This article was produced in partnership with Qumu.
When the global company Praxair offered technical instruction in the past, an expert would fly to scattered locations and teach his colleagues face-to-face.
Recently, however, an engineer at the company―which separates air into nitrogen, oxygen, and argon for commercial use―demonstrated how video has changed communications.
He aimed a camera at a PowerPoint presentation on his computer screen and recorded a training session, using his pen as a pointer, says Praxair’s Terry Bourgeois. The engineer uploaded it internally and emailed the URL to relevant employees.
Unpolished? Perhaps. But staffers got their training, Praxair could track who watched the video worldwide, and the engineer was spared weeks of standing in airport security lines.
Praxair, which uses a Qumu platform, is just one example of how the YouTube revolution has turned internal communications on its head. Productions can be as glossy or as amateurish as one wishes. What matters is spreading knowledge quickly at a time when employees ask for video when and where they want it.
“You’re really tapping into the wisdom of people out there in the field more than relying on people in central locations to push the knowledge out,” Bourgeois says.
While webcasts remain important, more organizations produce shorter videos employees can watch at a time of their choosing.
eBay uses video for major events such as all-hands meetings, which staffers can watch live and or view later, says Ryan Burnham, who oversees live webcasting, video production services and global enterprise technology.
The company increasingly produces shorter videos that are less taxing than an hour-long meeting. Some of these allow staff to “get to know another department within your organization and what they do day-to-day,” Burnham says.
“It’s a lot more relevant in real time than waiting a month or a whole quarter to get that information in an all-hands meeting,” Burnham says. “It’s quick. It’s conceivable. It’s digestible. It’s relevant. It’s focused. It’s all the things you’d want from a successful communication.”
Like others, eBay sees an increased push into mobile. And more and more it relies on user-generated video and plans to make mobile video available globally.
Raytheon Company, the defense and security giant, uses video to communicate with its 68,000 employees worldwide. The company began using online video even before the 2005 launch of YouTube, but it has seen a big change in the way employees consume video, says Mark Tarleton, manager of webcast operations.
Once Raytheon tended to webcast more of the town halls, but YouTube changed people’s viewing habits. Employees weren’t really paying attention to the time-consuming videos.
“The biggest competitor for eyes on the video is the job for which you were hired,”
Nowadays, the company makes a series of five shorter videos each quarter. It promotes them through emails with links to a micro-site and also on blogs where people can discuss the content. Viewership has increased over 400 percent.
Raytheon also makes short videos for specific audiences. Video offers a window on meetings with content others may be interested in.
Raytheon also brings in experts to record quick videos on software tools so everyone can learn how to use it. The expert says, “In order to do this, you go here, and bring this up and you type this in and you do that,” Tarleton says.
What viewers expect from a video has also changed. Tarleton has 25 years of production experience, yet at a time when people are used to smartphone video uploaded to the Internet, they don’t demand the slickness of the past.
“While there’s a place for the professionally produced video, for it to be of value to the company, it doesn’t have to be perfect,” Tarleton says. “It doesn’t have to have huge production value. It just needs to be good enough.”
Another communicator who uses internal video creatively is Dow Chemical’s Chris Duncan. Last year, Dow shot 353 webcasts and it makes myriad uses of internal video in other ways. Dow provides global video on demand, streaming and webcasting, and desktop video. The company reports on financials, and HR broadcasts about changes in programs and benefits.
“The easier you can give them information, the higher the likelihood they’re going to take action on that information,” Duncan says.
Like the Praxair employees watching the engineer’s pointer pen, Dow employees no longer expect a big-budget production.
“YouTube changed the landscape of what people would consume as acceptable video quality,” Duncan says. “Netflix reinforced that kind of, ‘I want to see it now. It’s always available.'”
At Praxair, video is moving to on-demand, says Bourgeois, who runs the knowledge management training program. This means video is available globally. Employees can beef up their learning when they want it, and they can play and replay a video. If they want credit for the viewing, they have to take a test.
“It’s fantastic in that you don’t have to worry about the schedule so much anymore,” Bourgeois says.
Praxair also uses video for critical messages from senior management, such as CEO messages about quarterly results. This allows staffers at remote sites to watch it.
“If there’s critical information that people at multiple locations need to know, and it’s important that that information is received in the same way by everyone, they’re using video to tape those messages,” Bourgeois says.
Video isn’t a panacea, he adds. Communications staffers often feel like everyone has been exposed to a message after they send out newsletters, email and links to websites. Often, that’s not the case.
He cites a business consultant who says, “The number one problem with communications is the illusion that it has occurred.”
What video does is add to other channels a popular medium that contemporary audiences are familiar with, Bourgeois says. The more channels you use, the higher the odds are that you’ll actually reach your audience. Praxair’s views have grown to more than 4,000 per month.
“It’s starting to become a pull rather than a push,” Bourgeois says.