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So, you’re hiring 75,000 staff for one day only; you have just 15 minutes for face-to-face training, there’s a 50-page process to learn, their managers have no more than ten days experience themselves. And any one of them could put you on the front page of The Australian tomorrow morning. How does it feel? The AEC knows!

Unreal Films’ focus group research indicated that the polling officials needed to see not just how to do the job correctly, but perhaps more importantly, how to handle the enormous range of unpredictable problems and complications many would inevitably face. But how can you address such a long list of low-probability, high-risk possibilities?

The answer was to focus instead on building expectations and organisational culture around practical strategies for staying plugged in to the “by the book” process, while being prepared to seek help when it was needed. This required a significant tweak to traditional “all-knowing leader” expectations that the audience told us about; the film gently but quite emphatically demonstrates a new, modern way of managing (and of being managed) in this environment. And, very importantly, this gentle challenge is shown rather than told, its effectiveness demonstrated in practice by one of their own, in a super-realistic Election Day simulation… finger-wagging injunctions from head office were clearly not going to be effective, and may have backfired.

Each DVD featured a menu that provided a different edit of the film depending on the viewer’s role selection. This means that an ordinary issuer, for example, would see a 15-minute edit of the film covering content relevant to them, while a manager would see a 35-minute edit that covers a longer time span and goes into more detail about preparing and running the polling place. This innovation allowed Unreal Films to make the best use of all the film and save time for viewers by only showing them the information they need to do their job effectively.

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