Learning & Development

How to Use Audio-Based Learning as Part of the Modern L&D Toolkit

Employees are more than a little screen-exhausted. Who can blame them? It’s common for a worker to move from laptop to smartphone and back again for more than 6 hours daily.

How, then, do you get your team members excited about training content? The answer is clear: You offer them eyes-free solutions in the form of audio-based L&D resources.

Valuable Screen-Free Learning for Your Employees

What’s fascinating about audio content is that it’s often overlooked in a corporate environment, yet teaching and sharing through audio delivery have been around for thousands of years. Consider the oral traditions passed down from generation to generation. People used storytelling techniques, vocal inflection, and even mnemonic devices to ensure collective knowledge wasn’t lost to the ages.

Perhaps this is why podcasting has enjoyed such a surge in popularity. Podcasts present audible ways to gather information—no screens needed. Some 80 million American consumers listen to at least 1 podcast per week, which is 10 million more than there are Netflix subscribers in the United States.

You might not have the resources to produce full-fledged podcasts as part of your corporate L&D programming, but you may want to think about moving toward a more blended toolkit that includes high-quality audio options. That way, you can get all the advantages that come when you leverage audio learning as one of your primary delivery vehicles.

Make Your L&D Toolkit More Accessible and Inclusive

Did you know that 30% of the population are auditory learners, meaning they learn best by hearing? Plus, they’re able to absorb and retain up to 75% of the information they listen to.

By having a variety of learning formats in your toolkit, including audio, you ensure there are tools for everyone, making learning at your organization more inclusive and accessible. This also opens the door for your staff to unlock knowledge anytime and anywhere.

One of the most appealing aspects of audio-based learning is that it doesn’t require a visual component, which means it doesn’t require you to set aside dedicated focus time to watch it. This makes it perfect for those in-between moments, such as when someone is commuting or exercising.

Yet another benefit to adding audio into your L&D lineup is that our brain tends to retain what we hear. Can you remember the first paragraph of this article? What about the joke a friend told you 10 years ago? According to the principles of the learning pyramid, people generally remember 20% of what they hear but only 10% of what they read.

Another benefit of audio is that it can be replayed again and again to improve recall, encourage critical thinking, and promote consideration. Rereading text doesn’t have the same effects. This isn’t to suggest that you should drop your written or video training selections; you should keep them as part of your holistic toolkit.

Here are some top tips for adding audio-based learning into the mix:

1. Present only high-quality audio training pieces.

Not all audio is equal. Strive to source and offer exceptional audio that features an engaging, conversational style that pulls in the listener. How will you know when you find great audio? Listen for audio with a compelling, rich tone that doesn’t skimp on vocal inflections. A wide range of natural vocalization variations enriches the message in addition to passing along the speaker’s intended meaning.

The better the audio, the more powerful it will be—not to mention easier to interpret. Additionally, your team members will be more likely to make use of the audio available to them if it sounds humanlike and not robotic.

2. Leverage audio-based learning during reflection sessions.

Have you ever sat through a training session in which the trainer asked everyone to read something at the same time? Some people read quicker than others. Some have trouble understanding what’s written. When it comes time to talk about the material, employees may feel reluctant to participate.

Audio is less awkward because everyone can hear the same clip at the same time. There’s no delay, and the workshop leader can dive right into participant feedback and reflection. Having a group audio experience can facilitate much deeper discussions without the distraction of engaging with written information.

3. Seek out device-agnostic audio material.

Your workers can’t embrace audio learning if they can’t access the audio. Therefore, make sure the audio resources can run through any device. Whether your marketing manager wants to listen on his or her phone, tablet, or laptop, the audio should operate smoothly and sound great.

If possible, try to make the rest of your varied L&D material device-agnostic, too. When training items are easy to find or download, people will be more apt to use them.

4. Make use of snackable audio.

The brain is a wonderful organ, but it has the tendency to check out during “overload” moments. Research has found that it can take up to 3 hours to consume a 1-hour training video, and people tend to mentally tap out after about 11 minutes on a task. A better approach is to provide snackable content in 10- to 15-minute pieces alongside longer podcasts or full-scale books. 

Remember that you can have longer audio bites in your toolkit, as well. Just expect some of your staff members to listen in short bursts. You may even want to encourage them to try mini-audio sessions so they can consume ideas efficiently when they have free time.

Ultimately, you want to respect and honor that everyone has a preferred learning style. By adding audio resources to your L&D playbook, you’ll help your people make important discoveries in their favored format. You’ll also be helping them upskill without forcing them to spend more hours in front of screens.

Kara Doak has over 20 years’ experience in talent development and the corporate L&D space and is currently leading Enterprise at Blinkist, a microlearning app that’s helping nearly 20 million people and over 800 organizations thrive by connecting them to powerful ideas in nonfiction bestsellers and popular podcasts via 15-minute text and audio.