Employee video deemed important, but smaller companies lack resources

Webcasts, video are gaining as ways to put a face on communications, survey shows. But some are scared off by the cost.

When executives at Ford Motor Co. want to communicate about quality with employees in meetings, the bosses can’t visit every event at the global automaker.

The solution? Video. Executives record a couple of live events, says Sara Tatchio, Ford’s manager of global integrated communications. Then staffers play the video to groups of employees at other meetings, with in-person answering of questions that arise.

“We try to be efficient with our resources,” Tatchio says. “What we’re trying to do is communicate with employees the way they communicate with each other in their daily lives.”

Ford isn’t alone. Nearly 90 percent rate video as “important” or “somewhat important” in their employee communication program, according to a survey from Ragan Communications and Ignite Technologies, “Engaging Employees with Video.”

This is the second in a series of stories on the survey, shedding light on the way video is transforming employee communications. A free white paper is also available.

In this series, video is defined as a live event streamed to desktops or mobile devices, and/or archived and posted to a portal for future viewing; a video created in-house or by employees; or a webcast, which uses a combination of a video feed and slides for employees to view in real time or archived and posted to portal.

Fifty percent of organizations with more than 5,000 employees say video is “very important to their employee communication program,” while 44 percent of those with fewer than 100 employees say that. The figure is 20 percent for organizations with 101-999 employees, and 38 percent for those with 1,000-4,999 employees.

[Download the complete white paper here for free.]

“News and information sharing is the primary reason [to use video],” wrote one respondent. “We use a combination of professional production and mini-cam production (Flip cam). Think TV news style reporting for news, as well as senior leader messaging.”

Webcasting? 58 percent of organizations produce employee-focused webcasts, including video and slides, the survey reveals.

Most organizations’ employee-focused videos are webcasts with videos and slides (70 percent). Fewer produce live-streamed events (45 percent) or just audio with slides (41 percent).

Large organizations more likely to live-stream

The Goliaths—organizations with more than 5,000 employees—are more likely to use live-streamed events (56 percent). Smaller ones with fewer resources are less likely to do this: 33 percent of those with fewer than 100 employees live-stream events. This compares with 26 percent of those with 101-999 employees, and 33 percent of those with staffs of between 1,000 and 4,999.

Even as hand-held quick videos become affordable for everyone, the survey indicates differences in attitude between large and small organizations, says Kimberlee Lueders, vice president of marketing communications at Ignite. Many Fortune 1,000 companies have in-house studios and the staffing to push the videos out. Smaller organizations can only eye such capability with envy.

“They’d love to do it, but it becomes just a ‘nice-to-have,’ because there are fewer resources to do everything,” Lueders says.

Videos add another dimension to a more personal and emotional dimension to communications, says Manfred, editor-in-chief of the cross-media platform at Hoffmann-La Roche, a Swiss pharmaceuticals company.

“In written communication, people consist of a name and a title, videos add a face and a voice,” Weber says. “Also, in a global, multicultural company, written communication sometimes also might lead to misunderstandings. We think that, for example, seeing a certain facial expression while hearing the related words reduces this risk.”

Of those doing employee-focused webcasts, most organizations (51 percent) produce 10 or fewer webcasts or live events a year; 40 percent produce between 11 and 100. Only 2 percent answered “none,” and 6 percent produce between 101 and 1,000. Cranking out more than 1,000 a year? Whew! You’re in an elite group of just 1 percent of our respondents.

Videos and webcasts connect with employees and drive home the message. The largest share—74 percent of organizations—use videos and webcasts to engage employees. Also, many cite the medium as an avenue for learning and development (63 percent) and employee interest (56 percent).

Nearly half (44 percent) use videos and webcasts to reduce travel costs. Are the bosses twisting your arm to make movies? About a third (34 percent) of those who use videos and webcasts are mandated by their executives to do so.

In the comments, several mentioned the need to engage a far-flung, even global, workforce. The reasons organizations use videos and webcasts do not vary according to their size. The leviathans are no more likely to have an executive mandate to use videos and webcasts than the Lilliputians do.

Barriers to webcasting

Barriers to producing employee-focused webcasts are similar to those that hindered employee-focused videos. Nearly 30 percent said, “We don’t have the equipment,” and 26 percent said, “We don’t have the necessary skills.”

