Podcasts - Could This Be the Next Best Thing in Training Delivery?

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March 01, 2006
Technology | Training
Carol Verret

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© 2006 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

It is too soon to know how podcasts will be embraced in terms of training, not only by the potential users but also by those who make the decisions on training delivery. If you think that iPods and MP3s are only for music downloads – think again.

There is an entire cottage industry that has sprung up around podcasts. iTunes is the gold standard for downloading everything from books to past episodes of favorite TV programs. In the list of the gazillion most popular podcasts as it appears on www.podcastalley.com, there are business podcasts, motivational podcasts and training podcasts, especially for athletic training.

Podcasts can include video or no video. Audio books are downloaded on iPods and people listen to them in their cars on the way to work and in the airplane. They could just put a CD in the CD player but that’s not the point. Pod downloads are cheap and disposable with no CD to buy or be stuck with after you’re done with it.

Podcasts are the equivalent of audio blogs in some cases. They include opinions from people whose opinions were not remarkable until they became a podcast. Many resort destinations are now using podcasts to get their message out – promotional audio and sometimes video bytes downloadable from their Web site.

But are podcasts a viable training medium? There is no interactivity and as such it is a rather static medium. But I believe that misses the point. A very long time ago, someone, namely Marshall McLuhan, said that the medium is the message. That is the point in the case of training.

Those decision makers involved in training design and delivery tend to be one generation removed from the largest audience for training – the generation of “poders”. A very large percentage of the employees that need to be trained are in the poder generation.

We have run into this generational gap before in terms of online training. Because the decision makers are of the CD or video generation, online training has had a slow climb to become mainstream and in many cases, when it is adapted, it is merely text on a Web site. I always thought that an online training module using animated characters as in a video game like the Simpsons would have enormous impact. I am waiting for anyone interested in this concept to give me a call.

We need to use training mediums that interest the target learners. Have you secretly watched your Gen Ys in front of a training video? They totally zone (so would I) – content is not assimilated unless presented in a medium that appeals to the target audience. A mark on their employee file that they have seen the video doesn’t mean they can implement anything in it – so what’s the point?

Podcasts certainly are not a medium that one could design an entire training program around. However, as an adjunct and reinforcement to other delivery mediums, they are viable. Ideally, a podcast is no longer than about 30 minutes and it helps if there is more than one voice or some interaction between people on the podcast. The video podcast is an option but more complex to produce and not every pod has video capability.

For example, record one of your live training sessions and make it downloadable from your Web site for new employees or those who want a refresher. If you want to give your annual sales meeting seminar “legs”, record it in an MP3 format and make it downloadable so that the sales people who were there can review it and new sales people can get up to speed on the concepts contained therein. That extends your ROI in the initial program.

If you want to give your staff additional incentive to use the downloads, purchase a few inexpensive, low capacity MP3 players. They are not very expensive and your staff will be excited that they can use them for training. I know you are going to say that they can be stolen. True, but everything in your hotel that isn’t nailed down can walk as well.

Are podcasts the end all and be all in training? No, but if you want to give your training reinforcement some excitement and edge, they can be extremely motivating for your staff.

Carol Verret and Associates Consulting and Training offers training services and consulting in the areas of sales, revenue management and customer service. Carol can be reached at carol@carolverret.com or at (303) 618-4065.

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