Jonathan DeVore

By: Jonathan DeVore on October 28th, 2022

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When to Use Video (and When You Shouldn't) With Employee Training

When I work with companies to develop their training strategies, I often hear: “We want to use video for everything.”

While I love the enthusiasm, that isn’t the right answer.

In some situations, videos are nothing more than a sparkly distraction. The intent is good, but the idea is a poor one. Why? Training videos aren’t always accessible when employees need support.

As we developed the Find & Follow Training Framework for ScreenSteps — a knowledge base software and training solution company — we recognized that training videos play a vital part in the larger employee training strategy. The problem is sometimes businesses overdo it.

To explain when and when not to create training videos, I’ll first explain four struggles businesses have and why they turn to video to help teach their employees.

This will provide context so that you better understand when you should and shouldn’t use video in your training curriculum. By the end, you should be able to identify which areas of training you can use training videos to improve the learner’s experience.

For a quick list of when and when not to use training videos, jump to the section here.

4 struggles businesses have and why they turn to video

Before diving into when video should and shouldn’t be used in employee training, first you’ll want to understand different situations where you’ll be tempted to use videos.

Companies typically turn to video to help train employees in four different areas of learning. This is the motivation behind creating a video. And while you might think a video is the best way to teach employees, that isn’t the case in each of these scenarios.

In this section, you will learn the motivation for teaching and whether it is or isn’t a good idea to teach these concepts using video.

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1. Improving a skill

In this situation, the employees do not possess a specific skill or you want them to get better at it.

A skill is an ability, not knowledge. This is something you need to be able to do without following a procedure. This could be soft skills (i.e. basic conversational skills, how to express empathy on a call, etc.) or hard skills (i.e. frosting a cake in a specific way, cleaning a dental patient’s teeth, etc.).

Is a training video a good fit?

When you are teaching skills, video is a great answer. This is something that your employees need to know how to do. Often visual examples will help them learn this skill. You can demonstrate examples.

Note: You will need to follow the training video with practice scenarios and maybe more classroom discussion.

2. Unfamiliar

This is when your employees are starting with a blank page. They don’t know anything about the topic and wouldn’t know where to begin.

Even if you provided them with step-by-step instructions, they wouldn’t be able to follow those guides because the employees have no base knowledge.

Some videos this could include are introductions to the:

  • Company
  • Products
  • Areas of support
  • Software and applications your company uses

Is a training video a good fit?

When your new hires are not familiar with the subject matter, a video is a great introduction to the topic. This is an opportunity for your to provide background information and context.

3. Troubleshooting

Trainers often want to use video to teach troubleshooting procedures. Troubleshooting procedures are complex. They require a decision and have a lot of options (aka if/then scenarios) that direct the procedure.

These can be intimidating tasks for employees. Employees get nervous that they will forget an important step and make a huge mistake.

Is a training video a good fit?

With troubleshooting, video is good to provide context. However, you don’t want to use a video to train employees on a step-by-step procedure.

Most troubleshooting procedures are complex. Your employees won’t remember every if/then situation and the next steps. If you put that information in a video, then your employees have to stop what they are doing and watch the entire video to find answers. Those videos are likely long since you have to cover all the if/then scenarios.

Instead, put your troubleshooting procedures in interactive workflows or documented procedures that include screenshots. That way they can pull them up while doing their work. It is easier for them to jump to the section of a guide that they need.

4. Following procedures

Most likely, your company has a collection of processes and procedures that you need your employees to follow.

These are instructions that walk your employee through a procedure step by step. They show your employees where to click, what to say, and what to do. Your employees will use these instructions to complete tasks.

Is a training video a good fit?

Do NOT create a video for your procedures. If it is something where you are showing them where to click all the time, you don’t want a video. You want documentation (help guide).

Think about: What is the end-user experience? Will a help guide be the most helpful?

Typically, your employees face a time crunch when they are working on procedures. They are helping a customer or need to get something to a manager quickly.

Plus, your technology and procedures change. The interface is updated all the time.

If you are recording videos walking people through the steps, you will constantly need to be updating your videos. Videos will quickly become outdated and inaccurate. It will take hours to update the videos. Documented help guides are easier to update.

When you should and shouldn’t use video

These lists will help you know when a video is helpful and when it is unnecessary. Use this overview for a quick guide on when to say yes or no to a training video.

When to Use Video

When NOT to Use Video

  • To provide a demonstration
  • To familiarize learners with the subject matter
  • When timing isn’t critical
  • When employees will be interacting with customers
  • When employees will be following procedural instructions
  • When troubleshooting complex procedures

When you should create a training video

Create a training video when it is best for the learner’s experience. Some situations where using a video is appropriate include these scenarios.

1. Provide a demonstration

When your employees are newer to a concept, a demonstration provides context. It is a good overview and frames what needs to be done. It provides employees with a reference for the future.

2. Familiarize learners with the subject matter

If you are trying to improve soft skills or familiarity with subject matters, a video is helpful. In the video, you can explain concepts and provide a high-level overview of processes.

3. Timing isn’t critical

Ask yourself: Will your employees need to reference this video in the future?

If not, a video could be a good teaching strategy. If your employees aren’t crunched for time when they need to know the information in the video — like helping a customer or on a deadline — then they will have time to pull up and watch a video to learn.

When you should NOT create a training video

While a video might be great, sometimes it doesn’t support employees in what they need to do and how they need to do it. Training videos are ineffective in these situations.

1. Customer interfacing

When your employees are working with customers — either face-to-face or on the phone — they don’t have the time to stop, watch a video, and then do what they see in the video. They need something quicker and less time-consuming to support them, like a documented help guide.

2. Procedural instructions

Often, people want to use video to demonstrate where to click. However, what end-users really need is a little guidance or prompts. That’s why an article or job aid is a more effective way to handle procedural questions.

3. If/then scenarios

If your procedures are complex and use a lot of decision trees, video won’t help. When troubleshooting, every situation is different.

Employees need a guide so they can jump to the section of the guide they need. Ideally, they would have an interactive workflow that walks them directly through the unique scenario they are working on at the moment.

Things to consider when making videos

When deciding whether or not to create a training video, keep in mind when employees will need support. You need to know the intent of the video, what problem it will solve, and if it will need to be used later. This helps you know which to use.

Here are a few aspects of creating a video to consider:

  • Creating videos isn’t easy
  • Updating videos is time-consuming
  • If you make videos that are not evergreen, you are going to have to do updates regularly.
  • How often will people be referencing your videos? Will people need frequent reminders on what to do?

Build an employee training strategy that supports employees throughout their job

Video can be a powerful training tool. You just need to know when and how to leverage video to best train and support your employees.

Video is only part of your more extensive employee training curriculum. To fully train employees involves discussion, practice scenarios, and resources.

With the Find & Follow Training Framework, you can onboard your employees to be more knowledgeable, consistent, and efficient in 30 days or less.

Want to build a more efficient training strategy?

Download our free new hire training eBook. The guide walks you through the 5-stage training process so you can build a training program that helps your employees become more efficient and confident in less time.

How to Plan, Build, and Run a New Hire Training Program That Works Download

About Jonathan DeVore

Customer Success