Some see drawbacks to video. A survey respondent from a state agency wrote that video “takes away the interaction part that comes with a classroom style. Majority of the workforce is below high school level.”

Others (24 percent) complain that video takes too much time. Another 24 percent each said there are too many technical problems or that they had “no buy-in from corporate executives.” Bosses: Are you listening?

Of note, cost ranked low as a barrier on this question: Only 8 percent said it was too expensive.

“We are a manufacturing facility where there are 2,000 employees, most of which don’t have access to a computer,” wrote one respondent. “We would have to stop production to do something of this nature. A large portion of our population likes face-to-face.”

But costs can drive decisions. Many organizations approach videos as they do glossy sales brochures, says Drew Keller, president of StoryGuide.

“There is a lot of planning, lots of overhead, and lots riding on the success of their efforts,” Keller says. “It is difficult to change this mindset from big-dollar videos to smaller-scale stories. The production value of many internal videos doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective.”

Use of live-streaming

Clearly, you’ve got to learn your job, and bosses want a pulpit. In a tie: 65 percent of those producing live-streamed events say use video training and CEO communication, making these the two most common purposes. Other major uses include senior management communication (56 percent), and product or service announcements (49 percent). Another 46 percent live-stream town halls.

Swift, a cooperative that supplies secure software for financial messaging, uses live feeds for divisional gatherings, as well as an annual company meeting says, emerging media manager Innes Macleod.

“The divisional gatherings tend to be a mix of physical event and virtual participants—most recently for our marketing division,” Macleod says. “For the company meeting, this year (for the first time) the event was completely virtual: all our employees grouped in meeting rooms across the world; we had a series of panelists covered by seven webcams streamed directly to the audience.”

CEOs seem to get much of the glory in video and live-streaming. Swift, which also uses video for tutorials on tools and technology, publishes regular CEO video updates.

“Our CEO is an exceptional communicator who does quarterly team talks to a live audience and satellite offices,” wrote a video producer with a Canadian power company. “He also participates in and introduces our monthly video which focuses on various safety issues and current business performance.”

What are the benefits of webcasts? These are the big three, according to our survey:

communication with remote employees, alignment with goals, increased engagement and attendance.

How does that break down? Some 76 percent cited “improving communication with remote employees,” while 58 percent liked “alignment with company/organizational goals.” Forty-four percent felt their employees are more engaged with senior executives, and 42 percent liked the increased attendance or participation.

Benefits according to organization size

Big fish vs. the small fries? The smallest organizations—those with fewer than 100 employees—are more likely to see “alignment with company goals” as a benefit of webcasts (83 percent). For larger organizations, that drops. This benefit was cited by 63 percent of those with 101-999 employees, 60 percent of those with 1,000-4,999 employees and 58 percent of those with more than 5,000 employees.

That said, larger organizations are more likely to say their “employees [are] more engaged with leadership” than smaller organizations. This option drew hurrahs from 51 percent of the giants with more than 5,000 employees, while only 33 percent of organizations with fewer than 100 employees cited this. This benefit was listed by 41 percent of organizations with 101-999 employees and 42 percent of organizations with 1,000 to 4,999 employees.

“They now have the opportunity to be included whereas they did not before,” wrote one respondent.

Engaging remote employees

Do you have staff working out in the boondocks? Nine in 10 respondents report that video engages remote employees “somewhat well” (62 percent) or “extremely well” (28 percent). Only 10 percent think it’s a flop.

Some say it depends on the employees; video works well for those on computers but creates bandwidth problems on mobile.

And one joked, “Oh my stars. Salespeople HATE READING. Ha-ha. No, seriously. They love video.”

What makes a video good, as opposed to the duds that nobody watches? Make your viewers happy, don’t botch the production, and don’t leave anyone out: That’s the consensus of survey respondents.

Respondents say the top three factors for a successful employee video initiative are gaining positive feedback from employees (80 percent), having a good video experience without technical difficulties (71 percent), and making sure all employees can participate (58 percent).

Fewer (36 percent) cited analytics that met or surpassed goals. Not so important: interactive features within the video (13 percent) and post-event replies (17 percent).

A communicator from a Midwestern power company said the main factor for a successful employee video initiative is footage “that is worth watching and interesting. If it offers nothing for them they won’t watch it.”

Download the complete white paper here for free.

@r_working

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