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5 Ways Your Training Video May Hurt Employee Performance

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Video is far from a new phenomenon, and it’s still one of the most popular learning methods for this generation. Why? This form of microlearning is easy to access and meets the needs of the modern learner. However, not all videos are created equal.

This is glaringly evident in the advertising industry. You’ve probably come across at least one commercial that made you stop and pay attention. After the ad, did you reconsider paying $300 for the fancy watch? Or were you likely to recommend it to a friend?

L&D video needs to be as memorable to learners as commercials are to customers. When learners are presented with compelling video, studies show that they absorb more information, apply what they learn, and perform better in the workplace.

A poor video has no impact, and it wastes your employee’s valuable time. Avoid these five common pitfalls to ensure your training video engages your audience and delivers a powerful message.

1. Lacks Emotional or Thought-Provoking Content

If your video doesn’t provoke thought or emotions, it won’t be memorable or feel relevant to the learner. That’s why it’s important to design a learning video that evokes emotions of surprise, shock, happiness, warmth, or humor. Adding emotional appeal drives relevancy and helps make the message stick.

Besides using emotion, inserting thought-provoking content in your video may stimulate the intellect of your audience. You can ask a creative question, use a metaphor or juxtaposition, or try other attention holders. Appropriate thought-provoking content ignites the imagination and opens the learner’s mind.

2. The Key Message Is Written, Not Shown

When you use only words to describe the learning video’s key message, it’s likely the message won’t be remembered (or even noticed). Learners will also find it difficult to stay attentive, as long strings of words tend to mesh together. Instead, use visuals and specific images that portray the key message. It can be as simple as a symbol, gesture, or facial expression.


Linking the message to visuals not only makes it easier for learners to stay engaged, it also allows them to recall the information later. According to developmental molecular biologist Dr. John J. Medina, the human brain remembers up to 65 percent of information three days later when it's described using a visual. In comparison, only 10 percent of the information will be remembered three days later when it's described using words alone.

3. The Message Is Inconsistent

Maintaining a narrow focus on the purpose of your training video is necessary to effectively reach your audience. Additional “nice to know” information can muddy the water and cloud the message of the video. If your video hints more than one message or purpose, it can cause confusion.

It’s vitally important that the message throughout your video remain consistent with the storyline. Learners should be able to quickly identify the main message without question. When the video's theme is congruent, it adds clarity and focus. This is easier said than done in learning videos. Frequently, multiple stakeholders or diverse content may expand the scope unnecessarily. In this case, you should divide the video into short, distinct, easily searchable segments.

4. Video Is Not Distinctive

If your video is similar to others, it dilutes how memorable your video is. Unique and distinctive learning content stands out and drives retention. An example of an undistinctive video format may be whiteboard videos, which could be overused depending on your audience. When creating a learning video, ensure your execution adheres to brand guidelines, but explore ways to create impact. This could be with the unexpected use of surprise or humor; through focused use of high-impact color; or through vivid images that dramatize your learning point.


While a templated format provides consistency for learners (and having a standard introduction and ending screens are important), think about whether the message format in the middle of the video is getting monotonous. Ensure the components of your message are fresh so the learning points are memorable.

5. Poor Use of Dramatization

Dramatizing your video's learning purpose is a great way to make it stick in the learner's mind. However, too much or too little drama is counterproductive.

An example of an over-dramatized video is one that adds drama simply for the sake of adding drama. You may add it with the intention of capturing the learner's attention, like adding in a funny joke; but when you emphasize anything that's not directly tied to the learning purpose, it becomes a distraction.

Under-dramatizing or adding no drama leaves learners struggling to remember what the main message is. Add drama—but only relevant drama. For example, use a metaphor, visual theme, or action that is focused on the learning point.

Advertisers capture and sustain their audience's attention by emphasizing the main learning purpose or message, using visuals, and connecting with their audience in unique ways. By applying the same techniques to your L&D video that advertisers apply to commercials, you will have a compelling video that makes employees want to learn.

Attend the ATD 2018 International Conference & EXPO session, An Advertiser’s Secrets to Compelling Learning Videos, to see successful examples and other tricks to make your learning videos effective.

About the Author

Danielle Wallace is the chief learning strategist at Beyond the Sky, a provider of custom learning solutions. She combines proven marketing techniques with adult learning principles to create learning that sticks. Previously, as a marketing executive with Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo, she learned strategic marketing and advertising principles, which she applies to learning and development to create compelling breakthrough solutions. Danielle is also a certified training and development professional (CTDP).

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