fear filling some shots with eye-grabbing filters.

2. Develop a dramatic topic title. After the eye-popping montage, clearly identify the video’s topic. We use Maxon’s Cinema 4D software to build large titles with dimension. The title instills the company’s primary branding color, reflecting simulated light and casting subtle shadows. Aligned with a subtle sound effect, the organization’s logo then slides swiftly across the bottom of the screen. The logo’s size does not dominate the scene, but it’s big enough to emphasize this is a branded video and that the business built it specifically for its employees.

3. Interview real, frontline employees. Employees appreciate learning from and seeing their peers in training videos instead of watching executives who spend most of their time behind desks, choosing each word with robotic precision. Hired actors often look too polished and not believable. Employees may not speak with perfect eloquence, but that’s genuine, and good audio editing can clean up distracting ambient issues. For on-camera work, the key is choosing employees wisely. Too often, due to lack of planning, organizations select whichever employees are available at a given time. Businesses should send their most passionate and knowledgeable employees to the plate instead of grabbing a random warm body off the bench.

4. Conduct active interviews. If employees work in a shop with tools and many moving parts, don’t conduct interviews with people sitting in a seat in a boring conference room. Include a related background and environment. Get interviewees to show and tell instead of always standing up straight without much movement. Those on camera should demonstrate safety procedures while speaking. They should show us where to find safety equipment. They should show us how safety devices work. This type of interview creates a true learning experience. Employees will understand key concepts much more by seeing them rather than just hearing about them.

5. Buy some rockin’ music. In working around employees in a shop, we frequently heard employees listening to ’80s classic rock on radios at their workbenches. We buy royalty-free music from websites such as www.pond5.com and avoid tracks with the word “corporate” included in the title. Instead, our keyword search might include “1980s rock.” Corporate videos are not required to include corporate music. That is old-school thinking. Employees have provided unsolicited feedback praising the background music. That might sound superficial to an executive who argues a safety video should not stray from the highest level of seriousness. Key training messages will bounce off walls unheard if a business does not grab employees’ attention. The music should not be distracting; it should help draw in viewers.

One of the first times we attempted to implement some of the above ideas for employee training videos, we heard someone say there’s no “fun” in safety. Yet what’s the point in teaching important lessons if everyone in the audience is staring at their smartphones or at the clocks on the walls? If your creative ideas meet resistance, try earning buy-in one concept at a time. One key aspect of video is understanding what works for your audience instead of focusing primarily on how the person in the corner office wants it to work.

A version of this post first appeared on The Flip Side blog.

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