10 Tips for Training Employees with Video from Dollar Shave Club

March 5, 2019

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Jenny Coppola


Have you ever spent several hours in a training session with one instructor ranting in front of a whiteboard, and felt like hauling yourself out the window?

We’ve all been there at one time or another. Fortunately for Dollar Shave Club, their internal educational team prides themselves on shaking up new employee onboarding.

Cleve Mcmillan is Dollar Shave Club’s Senior Manager of Education, and since joining the team over two years ago, he and his team have successfully onboarded 170 members of the Dollar Shave Club service team using a mix of videos and in-person training programs.

“My mission was to create a training program for our employees that embraced the philosophy of providing exceptional service through knowledge and education — not through scripts. We needed to do this for a rapidly scaling department, and develop the team as the needs of our members evolved,” says Cleve.

“We’ve gone from 1 million members to well over 3 million in the last few years. The rapid growth simply meant we needed to onboard new Member Service Associates in a way that ensured knowledge about our products and services, and effectively socialized the DSC brand, so that it made its way down to the member. This is where video has been tremendously helpful.”

Cleve uses the following 10 tactics to keep employees engaged and entertained from the first day of onboarding through ongoing up-trainings as the business continues to launch new products.

1. Blend offline and online learning

Listening to one person speak for several hours can be tiring, which is why Cleve’s strategy to keep new hires engaged involves blending in-person classroom learning with engaging video content.

“The human psyche is not ready for just one form of training content. If you put people in a room listening to lectures all day, they’ll fall asleep. The same goes for watching movies,” says Cleve. “What we’ve found to work the best is mixing video with interaction. For example, playing the video, then pausing to ask the class what resonated or what questions they have. It’s all about blending online and offline learning to keep employees engaged.”

“The human psyche is not ready for just one form of training content. If you put people in a room listening to lectures all day, they’ll fall asleep.”

2. Tell a consistent message

Dollar Shave Club began using video to ensure that their training and messaging remained cohesive. With a department situated across several locations and new people joining their team at a fast pace, video was key to keeping their messaging and training consistent.

“When you’ve got multiple locations, it’s critical that you stay on the same page. It doesn’t matter so much who teaches the class, but rather that there’s a consistency to the delivery of information regardless of the location and teacher,” says Cleve. “Our mission was always to create a wowing end-to-end experience for both our Members and our Member Service Associates.”

Pro tip: Set up a GoPro to record your in-person trainings as well, and review those videos to ensure each teacher’s message is consistent.

3. Close the feedback loop with a fact sheet

When it comes to producing the videos, Cleve refers to the fact sheet as his “quintessential reference for any video.” This fact sheet is a 1–2 page document covering the who, what, when, where, and why of each video training or product update video.

Not only does the fact sheet serve as a complete guide with essential details for the video, but it also ensures that every team has made edits and given valuable input to ensure the messaging is correct, all necessary product details are included, and the brand is properly reflected.

So, how does this process go down? Once the product training fact sheet is created, various teams at Dollar Shave Club inspect the document — starting with the product development team, then the brand development team, then marketing, until it eventually trickles down to the Education Department. In the hands of Cleve’s team (the education team), it’s taken and flipped on its head.

“Our goal is to communicate in a way that’s going to resonate with the people who devour this content, and for us, that’s our Member Services Associates,” says Cleve.

“One essential thing we do is take the marketing speak out of any product information. Why? Because if you train using marketing speak, that’s how your agents will ultimately speak of the product with your customers, and in reality, no one speaks like that. Taking marketing speak and turning it into genuine and interesting talking points is not as easy as it sounds, but it’s vital if you want your agents to present a product in a genuine way. They’re not selling something, they’re sharing useful information that will help a customer decide what’s best for them.”

“If you train using marketing speak, that’s how your agents will ultimately speak of the product with your customers, and in reality, no one speaks like that.”

After that hurdle is tackled, the fact sheet is passed back around for final approval to close the feedback loop.

“Circling back around is key,” says Cleve. “In that last phase we also bring in ’voice of the customer’ experts to ensure the verbiage is on brand.”

4. Know your audience

“While these internal training videos are produced for our team, those team members are ultimately communicating with Dollar Shave Club customers, so it’s important to create this content with the end-user top of mind,” says Cleve. “This is why having a voice of the customer program is so critical. Insights about your consumers should be infused into the education content.”

