Training the Ted Talk Way

Microsoft's Future of Work

TED Talks, the popular conference and video lecture series, has a cardinal rule that all presenters must follow: No talk can exceed 18 minutes. As TED curator Chris Anderson puts it, 18 minutes is “short enough to hold people’s attention, including on the internet, and precise enough to be taken seriously. But it’s also long enough to say something that matters.”

The TED rule can also apply to companies trying to keep employees alert and engaged during what can often be dry or lengthy corporate training sessions.

In addition to facing challenges with attention spans, trainers must overcome another frequent issue – classes are often designed to fit the needs of business compliance goals, not the needs of employees’ personal development goals. As a result, companies often try to jam all the information they want workers to absorb into daylong – or longer – sessions. Employees, in turn, naturally tune out when they are bored or restless. Therefore, it is no surprise that companies are sometimes disappointed by the results of their training initiatives, with 38% saying the transfer of knowledge and retention are their biggest challenges.

To increase learning and recall, many organizations are overhauling their training programs. Long sessions are being replaced by a practice known as bite-sized or micro-learning techniques. Companies that successfully embrace bite-sized learning are incorporating a range of best practices to capture employee attention and interest that include:

  1. Separating training sessions into short sessions or modules. The result? Less brain overload, leading to increased absorption of information.
  2. Since employees learn in different ways, companies must vary the way they deliver information. Options include the traditional classroom format, online presentations that allow workers to control the speed of learning, videos, intranet articles and printed materials.
  3. Recognizing that people learn by doing, make training interactive by incorporating short quizzes, group problem-solving exercises and question-and-answer sessions.
  4. Repetition hard-wires information into the brain and is essential to learning, so infuse your training modules with frequent information reviews.
  5. Understand that jobs are not one-size-fits-all – and the same is true for training and development. Employees are only expected to absorb information that is directly related to their own tasks and responsibilities.

Benefits training

The good news for companies is that the elements of bite-size learning that make training more pleasant and effective can also be applied to other business needs. For example, employees often complain about the benefits enrollment process. According to the 2018 Aflac WorkForces Report, just 39% of employees surveyed have a full understanding of their health insurance policy; 19% did not feel confident they understood everything they signed up for after their most recent benefits enrollment.

The solution? Companies can use new learning strategies to develop materials that:

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  • Provide clear, concise information about the workplace benefits available to employees.
  • Include tips for using benefits options to help employees protect their families’ financial security.
  • Offer coverage that is applicable to individuals, no matter their stage of life.

Some companies – especially smaller organizations – may not have the staff, time or expertise to fully develop expansive benefits-enrollment materials. That is where benefits advisors can help. Many provide free materials designed to help employees make smart, informed benefits decisions. They also can help your company develop plans to distribute bite-sized information on a regular schedule that enhances employee comprehension and retention – and holds their attention like a compelling TED talk does.

Chad Melvin

Chad Melvin has more than 18 years of experience in the human resources/learning and development industry and is vice president of Leadership, Learning and Development at Aflac. He is responsible for the strategic development and implementation of Aflac’s learning and development program as well as Aflac’s talent acquisition efforts.