Reading is inevitable. No matter how multi-faceted learning becomes with the spread of technology, no organization can absolutely evade from including reading material in its training stock. It may be in the form of training manuals, on-the-job-guides, compliance documents or information sharing books, some form of reading is, and should be a included as part of training because it serves the purpose of being a useful reference document for every employee.
However, not all reading material is welcome by employees. Most of them may consider reading to be a ‘boring’ activity and secretly criticize the organization for loading them with pages of text. True, you need your employees to read all of that stuff, but the strategy you must adopt is to convert everything possible into more favored forms of learning, and leave only the most necessary material for reading. For example, explaining a sequential process is far more effective by using an educational animation than it is by writing a full page of bulleted points.
Now, for the reading material. How do you keep readers engaged? How do you make sure that that manual sustains their attention beyond the first two-three pages? Here are a few tips to help you with that:
Grab their attention from the start
Instead of describing a general idea, start with a startling statistic or an intriguing story. Of course, the start or the story should directly relate to the employees’ jobs so that they may be compelled to read on further. Grabbing the attention from the beginning evokes that curiosity to find out how a particular problem could be solved.
Do NOT bore them
Read ‘Do NOT overload them with text’. Ever wondered why reading children’s story books is such a light experience and you flinch at the idea of going through a book about law? In the former, the spacing between words and paragraphs is generous, therefore it does not overload the mind with too much information too soon. Remember the mantra: less learning is always better than no learning at all.
Bring in the fun
No one is too old to have a bit of fun. Including fun-facts, employee anecdotes and first hand-experiences as side-text can be a great way to sustain their attention throughout the reading material. But before you do that, invest sincere efforts into finding content that would be successful in evoking and keeping interest. After all, hard work pays.
Be clear, not fancy
Good communication isn’t about always being very fancy with vocabulary. Rather than only focusing on making text concise (for example, by using complex words), it is better to be slightly more elaborate to make sure that what you are explaining is understood by everyone. Know your target audience well to understand what level of detailed explanation you need.
Get rid of abstraction
General ideas are too vague to be understood and applied. Writing in detail about what exactly goes into a technique, method or concept makes reading a more comprehensible experience.
Use images wisely
Don’t add images for images’ sake. Plan in advance and find images that reinforce the concept that you may be explaining in words. Screenshots, infographics, close pictures of employees performing a particular task—all these are a great way to summarize and give a visual understanding.
Give space for personal notes
Make sure you give some space for personal notes where employees can pen down what they may want to. If the reading is part of an eLearning module, add features to make it possible to highlight text or make side-notes and comments.
Conclude with an effective summary
End each chapter with a short list of 5-8 things to remember. Try to be as brief as possible here. Think of it this way: if you had just read your audience this summary, what would be the 5 things that you would take from this chapter.
Apart from these, as is with other forms (videos, animations, etc.) of eLearning, adding a personal touch and using a conversational style of narration allows readers to develop an unintentional emotional connection and keeps their attention on the page.
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