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The Digicast Workplace Communicator Blog covers all of workplace training from safety communication, induction training, training videos and workplace culture.  It is written by Marie-Claire Ross.  Subscribe below to get the latest updates!

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Three Tips to Reduce the Time to Induct New Employees (Part 1)


describe the imageIn many companies, time is precious.  And finding the time to train is problematic.

After all, how do you communicate all the relevant issues to staff when time is limited?

When I go to see companies who are taking 30 minutes or more to induct on fairly standard issues, I know I'm able to reduce their induction training time by around 50-67%.  That's because they are all inducting the old-fashioned way.

Usually, they show me pages and pages of text printed out in PowerPoint.  I know if I flick through it, I'll be lucky to find more than three pictures.  And then there is the writing style, it's always very formal and quite frankly, difficult for anyone to understand.  Usually, they have workers that haven't finished school., so I know that their training will not be engaging workers as well as it could be.

To reduce training time, you need to re-think how you put your training materials together.  Reducing training duration does not have to mean reducing training quality.  Here is the first tip to both improve your inductions and reduce the training time.  As there is lots to say about each tip, they will appear in a series over the next two weeks.  Tip number one is:

1.  Create training materials that are visually based.  According to John Medina, the author of Brain Rules, reading is inefficient as we have to identify certain features in letters to be able to read them.  Our brains interpret every letter as a picture.  Reading lots of words creates a bottleneck,  which actually chokes your brain.  Instead,  use visuals to represent each new learning message.  Get the visuals to do the talking, rather than lots of text.

Researchers have found that ideas are that are best remembered are displayed as pictures or paired with words, rather than just a single word.

Called the Picture Superiority Effect (PSE), people will only remember 10% of what you say 72 hours later.  However, if you add a picture it goes up to 35% and if you add both a picture and word together it increases to a very high 65%.

According to the  Creating Passionate Users blog, a pile of evidence supports that people learn more deeply from words with pictures than from words alone (Mayer, 1989b, Mayer and Gallini, 1990; Mayer, Bove, and others, 1996.), and overall, several studies combined have shown a median percentage gain of 89% effectiveness.

However, the trick to using pictures and text effectively is to put the text as close to the item in the picture you are talking about.  This brings us to another big complicated term.  It's called the Spatial Contiguity Principle (SCP).  This has found that students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near rather than far from each other on the page or screen.

The text needs to be integrated with the picture for maximum effect.

In five different tests, one group was exposed to text placed below the illustration, while the second group was exposed to text placed near the illustration. Although both groups saw identical text and graphics (with the only difference being placement of the text), in all five studies the second group performed better on subsequent tests.  When a reader has to keep switching between the graphic and its description, they have to work harder... on the wrong things. There’s only so much mental bandwidth in a reader’s brain, with most of the bandwidth required for making sense of the actual topic, not for making sense of the way the topic is presented.

This means that you would place the title for meerkat like this:

Vision is possibly the best tool we have for learning anything.  In the words of John Medina, "Vision trumps all other senses".  To our cortex, there is no such thing as words.

So by including more visuals in you induction training you reduce training duration but also improve memory recall.

Stay tuned for tip number two.

Why Using Visuals in your Communication is so Important


describe the imageWe've all heard the term "Death by PowerPoint" and the majority of us have been scarred by poor presentations and classroom learning techniques, at some point in our life.

But what can you do to engage people in your training, workplace communications and your business presentations?

The answer - use more pictures.

According to Dr John Medina, the author of Brain Rules, reading is inefficient as we have to identify certain features in the letters to be able to read them.  Your brain interprets every letter as a picture.  This takes take time to read.  It also means that lots of words shown on say, a PowerPoint slide, chokes your brain.

Researchers have found that ideas that are best remembered are displayed as pictures or paired with words rather than just a single word.

Called the Picture Superiority Effect (PSE), people will only remember 10% of what you say 72 hours later.  However, if you add a picture it goes up to 35% and if you add both a picture and word together it increases to a very high 65%.

There are two rules that he talks about that are worth highlighting.

