Henry Ford said, “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.” That’s doubly true during an emergency situation, where there’s a higher likelihood of panic and problems. That’s why training is crucial for federal employees involved in disaster response efforts, whose jobs involve not only delivering services to U.S. citizens, but also keeping those citizens – and themselves—safe in the process.
“In a time of disaster, an agency employee who is prepared will serve better and be safer,” said Mike Tippets, vice president for enterprise marketing and organizational development at Hughes Network Systems, LLC (HUGHES), a leading provider of managed services, including employee engagement and training networks. “The best way to deliver that necessary training and communication is by using video.”
There are two extremes in training, Tippets said. At one end of the spectrum is the training manual, which can take the form of a book, manual or other printed document. Essentially, the trainee reads and hopefully absorbs what they’ve read. But Tippets said the average rate of retention for this method of training usually tops out at only about 30%.
The other extreme is to bring employees physically into a class with a subject matter expert. In situations like this, Tippets said, the retention rate goes up to more than 85%. That’s obviously a more desirable outcome, but it’s not always feasible to have employees travel to a central location for classes. And having the expert travel to various facilities comes with its own set of issues, including the fact that the quality of instruction may not be consistent day-to-day. And then there are situations most had never considered before this year – such as when a pandemic puts an end to non-essential travel.
But travel isn’t necessary anymore. In fact, video-delivered training can be almost as effective as the gold-standard, classroom experience with a live subject matter expert. What’s more, the technological and production barriers to making professional quality video are only a fraction of what they were ten years ago – making video a realistic and reliable method of distributed training content and ensuring federal employees are prepared for when disaster strikes.
“We have the tools in our hands – literally,” Tippets said. “Don’t worry about Hollywood production quality. In today’s world, people are used to watching videos on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. And very often, the videos that are most popular or ‘go viral’ are filmed with no fanfare on someone’s iPhone. Consumers – and therefore, your employees – really don’t need to see highly produced cinema-quality training videos in order for the material to be conveyed effectively.”
Tippets doesn’t suggest that agencies have their trainers start talking to their smartphones. But with a tablet and a tripod, he explains, it’s possible to get nearly 4k video resolution and high-definition audio. And with inexpensive desktop editing tools, the cost to produce an effective training video is very affordable.
Some agencies have already adopted this school of thought. Tippets said pockets exist throughout government where new training paradigms are being explored and leveraged. For example, the Government Education and Training Network (GETN), a consortium of multiple agencies, including Federal Aviation Administration, United States Air Force, Air Force Reserve Command, Air National Guard, Defense Health Agency, and the Department of Justice, depends on a distance learning network across the U.S. and dozens of international sites. GETN distributes its training content via video-based distance learning programs and common downlink, uplink and broadcast facilities.
“At GETN, they are passionate about recreating the in-person learning experience by broadcasting from a head facility and then having learners around the world tune in and watch,” Tippets said. “They use a combination of pre-recorded and live video training, underscoring again the value of video in ensuring a consistent experience for the students.”
Because of the pandemic, more federal agencies are beginning to embrace video tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. But those tools have their limits, Tippets said. The more people involved in a meeting, the less interactive these meetings become. Even so, the trend of using video to facilitate communication and training has gained a foothold in government agencies and offices across the country.
“People are getting used to the idea of watching their way to knowledge. Just look at all the online learning since the start of the coronavirus pandemic,” Tippets said. “In today’s world, if you want to build a deck or learn how to use Photoshop, you can easily find two or three video tutorials on YouTube.”
There’s a saying that goes, “Fire drills are not held to prevent fires, but so people know what to do during a fire.” That’s the importance of training, especially when it comes to emergency preparedness. When an emergency strikes, employees either need to immediately know exactly what to do, or they need to immediately know where to find that information. And one of the best repositories of training material to meet that need is video content.
“We need to create the resources and then teach our people to consume it beforehand or at the very least know where to find the information when they need it,” Tippets said. “Providing easy-to-watch video tutorials and making them accessible to employees gives them not just the tools to do their jobs, but the confidence to keep their constituents – and themselves – safe when it matters the most.”