Do you turn to YouTube to watch funny stunts or quick demos on how to do things? Even if you don’t use YouTube for personal learning or entertainment, as an L&D leader you can’t afford to ignore it.

YouTube is currently the second-most popular site in the world; people upload more than 400 hours of content each minute, and consume more than one billion hours of content daily. Clearly, the most-subscribed YouTube channels have figured out how to keep people coming back for more. We in L&D can look to YouTube to improve training.

Look to YouTube to improve training

The most successful YouTubers regularly leverage four habits that L&D can (and should) think about when designing and delivering corporate L&D programs. They:

  1. Relate to and represent their audience

    There is no one-size-fits-all YouTube “voice.” Successful YouTubers know their audience. Their sense of humor, anecdotes, degree of detail, use of language, choice of images, and even video production values are all appropriate to their particular viewers.

    YouTubers also listen to their audience. They don’t need a Level 1 smile sheet asking viewers if they liked what they saw. YouTube’s Comments function makes it easy to quickly and easily like, share, and offer observations and suggestions.

    Wouldn’t it be great if learning management systems (LMSs) offered that functionality, as well? Yes, someone must monitor and moderate those comments, but think of the time saved and intel gathered by offering a comment function!

    Finally, YouTubers represent their audience—something eLearning must do. eLearning designers should identify and incorporate images that reflect the diversity and aspirations of each audience. For example, encourage underrepresented employees to think about management roles with courses that depict people who share their gender, race, and ethnicity in positions of responsibility.

  2. Get to the point, quickly

    YouTubers understand that they must get to the point within the first two minutes of a video, or they’ll lose their viewers. If only online training did the same… The most common complaint I hear about eLearning is that the courses are too long and boring. When courses don’t immediately convey to employees what they’re about they seem long, and when they don’t offer any practical or relevant information, viewers become bored.

    Microlearning is helping learning designers and developers get to the point more quickly, but designers need support from L&D leaders to formally require training to be as short as possible.

  3. Engage and entertain

    Successful YouTubers understand that their videos must capture their viewers’ attention, keep them engaged, and offer something new or different from the last time.

    In L&D, this doesn’t mean that we have to gamify every course or pull out all the bells and whistles for every single training intervention. It simply means that we have to make each learning experience a memorable, meaningful one that offers employees something new, thought-provoking, and tangible to use on the job.

  4. Say thank you

    YouTubers regularly and sincerely express their gratitude. They openly acknowledge their dependence on viewers without whom their popularity—and monetary benefits—would not be possible.

    Shouldn’t training also acknowledge, out loud, that the organization needs its employees to care about and adopt corporate policies and procedures in order for the organization to be successful? A sincere thank you for the effort involved to adopt new practices, policies, procedures, or tools can go a long way in gaining employees’ buy in.

In conclusion

Why are the habits of YouTubers of interest to L&D leaders; why should we look to YouTube to improve training? Because like other industries, we can and must learn from our disruptors. By doing so, we create better learning experiences for employees. We can’t afford not to.