Rule #4 We don't pay attention to boring things

If we are given too much information,without enough time devoted to understanding it, it leads to boredom (and confusion).  So reading lots of text off a PowerPoint slide, without the time to digest it, actually inhibits learning.

Rule #10 Vision trumps all other senses.

We are more likely to recall visual information and we are amazing at remembering pictures.  This is possibly because in the olden days it was important to know whether we could eat something or whether we needed to look around to see if something wanted to eat us.

Recognition soars with pictures.  In fact, recognition doubles for a picture compared to text.



Visually rich presentations keep the eyes busy and therefore, the brain more active and alert to learn information. The right brain prefers visuals and can process pictures hundreds of times faster than the verbal brain can process words.

So forget about about the left brain way of writing lots of bullet points and text.  Start using more visuals in all your communications.

Include video, photos, diagrams and colour.

Need help making your communications more visually appealing?  Talk to Digicast on 03 9696 4400 to find out how we can help or email Marie-Claire Ross on

How to Make the Best Workplace Training Video for your Employees


training videoPicture Alert: Inappropriate visual. Example of how bad it is to put the wrong visuals with your content. It doesn't matter if the picture is nice or funny.

Research suggests that learners more easily understand and recall new material presented in video that allow participants to both hear and see the information (Gunter, et al. 2000; Molen, et al. 2000; Lalley 1998).

This dual-encoding process reinforces information in multiple brain areas, thereby increasing the chances that the material will be stored in long-term memory.

In fact, I'd go as far as saying that video has a triple-encoding process.  An expertly produced training video, will get people to read, see and hear information resulting in recall levels of 60% (as opposed to reading which is 10%).

Video is extremely powerful at communicating messages and helping people to remember them.  And that is why I love them!

But, not all training videos are created equal.  To make the most of the dual-encoding process (uh herm, triple-encoding)- in the brain, there are certain attributes that the video must have, in order to store information in long term memory.

Here are some important training video tips:

1. Match the visuals, titles and voiceover - This is a common mistake of amateurs.  Sadly, even  some experienced editors have difficulty with this one.  This is one of the reasons why training videos are so powerful, but so many production houses get it wrong.  Remember, don't skimp on editing time.  It is worth the time and effort to use lots of titles and to match the vision accurately.

2. Focus the training video on instructional design principles. Producing a training video is more than just editing and filming.  The script must be written in a way so as to enhance learning.  Avoid working with directors whose main desire is to be a Hollywood producer.  While you are getting a training video made, remember it is just another communication tool like a poster  magazine ad.  It is not about amazing pictures with  stereophonic sound.  How it is put together is a necessary requirement, but it is the instructional design principles behind it that make all the difference.

3. Entertaining videos usually don't work.  Avoid effects that do not add to communicating your message.  Do you really need the paint splash effect title when your company has nothing to do with paint?

4. Change what's on screen every 5-7 seconds. Use a variety of communication methods - titles, different voiceovers, numerous camera perspectives  and a change in music.  Keep people engaged.

5. Show people as much as you can. People like looking at people. Again, amateurs don't get this key principle.  I have seen amateur videos where a blank wall has been an unnecessary feature point while the narrator rambled on.  No joke.

6. Linear sequence (Step 1, Step 2 etc) avoid Step 2, Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, Step 5 etc).  Our conscious brain absorbs information in a linear fashion.  Information must always be given from start to end with no confusing jumping back and forth.  With any type of training the structure is crucial to success.  This is the same with an educational video.   In a video, it can be quite boring and annoying to see things twice or in the wrong order.  Makes it difficult to understand.

7. Script - This is crucial.  It must be friendly and  conversational.  Use short words and sentences.  This is not a time to make out your clever because you know some big words.   And don't get lazy and refer people to a book (yes, some training videos do that!)

8. Segregate the training video into chapters and make these clear. Just like a book, structure the training video into a range of titles and subtitles and make these easy to skip to.  By using titles in the video on the next topic, it helps to focus viewers on what they are going to learn next.

Training videos are an incredibly effective method of training people quickly and thoroughly.  More importantly, they help viewers to retain the information much more than if they were to read the information or even hear it.  But they have to be made right.  By spring boarding off what makes training videos so great and including these components in you training video, you'll get fantastic training outcomes.

