So much of what we discuss as it pertains to corporate learning and development and more specifically eLearning, has to do with the business and technical aspects, but there’s one area that while it isn’t necessarily technical still leaves a big question mark for many training developers – how to use humor.
Humor is one of those tricky elements of corporate and organization learning. It’s a good tool to utilize because it can humanize otherwise dull and boring eLearning, thereby making it more effective.
On the other hand, however, it can really backfire, leading employees to feel turned off by the content and like it’s trying too hard which may actually decrease engagement.
So how do you find that right balance and use humor in a way that’s appropriate for corporate L&D?
- Don’t let humor take center stage. Yes, you want your content to be engaging, but ultimately the goal of training and developing your employees is just that – it’s not to entertain them. While you can throw in some humor if it seems appropriate, don’t let it consume you in the design and creation of your multimedia learning content. It’s best to put a little in if it feels natural, but don’t become overly concerned with making sure your content is funny.
- Be aware of your audience. Some people aren’t going to find certain humor funny, so consider your audience when you’re developing content. Your audience may come from varying ethnic, racial, geographic or generational backgrounds and if you have a very broad audience, the humor may be best left out altogether. Humor can tend to work best for a more homogenous eLearning audience, because they’re likely to share at least some of the cultural similarities necessary to find humor in particular elements.
- Rather than trying to create a stand-up routine, often humor can be most effective when it’s utilized in the form of a scenario or a story. When we think of humor in training and development it can conjure images of a traditional classroom instructor trying to warm learners up with a bit of a comedy show that generally falls flat. Instead, use humor more subtly when you’re telling stories or creating context. This is a great way to make your content feel more human and also capture the attention of your learners without making it seem like you’re trying too hard. You can draw from your own personal experiences, or speak to co-workers about experiences they might want to share when you’re developing this kind of content. This is also an important tip because it makes learners feel like the humor is actually directly related to what they’re expected to learn – humor that seems excessive or unrelated can actually frustrate learners because it seems like their time is being wasted.
- Have someone objective review your training content. You want to run it by another audience before presenting it to your learners. This is important to ensure content is concise and effective, but a third-party can also help you eliminate humor that doesn’t work with the tone of your eLearning or could even be offensive.
- Finally, the last big rule of utilizing humor in your learning and development is this: if there’s doubt, leave it out. If you have even a slight nagging feeling that your humor may not go over well, it’s best to just eliminate it. Whenever you’re creating training and development coursework, the best thing you can do is focus on meeting business and performance goals. If humor works along that path, great. If it doesn’t, it’s okay. You can find other ways to humanize your content, like using concise, conversational language and keeping information brief and to-the-point.
Do you use humor in your training content? If so, what are your tips for keeping it from falling flat?