How to Use Storytelling in Training for Maximum Impact

Posted by

Vivek Dodd

on 18 Apr 2019

How to Use Storytelling in Training for Maximum Impact

Stories have the power to engage us in a way simple narratives just can't. And you can harness the power of stories to make more compelling training that builds a culture of compliance.

We remember stories. They help us to connect with people and the world around us. I'll bet you still remember your favourite story from childhood - from a book, film, or TV show?

But how can storytelling help improve your training outcomes?

When you think about compliance training, what’s the ultimate goal? It’s not to teach people the desired behaviour, only for them to forget them later. Attaining 100% compliance isn’t just about getting everyone to complete and pass the training course. Our ultimate goal is to get people to embed the appropriate behaviours so that they instinctively know how to act in any scenario to prevent compliance violations. And this is where using storytelling in compliance training can be so powerful.

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The power of storytelling in compliance training

Let’s be honest - compliance is mostly a dry subject. Couple this with the fact that rules and regulations can be quite complex and a challenging learning environment for compliance training - a workplace full of distractions. And it's not hard to see why many organisations struggle to find ways to engage staff with compliance training.

Storytelling in compliance training makes for a more immersive learning experience. Stories resonate with people, help people connect with a topic, and have the power to inspire and motivate. Ultimately, stories enhance the learning experience. As a result, people are far more likely to remember the knowledge they have learned.

There are many ways you can incorporate storytelling into compliance e-learning courses to create maximum impact. Here are some of the most effective examples:

1. Simulations & scenarios

This is the best use of storytelling in e-learning. Create a storyline where you can place the learner at the centre of the scenario. The learner is faced with a situation and they must decide how they respond based on the circumstances. Putting the learner right at the heart of the story makes it much more engaging, and suddenly gives people important practical experience that will make them more confident when it comes to making similar decisions in real life.

To really help learners to connect with the messages, put the scenarios into a credible and realistic context. For example, use the names of real people, departments, and processes. This will help make it relevant and familiar.

2. News stories

News stories are also a great way of making it real - getting people to connect a breach or a particular aspect of compliance with real-world consequences. These stories needn't be long - after a brief introduction - cut straight to the rules that were broken and the penalties that were imposed. Try to write these as they would appear in the news media and give them a newspaper top to make them real.

3. Gamified learning

Serious games are essentially stories. Just as computer games are too. Take the Crash Bandicoot games, for instance. The main protagonist is Crash, a bandicoot who was genetically enhanced by the series’ main antagonist, Doctor Neo Cortex. The series follows Crash as he fights against Cortex and his plans for world domination and attempts to rescue his girlfriend Tawna.

To improve knowledge retention, create a compliance story that focuses on the consequences of violating regulations, and let employees navigate their way through a series of challenges.

4. The back story

Often, compliance training focuses too heavily on explaining the rules and regulations, and not enough on why they matter. People aren’t interested in the technical specifications of the law. Knowing the intricacies won't ensure they comply, after all. Instead, they want to know - why does this law exist? What problems is it designed to solve? What role should I play in preventing violations?

When people recognise and appreciate why a particular law exists, how it protects the company, them, and even others in society, as well as how they personally can help prevent potential violations, it becomes far more gripping - they have an emotional tie or vested interest. This part of the story is essential for getting people to see the value of the training in the first place.

Whatever format it takes, storytelling in compliance training is a powerful way of motivating and engaging learners. It can really help get the message across - and make it stick.

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Key workplace learning theories

Storytelling is just one of six of the most well-established learning theories we've examined to help improve your outcomes.

  1. Instructional design
  2. The 70-20-10 rule
  3. Microlearning
  4. Lateral thinking
  5. Kirkpatrick Model

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