Real Cost of Workplace Injuries: A Case for Boosting Workplace Safety


Workplace safetySince the early 1990's, most companies have got their act together and decreased their workplace injuries (see chart).  After all, it's a no-brainer that workplace safety accidents cost businesses lots of money each year.  And from a human perspective, it's always a good idea to look after people.

Yet, many companies around the globe often forget about the real costs of an accident preferring to cut spending on safety training and equipment.

Let's take a look at some different viewpoints on the real cost of workplace safety to an organisation:

  1. The Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index report states that improving workplace safety is a key strategy for reducing direct costs resulting from workplace injuries. The direct costs that are stripping businesses of their profits include medical expenses, workers’ compensation payments and costs for legal services.   Direct costs are just the beginning of the ‘price’ of an unsafe working environment. Workplace accidents trigger a range of indirect costs including repairs to damaged equipment and property, hiring and training of replacement personnel, as well as costs associated with lower employee morale and absenteeism that is common in a work site that is considered unsafe.
  2. While across the Pacific Ocean, Ian Woods, a senior business analyst at AMP Capital Investors was quoted as at a Safe Work Australia event that “From an investors’ perspective, we actively consider OH&S performance in our investment decisions, as we believe it is a good measure of management quality in many high-risk industries".  Woods argues that investors now cannot ignore the cost of workplace injury as it is passed on to Australian employers. The average workplace injury costs 6 percent of profit. In the construction industry, the total workplace injury costs borne by workers, employers and the community is equivalent to a staggering 98 percent of the industry’s operating profit.
  3. While Professor Patrick Hudson, based at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands was also quoted as saying “I have an estimate that a company may be losing up to 10 per cent of its turnover as a result of poor OHS and E (occupational health, safety and environment) performance...when you have a shutdown, you lose production, and you just add it up,” Prof. Hudson said

Gary Gregg, executive vice president of Liberty Mutual's Commercial Markets sums it all up by remarking "There is a clear link between workplace safety and a company's performance".

But who is really responsible for workplace safety?

Research undertaken by Missouri Employers Mutual Insurance revealed that 95. 7% of those interviewed stated that the responsibility for creating a safe work environment belongs to management.

The bottom line is that companies need to assess their risk situation and to educate employees about how to keep themselves safe.

For organisations with a profit and humanitarian focus, education and safety training video packages are a wise investment in reducing business risk since they protect the most important business asset of all. . . human capital.

How to improve your Workplace Training Presentations


Death by PowerPoint.

I made this image myself in microsoft powerpointMany of us have experienced sitting in a presentation that involves lots and lots of PowerPoint slides that bore us rather than engage us.

The  slides are usually crammed with text and the presenter reads them ad nauseum.

Yet, humans are visually oriented creatures.  Educational researchers have found that 83% of human learning occurs visually. In fact, we process pictures much faster than we process words.

So while PowerPoint can be used as a weapon of destruction in persuasion, it also has the ability, used correctly, to be a powerful educator.

Have you ever sat in a presentation where a confident presenter will tell you that they don't like PowerPoint?  So instead of referring to any slides, they tell you their presentation off by heart.  You probably walked away impressed that they barely referred to their notes.

But how much did you remember?  Research shows that an audience that hears a presentation will remember only 10-15% of the content three days later.

So after a month, or three months, any important information that was conveyed will all be forgotten.

Fortunately, social scientists have found a solution.  An audience that both hears and sees a presentation will retain around 70-85% of what was presented.  This is an increase in retention of around 60-70% just by showing words and pictures.

Say it with Pictures

So it's important to always add visuals to your training presentations. But before you get too carried away, just remember that not all visuals are created equal.

In the words of Coco Chanel: Less is more.

Avoid filling your presentation with too many colours, different fonts, lots of images and an overwhelming amount of information.

Good graphical information is visually clean and uncluttered.  It should never upstage or overpower your messages.

As a rule of thumb, use one graphic to represent one particular message or idea.  Limit the amount of text per page.

