The world is always changing. Successful companies change with it—but this strategic agility requires a commitment to learning that never stops. In fact, corporate learning and staff development are key differentiating factors between businesses that thrive and those that struggle.
An effective corporate learning program produces many bottom-line benefits, including but not limited to the following:
- Successful employee onboarding
- Improved employee performance
- Continued professional development
- Performance consistency between employees
- Higher standards for productivity
- Greater workplace safety and work quality
- Better employee retention
- A more positive corporate reputation
So what’s the difference between a strong corporate learning program and one that’s just going through the motions? Start by looking at your educational materials themselves. A key element to success in corporate training is engaging content that’s easy for every employee to access, regardless of individual learning styles and differing sets of barriers.
Each employee is an individual; learning materials must take this wonderful diversity into account, giving everyone a choice about how to engage. In short, it’s time to move beyond the static slide decks and tired worksheets. One way to make the leap is to appeal to the human brain’s facility with a fundamental form of communication: Speech.
ReadSpeaker’s speech technology helped one top training technology provider reduce costs and improve learning outcomes. Read the case study to learn how.
Speech-Enabling as a Key Element of Corporate Learning Course Design
Over the past several years, businesses have shown a growing desire to make learning solutions more relevant to the workplace—including a more efficient delivery process.
Instructional design has become critically important for helping individuals learn and retain material effectively. Whether redesigning corporate learning courses, developing entire courses or curriculums, or creating training materials, content must be engaging or knowledge retention will suffer.
The consequence of poorly onboarded and trained employees can result in subpar performance, attrition, regulatory failures, safety hazards, and lack of employee development, just to name a few. Better course design avoids these consequences—and including speech as a training modality helps you build more effective courses.
69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experienced great onboarding.
The simplest, most cost-effective way to add this audio element to corporate learning materials is to use text-to-speech (TTS), which instantly speech-enables all of your written content.
We talked to Michelle Arentz, fractional Chief Learning Officer and founder of Lazarus Learning LLC, about the benefits of TTS for corporate education. Here are some of the advantages she named:
1. Better Learning Outcomes for a Diverse Employee Base
Text-to-speech technology represents a tremendous opportunity for text-intensive corporate learning content to become more engaging and consumable for employees who have learning disabilities, are learning in a second language, or are always on the go, multi-tasking, and pressed for time.
Text to speech is used widely within higher education and learning management systems, where it’s imperative to offer learners bimodal delivery of content—for example, written content they can listen to while reading along.
That educational dynamic also applies to the corporate learning environment. Not only has TTS been shown to increase comprehension and retention of material, it also meets the needs of a larger percentage of employees, such as those with visual impairments, people with cognitive or reading difficulties, and auditory learners who simply retain more information when they hear it out loud.
2. Quick, Affordable Updates to Learning Materials
Without TTS, you’re stuck recording human voice actors to bring speech to your courses. That’s expensive, slow, and often inconsistent, Arentz said.
“In a recording session, audio settings can be off base,” she said. “And if I record my voice on two different days, it can sound very different, too. So not having to record and re-record actors can be a big advantage.”
Text-to-speech tools allow you to update content on the fly, which can help keep your learning materials fresh and accurate—and that’s important, Arentz said.
“Let’s say you changed a policy. Let’s say you created something new,” she said. “Things are changing in business all the time. That means you need to keep course material fresh, which is also a good practice.”
Text to speech in all its forms makes updates as simple as revising a script. That’s a much more effective prospect—both in terms of cost and production timelines—than recordings (and re-recordings).
3. Built-In Script Testing in Pre-Production
Every speech-enabled course starts with a script. But we don’t often write the way we speak, and that can lead to clumsy, ineffective audio content. With TTS available in your course design/corporate learning platform, you can script-test all your drafts before you go into production: You can listen to each line of dialogue as you write. This pre-production script-testing saves a lot of resources compared with post roll-out edits.
“Make sure you have a pass-through—a rehearsal, if you will—before you produce your course,” Arentz said. “Sometimes, your script looks okay on paper, but when you actually hear it, it’s not the same experience. Script-testing with TTS makes sure your script will sound the way you want it to sound.”
So what’s the best way to bring these TTS benefits to your corporate learning projects? We talked to Arentz about that, too.
How to Use Text to Speech in Corporate Learning Course Design
It’s not enough to simply add a TTS plug-in to your training system. To get all the benefits of TTS as a fundamental part of corporate course design, you need a smart, intentional integration.
