Great Staff Training Videos during Covid

02.12.2020 Content Strategy
Eoin Dowdall
Creative Director

Here at Kartoffel Films, staff training videos have been a growing category in our portfolio over the last ten years. However, more recently we noticed an even steeper uptick in interest from our clients. This is hardly surprising given how covid made in-person training all but impossible, while also turning business practices upside down the world over. This of course in turn increased the need for staff training: new workplace procedures, safety measures, or client relationship protocols. Just have a look at the WHO’s rapidly growing online training site for an illustration.

With many organisations facing the need for online staff training for the first time, we thought we’d share a few of our learnings, drawing on our decade’s worth of experience in creating staff training videos, but also on our more recent experiences during covid lockdown. Here we go: 

The growing need for staff training during covid

Investing in staff training makes good business sense. For most advanced industries, staff is the most important asset, ahead of investments in offices or equipment. The expertise and motivation of your staff will have a big impact on their productivity, on employee retention, and thus on the bottom line of your business. Most managers know this intuitively, but historically it’s been hard to measure this and thus to put an ROI number on staff training. There’s been some good research recently by McKinsey and others that has clarified and quantified the relationship.

The importance of investment in staff has become even more of a focal point with the global covid crisis. First, with large numbers of employees working from home, the role of the office has been called into question. It was historically the place where staff learned from each other and where the culture of a workplace became manifest. With many of these opportunities of informal learning now vastly reduced, there will be a growing need for dedicated learning and training. This may not have been felt as a priority need in the first few months of the pandemic, but will become ever more prominent as the scale of the pandemic and its economic consequences become ever clearer. For instance, new hires will have to be onboarded, staff will have to be trained in new covid-safe workplace protocols and processes, and of course business itself will continue to change driven by innovation and adoption of new technologies. New tools, new processes, new regulations require staff training.

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Why invest in training videos during covid?

So, how do you go about delivering this growing volume of staff training? It’s tempting to go back to the old ways of doing things. For many businesses this will have meant in-person gatherings: half a day in a conference room with powerpoint slides and flipcharts. While in many parts of the world in-person training may soon be possible again, it is not at present a path for all business. And even for those who are now planning their path back to normal, there’s also the prospect of future disruptions to in-person training, for example due to localized lockdowns or travel restrictions.

Even without the current covid situation, there’s a strong case for using video for staff training. Having produced videos with clients such as University of Chicago Booth Business School, Cambridge University, and others for a decade, we’ve recently put together an overview on the general benefits of video training and education.

Creating a staff training video will have a higher initial cost than delivering a single in-person class, but this cost will quickly pale in significance as you consider the cost of repeating classes for your entire workforce re-running them with slight modifications once,  say, new social distancing protocols require re-training.What’s more, as we are all learning more about the virus every week, the rules and thus workplace procedures will have to adapt and evolve. Such changes are comparatively easy and cheap to accomplish within a video training format. Re-running live training at sclae carries an entirely different order of cost. 

Cost efficiency aside, video training also enables you to reach your entire organization at the same time. With quickly evolving regulation, businesses in the UK often only have 7-14 days to implement new procedures and it can be hard to reach your staff in that time frame with traditional training. We are used to turning around videos in a matter of days, in particular if we can work with animation, motion graphics, and stock footage, so video allows adjusting training at scale in real time. 

Given the pressures of time and cost that are so prevalent in business in these unusual times, some companies opt for an extremely minimalist approach to training, for example just sending around a powerpoint deck or a PDF. Unfortunately, it’s easy for this approach to backfire. There’s an abundance of evidence that learning works best if it’s multimodal, i.e. engages multiple senses at once. It’s no coincidence that Google says how-to videos have been one of YouTube’s most successful and growing categories. Who wants to read a PDF manual when instead you can watch a quick video tutorial? Most companies have recognized this preference in their customers and have taken to producing short videos for their products. Well, what’s true for your customers is also true for your employees – for every unit of time your staff invest in training materials, they will see more return in a format vs. text-only. Seen from that point of view, the ROI case looks quite clear: even if text-based or in-person training is 90% as effective as video, over 100 employees you will have lost considerable and costly staff hours. And that is not even counting the potential cost from poorly understood or poorly remembered training, that could result in ineffective or even dangerous work practices.

Which brings me to the next point: aside from the cold numbers around training efficacy and ROI, the way you go about staff training also sets the tone for workplace culture. Of course, up to 2020 one important tool in building and reinforcing this workplace culture was the office. Pulled along maybe by the example set by the tech companies and shared workspaces, employers started investing in their offices: making them at times look similar to cafes, hotel lobbies, or space stations Here’s a recent overview from Harvard Business Review. With most folks working from home now, and a sizable proportion for the foreseeable future, other touchpoings for shaping workplace culture are gaining importance. The care and creative investment you put into your covid training videos will make a big difference here. It is one of the few remaining opportunities for a truly shared experience among all employees. Of course simply opting for video over static training materials will not automatically guarantee success. We’ve all sat through toe-curlingly boring or cringe-worthy training videos. Again, it’s important that you work closely with a partner who understands your goals, your workplace culture, and who has experience with video training.

