Our development as a species is inextricably linked with storytelling. Since the dawn of language, we’ve shared our history and, in the retelling, these stories have become legend and myth, passed down through generations over thousands of years. Now, in the digital age of television and film, storytelling has evolved to become more complex and layered than ever.
Once upon a time…
Stories are the delivery systems we use to pass on our culture, and our traditions: a way to share information with each other, and hand down important wisdom. They are one of the oldest forms of teaching that we have.
As such, it could be said that learning through storytelling is something that comes naturally to humankind. It’s evolved with us to become a fundamental element in many forms of communication – even turning typically mundane or run-of-the-mill subjects into something more engaging for the audience. So, it would make sense to utilise this proven, age-old method of storytelling to deliver important internal training to employees, right?
Surprisingly, that hasn’t always been the case. Training in the workplace can often be seen as a boring necessity. The question that arises is how best to teach what must be taught in such a way that – from an employer’s point of view – the training is effective, and the learning outcomes are retained? Conversely, from the employee point of view, is there a way to receive that very same training in a way that is interesting, engaging or (dare we say it) even enjoyable?
All too often, internal training takes the form of overly long and coma-inducing PowerPoint presentations. Or, badly written, badly acted training videos, the quality of which only detracts from the actual learning. And then, when it’s over, the employees are thinking more about how rubbish the training delivery was, rather than what the training outcomes were supposed to be. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
…happily ever after
By using a storytelling aspect to deliver internal training, you’re hanging the learning on a narrative framework: you’re giving it shape, and structure. You can employ the classic storytelling tricks such as introducing conflict, building tension, and providing resolution, to get the audience’s attention and, more importantly, to keep it. Additionally, introducing relatable characters with their own desires and motivations and giving them a narrative arc, a journey, encourages the audience to care about these characters, to identify with them, and to follow their story. And as the characters learn, the audience learns. We’ve proven that this approach works – in a recent training story we created, built around a compelling character-led narrative, over 90,000 people worldwide in total have completed the training, smashing the client’s previous record.
Of course, the key is in writing a story that manages to be both interesting and informative, one that provides all of the specified learning objectives, woven in and around a storyline, that gives real-world examples of why the learning is important, and the consequences of what not knowing, or ignoring, this important information could mean, both to the business and personally to the viewer. Another important element to consider is retention. With all the content we consume on a daily basis, it’s easy to forget some, if not most, of it. Making training memorable means people are more likely to retain the information; it’s like the mnemonic we all have to remember the order of the planets. And if you can do all that well, you’re almost sneaking in the learning: it’s like when your mum hid your sprouts under the Christmas dinner turkey.
Here at Harleys, we’re adept at taking complex information and turning it into an engaging story. We’ve created several multi-award-winning training films for our clients, it’s one of the things we do best. We’re seasoned storytellers when it comes to internal training films that don’t just train, but also entertain. We could call it ‘entertraining’: but you’ll probably be glad to know that we don’t.
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