Always keeping the customer in mind, including where the customer is in their lifecycle, is really important when training employees who spend their days representing your brand to the public.

5. Add in your company “nod” (when trust is gained)

Your company “nod” or “nudge” refers to a unique quirky or funny element to spark viewer engagement. Think of it as your brand’s personality. People like to be entertained, so it’s important to have an endearing or humorous component incorporated into each video (some simple outtakes at the end will usually do it). One of the questions Cleve asks when making every video is, “Are we taking a risk with the humor, and most importantly, is it on brand?.”

“Adding a ’nod’ to your training video will take it from educational and often vanilla, to educational and entertaining,” says Cleve.

Pro tip: Include bloopers at the end or behind-the-scene shots! These often show the most authentic side of your employees, and can be pretty humorous.

6. Don’t slack off on the production quality

The quality of internal videos doesn’t matter, right? Wrong. According to Cleve, the production quality should be at the same level as your consumer-facing content. “You won’t get internal staff to pay attention to video content if the production quality sucks compared to what you produce for your clients. Why should that be any different?” says Cleve.

“The production quality should be at the same level as your consumer-facing content.”

So many companies pride themselves on treating their staff like they do their clients, so why not make internal trainings enjoyable and useful experiences? If employee onboarding videos are low-quality, it’s unlikely that new employees will pay attention to them (or learn)! Check out this internal video about the Dollar Shave Club Traveler:

“If you ignore quality, you won’t get congruency, and you won’t get people to pay attention to the message to the same degree,” says Cleve. “Whenever we produce anything, we ask, ’Could I put this online tomorrow? Is the production quality high enough?’ If the answer is no, we go back and rework it.”

7. Only include the most critical information

Another purpose of the fact sheet discussed in tip 3 is to determine which information is critical to include in the video training, and which can be communicated elsewhere. Cleve advises only including the most important information in your videos. Minor details can be communicated via email or an internal portal.

“We always take our fact sheet and ask what we can take out. What do we need them to know? Pricing, for example, may change and can be just as easily looked up on the wiki. We just include the most critical content that we most want them to remember. Start by asking what needs to be shown/told, and what can be left out, or, what makes sense to be trained at another moment in time,” says Cleve.

Pro tip: Use annotation links in the video to provide viewers with additional information, like pricing or other relevant details.

8. Break longer training videos into chapters

Whether you like it or not, a lot of internal training video content is going to be long-form (even if the fact sheet is sliced in half). It’s just the name of the game for these types of videos.

“We were so excited when Wistia’s chaptering feature came out, and have already applied 12 chapters to a 1-hour and 15-minute training,” Cleve remarks.

You can break down your video into various sections using Chapters, so users have the ability to hop around and hone in on the parts of the video they are most interested in (or need the most training on).

9. Make every training remarkable

Cleve aims to make each training video remarkable.

“Remarkable to me is when someone will remark about it to someone else,” says Cleve. If someone does not physically get out of their desk and walk over to remark on the video, Cleve knows that he’s done something wrong. “If people don’t have a laugh and say, ’hey, nice job,’ we re-work it. We even watch facial expressions as the content is consumed, because we’re constantly looking for that validation.”

Another test Cleve uses to see if the video is remarkable is “shareability.” “Would they want to share this video with someone they love (even though they can’t)?” asks Cleve. “If it’s not sharable, it’s not memorable.”

10. Track engagement and improve

If employees are all dropping off at a certain point or losing interest after the first 5 minutes of an hour-long training, Cleve investigates further.

“I’ve been producing video for 7 years in the education space, and before using Wistia, I didn’t even bother to look at stats,” says Cleve. "Now I’m not sure what I would do without tools like Wistia’s Engagement Graph. All of the information we were getting with YouTube felt limited, and just didn’t apply."

Pro tip: Analyze your Engagement Graphs. Put yourself into the shoes of the viewer, and ask, “Why did they rewatch this section? Were they confused? Did they want to learn more? Or are they just entertained?.” With these types of videos, rewatches are often signs that you need to build out more in-depth content around a specific training topic.

Cleve sees video as a necessary component for training employees in an engaging and effective manner. “Our mission is to communicate a consistent message around product knowledge in a way that’s not only engaging and remarkable but empowers our Member Services Associates to guide our members through whatever it is they need. We wouldn’t be able to accomplish this without video, and even more so, being able to add emotion can ensure the knowledge transfer is sticky,” says Cleve.

Jenny Coppola


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