We asked Arentz what makes a great TTS system for corporate learning courses. Here are some of the features she recommends:
1. Multilingual Support
Learning content should be accessible to global learners and to those who do not speak the language fluently. Employees should have access to tools to translate text into their native language and produce audio in multiple languages.
“Are you reaching your audience through the language they understand best?” Arentz said. “If you can generate multilingual material, you have a much better chance of effective communication with your audience.”
2. The User’s Choice of Compelling, Lifelike TTS Voices
Put simply, TTS voices should sound good. That might mean something different for everyone, so it’s helpful to give users their choice of lifelike and interesting TTS voices.
“Static, boring, uninteresting content is not great for learners,” Arentz said. “Make it more dynamic, more interactive, more compelling.”
The ability to choose between multiple TTS voices helps with these goals. It’s also important to steer away from robotic, monotone voices, Arentz said.
“We communicate a lot through tone. So the ability to have TTS speech that varies tone like a human speaker is great for auditory learners,” she said. “Remember, not everybody learns well just by seeing things. A lot of people need to hear it, too.”
3. Multiple Ways to Access TTS Audio
Some TTS engines require you to download an audio file, usually an MP3. Others bring streaming TTS to online content in real time. For the most flexibility in course design, choose a TTS provider that offers both options. Learners can toggle on TTS to listen to content while they read. Or they can download the speech file for offline listening, continuing the learning journey anywhere, and at any time.
Adaptable TTS delivery makes it easy and cost-effective to update content for presentations, training manuals, and learning courses—without the expense and delays associated with recording human voice actors.
4. Many TTS Voices, Representing a Wide Range of Identities
Multiple TTS voices—male, female, and gender-neutral—with different languages, dialects, accents, and speaking styles, serve the unique needs of each individual in your diverse audience. Choose a TTS provider that gives you a wide range of choices as to who a given TTS voice calls to mind.
“We, as human beings, have variety, and appreciate variety,” Arentz said. “Isn’t it nice to have different voices being heard? We might respond more to a certain range, pitch, tone, or accent, and it’s important to have multiple voices with accents that speak your language correctly.”
With lots of TTS voices to choose from, users can pick the ones they respond to. Variety also opens up new possibilities for course design, like crafting scenes featuring multiple characters.
“I’ve done online learning content with different visual characters,” Arentz said. “Say you want a dialogue between two characters. With TTS, you could pick which voices represent the two people talking, and the audience gets it intuitively.”
5. Personalized, Updatable Pronunciation Dictionaries
Even the best TTS engine can struggle to accurately pronounce acronyms, names, and industry jargon. The solution is to choose a tool with a custom pronunciation dictionary, updated to ensure accurate speech for your company alone.
“Everybody’s got buzzwords and acronyms,” Arentz said. “How can you teach the TTS system to pronounce these things correctly? You need the ability to create a specific dictionary, so learners always hear the right word.”
6. User Control of TTS Speech
Corporate learning courses are more effective when learners have control of the content. They may wish to listen to a key sentence a few times over, or skip the sections they’ve already mastered. Not all TTS engines give users this level of control. Choose a TTS tool that does, with select-to-hear functionality and simultaneous speech and text highlighting for a bimodal learning experience.
“If I’m seeing words on the screen, how does that compare to what I’m hearing?” Arentz said. “You need to make sure these things are aligned, and you need the ability to control what you see and hear, and when.”
7. Compatibility With A Broad Range of Technologies and Learning Platforms
You can’t get the benefits of TTS if it doesn’t work with your technology stack. The first question to ask any TTS provider is how the service is delivered—is it cloud-based, or does it live on the user’s server? Can it be embedded into devices for offline use? Given that your technology will change over time, it’s safest to choose TTS services that deliver synthetic speech through as many technologies as possible.
More specifically, TTS must integrate smoothly with the platforms you use to deliver learning content, Arentz said.
“What platform are you building your course in?” she said. “How are you delivering your content? Do you have a learning management system? If you’re trying to do text to speech, will it be compatible with whatever your course-generating technology is?”
If the answer is “no,” you need a different solution—a solution like ReadSpeaker, which integrates with all leading learning management systems, and offers TTS engines through the cloud, on servers, and embedded in devices.
With the latest text-to-speech tools, employers can help to make content more engaging and easier to access while helping to ensure employees understand and retain training and learning material. ReadSpeaker’s TTS solutions offer all the features listed above, and more. They’re the ideal tools for boosting the effectiveness of corporate learning projects.
Read our White Paper, Boost Corporate Learning Success with Text to Speech, to learn how ReadSpeaker’s text-to-speech solutions can increase the success of your corporate learning program.
Want to see what text to speech would look like for your organization? Contact us for a demo.