Vouching for Visual Learning

Build a library of visual materials—be it in the form of video or annotated images—to kick-start self-enabled onboarding.

The way in which people are satisfying their information needs and absorbing content is changing rapidly. So much, that comScore found 85.9 percent of the U.S. Internet audience is currently viewing online video—instructional, informational, and for entertainment. And in a year from now, Cisco predicts that number will equate to a whopping 1.6 billion people with a growing appetite for visual learning. With these figures in mind, it’s clear that we remember what we see and hear more often than we remember what we read. This is especially true for those new to a team or an organization. After all, training is all about communicating value, and nothing does that better than visual communication. Just as often as trainers look to teach with visuals, new employees—or learners in this case—are motivated to teach themselves all the same.

Self-Enabled Onboarding

Preparing for self-enabled onboarding starts with visual technology. But why, you ask? While organizations often demand certain processes, employees deserve to have something in their learning tool kit that is seamless—and nothing is more intuitive than video or image instruction, both highly effective and engaging ways to communicate learning materials. By implementing video and annotated screen capture, you ensure that all new faces have a similar experience and receive consistent messaging. In addition, you’re providing them with on-demand information they can learn anywhere, anytime, and, most importantly, at any moment. This goes for everything from descriptions of job expectations and department hierarchy to procedural best practices and company culture.

Context is valuable to employees who are just starting. Instead of expecting they jump in with both feet, introductory visual guides help employees get ramped up and feel comfortable. As you yourself may be able to attest, it is, in fact, difficult to read a booklet of text and envision what comes next. In its place, create short, engaging video presentations that give new hires the background to teach themselves and be off and running. Or compile how-to documents with annotated images that explicitly explain step-by-step processes and reassure learners that they’re in control.

While live onboarding is great, technology should always be a supplement to one-on-one interaction for the learning to be most effective. New employees should be involved right off the bat, but they shouldn’t necessarily be expected to be “key contributors” in their first few days. As such, visual-based onboarding has been proven more beneficial than reading text alone, and evidence shows that visual messages coupled with verbal communication increase the retention rate of content to nearly 50 percent—a 400 percent increase. Talk about a productive employee! Even more, video and images are something new hires can learn and digest in small pieces at their own pace and on their own clock. So when those feelings of onboarding fatigue kick in, visual learning materials are available to revisit when feeling refreshed via one’s preferred platform.

Retaining and Reusing

In the traditional onboarding model with one-time meetings, employees are given one shot to absorb content. But with self-enabled onboarding, it’s all about retaining and reusing. HR and corporate departments rely on visual technology to teach new employees, and new employees rely on it to teach themselves. This encourages each organization to have knowledge experts who eventually can share what they know with peers, regardless of role or tenure.

Visual technology often is overlooked when organizing onboarding programs, and may be looked at as a complex implementation reserved solely for large institutions. But regardless of company size, there are new hires out there who are more than willing to be their own drivers of introduction and instruction. I urge companies to build a library of visual materials—be it in the form of video or annotated images—to kick-start self-enabled onboarding. This way, it’s less of a resource drain and more of a quantifiable investment. If you’re not sure where to start, check out software such as Snagit for image capture or Camtasia for screencasting. You’ll quickly learn that visual technology is the catalyst for change within your company, accelerating new employees’ performance, and improving retention and loyalty along the way.

Matt Pierce is Customer Engagement manager at TechSmith. In addition to his day job, he hosts a monthly Webshow, TechSmith’s The Forge, interviewing video makers, visual communicators, educators, and more. His secret talent is interpreting board game instructions. Teach him something at @piercemr.