06/08/2014

By Tom Pape, Head of Learning Innovation, BT Academy


For many businesses, the idea of creating video content in-house to train staff can ring alarm bells. Does the right level of expertise exist within the business? What sort of technical equipment is required? Will it look professional and have impact?

As head of learning innovation at BT, I’ve faced these challenges and come though the other side. Creating video content in-house is achievable and can ultimately save business both time and money.

One of the first questions that needs to be addressed is why use video? Consider whether the topic requires a visual or auditory element in order to be engaging. For example, for content which needs to describe a complex process, using a written format might be too dry or difficult to understand without the benefit of accompanying sound and visuals. This doesn’t mean an end to the written word, however. Video may not be an appropriate medium for all content goals. Trying to “convert” content into a video, rather than developing the video idea organically, is an indication that the medium is not best placed to meet the need.

At BT, we have a rapidly developing workforce based in locations throughout the UK and overseas. Many of these employees, based in the field as engineers or in call centres, are monitored by the time spent carrying out tasks. Being relatively time-poor, any training needs to really pack a punch and deliver its message quickly and memorably. The use of images is an effective way to achieve this. Both in and out of the office environment, many people are now turning to video as a means of gathering information, enjoying entertainment and communicating, with more than 4 billion hours of video viewed each month. In fact, YouTube is now the second most used search engine, right behind Google [1]. Offering video-based training seemed, for BT, to be a natural response, tapping into existing behaviours. Our research confirmed this. We talked to our staff ahead of planning the video training and they were overwhelmingly receptive to the idea.

The next stage? Ensure the expertise and capability is in place to create video content. Some staff may not have the technical know-how, but this should not prove a barrier provided the enthusiasm is in place. Businesses should seek to engage their people in the process, ensure they understand the reasoning behind the need for video content and understand the impact their work could achieve. It is crucial to create the right training environment, and teams may need to be reorganised so the right people are in the best position for their skill set. The first area to really focus on is the tools. Take some time to review the toolkit and what hardware you may need to invest in such as a decent HD camera, tripod and mic set. This toolkit will develop with time. For example, once the team is sufficiently skilled, additional equipment may prove useful such as a lighting kit and green screen set up. Businesses also need to consider the right desktop or laptop to edit work. Intel Core i5 or i7 or above is advisable, along with a good quality graphics card. In terms of software requirements, this can vary. At BT, we use Adobe Creative Suite including Premiere, After Effects, Illustrator and Soundbooth. However, there are easier beginner packages such as Camtasia and Apple iMovie is one of the simplest video editing software packages around when it comes to producing solid quality video. Once the toolkit is in place, businesses need to regularly review it to ensure it continues to meet requirements. The team at BT revisits the toolkit at least every six months to ensure we are delivering innovation across our business.

Then comes the need for know-how. At BT, we hosted a series of ‘Raise the bar’ (RTB) sessions where we brought in external professional broadcast specialists from various areas of video production. I led on some of the first RTB session covering fundamentals including composition, editing techniques, audio capture and editing and lighting. As the team developed further we moved into intermediate to professional areas such as animation, graphics, green screen and using live action actors. The result was a series of videos available to staff via the organisation’s intranet. These covered various aspects of their roles and could be easily accessed and viewed by employees at a time to suit them. The videos delivered training to improve learning across key areas of the business as well as touching on the cultural side of the organisation by covering behavioural skills. This was all achieved via simple animation and the use of screen grabs. A straightforward visual approach creates impact, ensuring the videos are clear and easy to engage with. How do we know they work? We sourced valuable feedback from staff. Giving the viewers the opportunity to feedback furthers their engagement with the video and enables the in-house content creation process to be fine tuned. The process is then gradually refined over time through a combination of feedback and growing skill and confidence within the in-house team.

Creating concise, impactful videos in-house isn’t impossible. With the right training, equipment and processes in place, businesses can create clever content that really delivers.

Tom Pape is Head of Learning Innovation at BT Academy. He is delivering a session on the effectiveness of video learning at the World of Learning Conference taking place at Birmingham’s NEC on 30 September and 1 October www.learnevents.com.