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How do I create a staff training video during covid?

When you first hear about creating a training video you might think of big production crews, professional studios, lights, cranes, and huge cameras. In short, all the things you don’t have right now: budgets, time, and most importantly in-person contact with other people.

To cut to the chase: none of the above is necessary. In fact, even before covid we’ve created some staff training videos for our clients entirely remotely, with no actors, no studios. This is not to say that these are bad things – there’s a time and a moment for these things. From our experience, for most clients the need for a training video, in particular during covid, is much more straightforward and simple. Here’s how to get started:

    • Training script. Many clients already have a rough sketch of the content or the training goals, or even some existing material that just needs updating or adapting. Our expert team then helps our clients translate this into a script. Depending on the budget, timelines, and didactic goals we will then propose a production outline.
    • Video components. The production outline will include suggested segments that will make up the training. Some training videos we’ve created were so straightforward they only had one type, others were more complex. Again, this will depend on your goals, budget, and timelines. 
      • Voice over. The narrative binding together the entire video and all components in it. This can be recorded by the client (with our advice and direction) or we have easy access to voice talent that can be booked within a day, including multiple languages, for easy internationalisation of your video, if needed.
      • Talking heads. Essentially a person talking to camera. This can be recorded over video conference or even mobile phones. We’ve also shipped cameras to clients. Where appropriate we can record on site or in a study, but from our experience that is often not necessary. We often find that having a recognizable member of staff included in the training video helps with empathy and identification and thus engagement. We often combine shots of staff members, experts, and professional speakers. 
      • Still graphics. Often clients have existing powerpoint decks that we can integrate. We can also commission one of our visual and communications designers to create custom still graphics and diagrams to be embedded in the training video.
      • Animation. These really help bring complex material to life and demonstrably aid in understanding and retention. Our clients typically do not have these ready-made, so we work with our in-house animator or source someone from our global pool of freelance animators to find the style that works best for our clients. 
      • Motion graphics, means overlaying animation on real-world footage (Example Here). It can be used to visually stunning and memorable effect and helps thus with understanding and retention.  
      • Context shots.  These would typically be shots of the workplace, production facilities, customers, or even cityscapes or landscapes. While not strictly essential for the learning goals they help with establishing the right tone and mood and also act as punctuation marks, providing a rhythm to the piece.  We have access to a large library of stock video and as such can easily provide these at low cost. 
  • Production. The possibilities for combining training video components are endless. As such, the timelines and effort for production can vary greatly. As an example, we can turn around a covid training video in a matter of two days if the client has existing training scripts and powerpoints and we are just drawing on additional stock footage and maybe a voice-over artist. On the other end of the spectrum we can arrange for the remote recording and direction of team members, create custom animations and motion graphics. This kind of project will take on the order of weeks and is often the right approach when you want to reach and engage a large audience, say multiple 100s of staff members.

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    • Distribution and launch. Achieving your training goals will depend not only on the type of training video create, but also on how it reaches your audience. We always advise our clients to carefully consider this step from the outset. A few questions to plan for: (1) who will send it, (2) when will it be sent, (3) what is the accompanying message? These factors have a big impact on the open and engagement rates. Further down the list are questions such as: how will we re-engage, what is the permanent home of the video (e.g. on your intranet), will viewings be recorded (e.g. for compliance reasons), will learning goals be verified, if so how?
  • Re-use. This is another factor that we always ask our clients to consider carefully from the outset. It is now even more important with covid workplace rules changing so frequently. It’s entirely possible that the new work procedures you are now communicating with your training video will have to be updated in a few months, or even sooner. With that in mind we always encourage our clients to plan for future edits and for swapping out components of the video. This also means ensuring ‘raw’ assets from animations are preserved and there’s a flexible agreement with voice talent, animators, etc. for future potential engagements. As mentioned at the outset, if training videos are planned in this way, then their lifetime cost, as you go through content iterations, can be quite low – in particular if compared to other types of training.

Let’s get started

With in-person training nigh-impossible these days, and with emailed powerpoints and PDFs creating low training engagement, and thus possibly unsafe work practices, video has become even more important as a channel for staff training. 

Training videos can be big productions, but from our experience most clients opt for something very straightforward and highly effective, often allowing us to produce a video in a matter of days, without the need for any in-person recordings. 

We always create staff training videos in a way that allows for easy updates – helping our clients be ready for new and evolving business practices, something that is now during the global covid pandemic even more important than ever. 

If you are responsible for staff training, but haven’t considered video so far, or in case you’d just like to learn about budget options, turnaround times, or kick around some creative ideas, then please get in touch at

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