Use video where possible, to explain any complex information.

Use the "Ten Year Old Rule"

Karyn J Taylor, a former award winning producer of 60 Minutes says that broadcast journalists use the "Ten Year Old Rule" when writing for 60 Minutes or the Six O'clock News.  That is, the language is so simple that a 10 year old can understand it.  For them, they have no chance to clarify; when the broadcast ends, that's it.

As a pubic speaker or trainer you only get one chance, so make your presentation as easy to understand as possible in a visually engaging manner.

Image credit: Wikipedia

The Importance of "Show and Tell" in Workplace Training


Show and tell in trainingWe all remember as kids having to stand up in front of the classroom and do a "Show and Tell" session to the class about our newest toy.

While this might be a great skill to teach young kids, it's also a great training technique for an adult class.

To improve the effectiveness of training, the more senses you can use, the more impact the communication will have.

That's because we remember:

  • 10% of what we read
  • 20% of what we hear
  • 30% of what we see
  • 50% of what we both hear and see

So in any training situation, demonstrations or "show and tell" are integral to training success.  If we hear something, a day later we will remember 20% of what we heard.  And if we see something, we will remember 30%.  So add both audio and visual information together and 50% of what was communicated will be remembered.

That's why training videos are so effective.  By showing (visuals) and telling (narrator), the viewer instantly knows what to do.  And if you add titles to reinforce (reading), you increase the effectiveness by another 10% to 60%.

As Kris Cole mentions in her book, Crystal Clear Communication you need to do show and tell, twice.  Once so people can  see what they need to do.  And the second time to help people to see exactly what happens or precisely how something works to determine exactly what is to be done.

How can you add more demonstrations to your training?

How to Improve Effectiveness of Occupational Health & Safety Training


describe the imageResearch has found that the most engaging methods of safety training are, on average, approximately three times more effectivethan the least engaging methods in promoting knowledge and skillacquisition, as well as reducing accidents,illnesses, and injuries.

Given the cost of workplace accidents to a company, getting your safety training right can save millions of dollars.

Dr Ian Woods, from AMP Capital Investors says that the average workplace injury costs 6 percent of profit.   While in the construction industry, the total workplace injury cost is equivalent to a staggering 98 percent of the industry’s operating profit.

These high cost effects a company’s ability to be competitive.  A good OHS strategy  is necessary to prevent accidents in the workplace and improving OHS safety is now a necessity not a nice-to-have.

So how do you make safety training more effective?

Training can be either passive/low engagement (eg: lectures and reading which are the least engaging) to active/high engagement (eg: watching a training video with a quiz, hands-on demonstrations).

Here are the four tips to an engaging safety training program:

  1. Visuals - The trainee receives classroom style training with high impact visuals.  83% of human learning occurs through visuals.  The right brain prefers visuals and it is believed that it can process pictures much faster, even hundreds of times faster, than the verbal brain can process words.  The application of more interesting visuals such as diagrams, video and pictures can have enormous positive impact on learning.
  2. Assessment - the trainee is assessed on the information they have learned and face to face feedback is given on their results.  It is important that a person gives the feedback (not a computer).
  3. Development of training in stages - this means that the trainee receives different standards of training before starts job (basic), then on-the-job training that changes to suit the increasing knowledge of the trainee.  The training can get more complicated as the trainee understands more.
  4. Behavioral modelling - this is integral to an active learning style.  A buddy or trainer demonstrates a particular task, then lets the trainee undertake it.  Coaching is then given as to how to improve.  However, it is important that the buddy is good at their job and will teach procedures correctly.

Action-focused feedback isregarded as the key to knowledge acquisition, in that it forces the trainee to work out relationships between events and actions, leading todevelopment of strategies for handling unforeseen events.

And while classroom training is the a passive form of training it can be used effectively if it includes:

  • High impact visuals
  • Quizzes (with one on one feedback).

Once information is imparted in classroom training, hands-on demonstrations are also required both in the class and when the new starter is on the job.

By incorporating more engaging, hands-on training into your learning design, it will ensure that workers get more meaning and understanding from their safety training.

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