Is Digital Better Than Print for Training Employees?

by Tim English - VP Superior Business Solutions on May 7, 2020

Is Digital Better Than Print for Employee TrainingTraining is Learning – and People Learn Better with Print

First, let’s be clear: I appreciate the value of all things digital. They play a major role in our lives, and I access information digitally every day. But the COVID-19 situation that businesses are currently facing provides a textbook (printed) example of why they need access to quality printing services now more than ever.

As companies scramble to adapt to their employees working from home, there is something of a rush to deploy digital versions of company handbooks and training materials for new employees. Makes sense, right? It’s just so darned convenient. Have them watch a few of those dreaded “modules” and click a few boxes, and voila, they’re up to speed.

Or are they?

Remember You Read It Here

Not so fast, says a study published by the American Educational Research Association.  The study examined the impact that reading content in print has on retention versus reading the same material on a digital device, i.e., a “screen.”

The report, by authors Lauren Singer and Patricia Alexander, was called “Reading on Paper and Digitally; What the Past Decades of Empirical Research Reveal.” And to me, what it reveals is that those training materials had better find their way to print, pronto.

It’s a complex study, but the proverbial bottom line is that any length piece of text (more than a page) presents extra cognitive challenges when read digitally. That is likely due to the scrolling necessary to continue reading. The retention of information is negatively impacted. But in contrast, turning a page in a printed format presents no such obstacle and has no impact.

Confirmed by Common Sense

We’ve presented similar studies here in the past. They show that students retain material better when reading it in a printed textbook rather than online. Perhaps that’s due to the ability to make margin notes or easily re-read an earlier reference. (And I’m not sure there are studies to prove it, but I’ll bet it’s difficult to bend the corner of an important page on a laptop screen.)

Relate all this to our main theme today. If an employee learns better from printed materials, isn’t that a boon to your business? They are more confident in knowing what to do, how to handle situations, and follow corporate procedures. And they have a printed reference they can go back to as needed.

Time to rethink any employee handbooks or manuals that went “digital” because it was quicker and perceived as less expensive. (And if you haven’t done it yet, don’t.) Print-on-demand technologies (a Superior specialty) allow you to generate quality, customized materials in printed form in very little time.

Training That Connects with Employees, Wherever They Are

It’s true for those suddenly “working from home” employees. But it will also be true for your onsite employee training practices when this is all over. Training materials have only one purpose, and they accomplish that purpose more efficiently in print.

Superior was built on making businesses run more efficiently nearly 100 years ago, and it remains our primary focus. We hold an ISO certification that ensures that every customer is served with proven, rigidly maintained processes. And we have earned four consecutive Best of Print and Digital awards based on nothing but the reviews from customers who have reaped the benefits.

Contact Superior and ask us for a free print management review. To get better results from employee training materials, use print. For better results in getting those materials, use Superior.

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