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Corporate Training Gets an Upgrade for the Facebook Generation

Dec 28, 2016

Ladder falls and truck accidents are no laughing matter on the job. But Walmart (wmt) hopes to prevent them with the help of a game. The mobile app, used by 80,000 of the retailing giant’s warehouse and logistics workers, features three-minute presentations about how to do routine tasks like driving a forklift. Employees are then tested to see if they remember the material.

During an initial six-month experiment with 5,000 employees, the number of injuries deemed reportable to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration fell by nearly half.

Results like Walmart’s underscore a growing interest among corporations in using software that organizes employee-training material into bite-size, video-centric courses for smartphones and tablet computers. Boring, long-winded lectures just don’t cut it with workers raised on the short, staccato pace of Twitter (twtr) and Facebook (fb).

“People are not patient for long-form content. They want to skip to the part they need,” says Josh Bersin, who advises companies about corporate training strategies for consulting firm Deloitte.

There’s big money at stake: Companies spent an average of $1,004 per employee on training and certification materials in 2014, according to Bersin. Cutting some of those costs and shaving the amount of time employees spend in training can make a big difference.

Over the past year, online payments company PayPal (pypl) has made a huge push to overhaul its employee-training programs by adopting more nontraditional learning technology. Social media plays a much bigger role because it’s easy to use and it’s where employees already spend a lot of time.

For example, PayPal created a private Facebook group where employees connect directly with invited experts—and one another—to troubleshoot. The company also encourages workers to use Twitter’s Periscope live-video service to watch short classes.

For deeper dives, like how employees can be better mentors, PayPal has tapped Udemy, one of several online-education outfits that provide professional training. PayPal workers can browse Udemy’s huge library of courses and follow them at their own pace.

Since these changes at PayPal, the number of “active learners”—workers who complete at least two training courses every six months—has doubled, says PayPal’s chief learning officer Derek Hann. At the same time, the company cut training expenses by nearly 25%. “It’s worth making the investment if you want top people to stay longer and do their job better,” he says.

A version of this article appears in the January 1, 2017 issue of Fortune with the headline "A New Mind-Set."

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