Using Stories During Workplace Training Sessions

Storytelling in training is gaining traction. Once thought of as old-fashioned, it is now seen as a way to effectively help learners make connections during training sessions. Storytelling has been around since the dawn of time, but now it is being leveraged as a strategic training tool.

Does Storytelling Have a Place in Health and Safety Training?

Health and safety training is serious as it is often a matter of life or death. For that reason, health and safety training is usually fact-based. The success of the training is measured by whether or not learning outcomes were met and can be demonstrated. However, storytelling can serve an important function in health and safety training.

Here is a story that was told during the introduction in a recent health and safety training course that I attended:

“A lift truck operator was killed when his truck tipped and he fell out. The truck crushed him. He had twenty years operating experience. At home, he had a wife and three sons, 10, 8, and 6. He fell out of the lift truck because he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt when it tipped, and he never received safety instruction to remain in the truck in the event of a tip-over. The truck tipped over because the load the operator tried to lift was far heavier than the truck was certified for, but the operator had no idea, as the weight wasn’t on the pallet; he just assumed it was fine and attempted the lift. His family never anticipated that he wouldn’t return home at the end of the day.”

 Why Would a Health and Safety Trainer Tell a Story?

Stories help learners make an emotional connection to the topic:

Health and safety training should never be about using scare tactics. The trainer didn’t tell this story to scare the learners into complying with safe work practices; they told it so that learners can understand why they are there, and make an emotional connection to the topic and provide a reason to care about the training. A good story that connects to emotions also makes training sessions more memorable.

Stories demonstrate cause and effect:

When it comes to health and safety training, cause and effect are paramount. Most workplace accidents do not have a single cause, and effects of accidents can be deadly, devastating, and lasting. Stories demonstrate the relationship between cause and effect when it comes to health and safety. In the story above, the effects on the operator’s family are obvious, and his death’s permanence resonates with operators in the class.

How to Incorporate Stories into your Training

As a workplace trainer, incorporating stories may present a unique challenge. At most workplaces, everyone knows everyone, and will probably be able to easily determine who the story is about, even if you exercise discretion. Despite this, storytelling is still an excellent strategic training tool when used correctly.

Try incorporating storytelling into your training, and consider the following tips & tricks:

  • Know the audience, and keep stories appropriate, discreet, and on topic
  • Don’t tell a story that doesn’t illustrate what you’re trying to help learners understand
  • Don’t tell a story that is going to embarrass or unnecessarily put focus on another worker
  • Be sure to connect stories to course content
  • Stories need to be short and to the point
  • Involve learners in stories. Ask what they think will happen next, or ask them why the think something happened

Don’t have any stories, but want the benefits of telling one? Resist the urge to make one up. Most learners can see right through tall tales. If you want to help learners draw conclusions, make emotional connections, and understand cause and effect, try going through an existing case study using some storytelling techniques.

Occupational Safety Group Inc. (OSG) can Help!

Did you know that OSG has trained over 5000 successful workplace trainers? Trainers learn to deliver dynamic and effective programs when they take any of OSG’s Train-the-Trainer courses, which include a mandatory Train-the-Trainer Day where participants learn about adult learning techniques and effective program design. Let us help you train your workplace trainer. View our Train-the-Trainer courses today, or, if you have any questions call 1-800-815-9980 to speak with a Health and Safety expert.

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Written by Jennifer Miller | Curriculum Development Coordinator

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