Why video is a great way to engage staff

Internal video communication is on the rise. Here’s why—along with how and when to use it.

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, a moving picture is worth much more: employee engagement.

There’s no doubt video is on the rise as a means of engaging staff. Seventy-one percent of communicators produce videos to communicate with employees, and 72 percent plan to increase their use of video, according to a survey.

“Communicators are competing for both [employees’] time and their emotional buy-in, with distractions from social media to the thousands of emails in an employee’s inbox,” says Mike Merit, vice president for customer success at Kontiki, a cloud-based provider of enterprise video solutions.

Unlike print or email, video is a way to show there are real people behind corporate communications and important messages, adds Scott Kallstrand, senior manager for internal communications at real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle.

“Nonverbal cues, like facial expressions or gestures, can help convey a specific tone that is absent with email or traditional print communication,” he says.

FREE white paper: How to reach and engage remote employees using video

When to use video in the workplace

Some messages make for more engaging videos than others. If a topic can be viewed as complex or even dull, video can make it fun, engaging, and an effective way to communicate your key messages concisely.

For example, SAS, a business analytics software and service company, uses “explainer” videos to help put complicated terms, products and ideas into simple language, says Lisa Arney, internal communications video program manager.

When the company adjusted its medical plan last year in response to the rising cost of health care, it created a series of four-minute videos. The first featured the vice president of human resources, who discussed why the changes were being made. “It was our most-watched video of 2013, with nearly 9,500 views,” Arney says.

In a second video, an HR benefits analyst used props such as a dollhouse and a toy car to offer an analogy of how deductibles work in health care just as they do with car or home insurance. She also used different colored Legos to illustrate which portion of the medical expense the employee would be responsible for under the new plan, and what portion SAS would cover.

“The visual of the colored Legos was particularly effective because it enabled employees to see how much the company would continue to pay even with employees sharing a larger portion of medical costs than they had in the past” Arney says. This video was SAS’ second-most-viewed video of 2013, with 8,300 views.

At the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, videos that share employee experiences and generate a sense of collective pride create more engagement than videos from leadership, says Jocelyn Sims, the internal communications team lead at the bank. In a video focused on the bank’s corporate social responsibility efforts, for instance, employees talked about the bank’s commitment to CSR, the various volunteer opportunities and initiatives available, and examples of CSR in action, she says.

“The passion and dedication of those interviewed was palpable, and it really showed a side of the organization that some employees might not know about, especially those who were new to the bank,” Sims says. The video was shown at its town hall, which has the most employees present, and it later was posted to its intranet.

Kontiki has seen its clients use video in several scenarios that work well, one of which is to communicate best practices.

“La Quinta held a contest where employees submitted their best practices—everything from ‘remember customer names’ to ‘provide a personal touch in the room,'” Merit says. “They made videos out of the top submissions and sent them out to all employees.”

When to avoid using internal video

Although videos done well and in an appropriate scenario can work well to engage employees, it’s not always the best medium for every internal communication.

“Video is one communication tool among many that should be employed for maximum results depending on the situation,” Sims says.

Detail-oriented messages, or messages that take a long time to explain, such as organizational changes, are best left to email or print, Kallstrand says.

“Employees are busy and want to digest information quickly,” he says. “A five-minute video with a talking head explaining a complex topic sends a message that you haven’t thought about your topic from the employee perspective.”

Before producing a video at SAS, Arney’s team goes through a series of checks and balances, asking themselves, “Would I want to watch this video?”

“If the answer is no, we offer another communication strategy,” she says. “Video is visual. Having people talk for five minutes on camera without any supporting b-roll or photos does not constitute a compelling video.”

Reaching out

Of course, video is also a highly effective way to engage remote employees as well, and is often a top priority for companies who use video as a means of communication.

“To engage remote employees, the most frustrating thing is feeling like headquarters doesn’t understand what’s really going on in the field,” Merit says.

To counter this, for live events, conduct polls and use a Q-and-A platform, being careful to include specific questions that speak directly to remote workers, says Merit.

To counter this for live events, he suggests you conduct polls that include specific questions that speak directly to remote workers. For on-demand video, consider using remote employees for content ideas or production.

“For example, GM trained employees in each factory to conduct ‘man on the street’ interviews, which were then edited by the video team in HQ,” he says. “Wells Fargo takes employee suggestions on video topics and does a newscast featuring them.”

‘Video is here to stay’

Do you get it yet? If you’re not using video to engage employees, you should be.

“Video is here to stay. If you haven’t started using video, experiment. Try creating some simple videos on topics that aren’t overly high-profile,” Arney says. “Learn the ropes of the equipment and the software so that you can master the basic fundamentals then sit back and watch the reaction you get.”

It may be more expensive than emailing or posting something on your intranet, but done properly, video can engage your employees and help build a better business Payette says.

“If you want to increase employee engagement, you owe it to your organization, your employees, and yourself to join the video communication evolution,” she says. “You’ll be happy you did.”

Download this FREE white paper on how to engage remote employees using video.

This is the first article in a three-part content series on engaging employees through video. This series, in partnership with Kontiki, offers tips and ways to improve your internal video communication.

With more than 100 million videos delivered in more than 170 countries annually, Kontiki has enabled companies worldwide to achieve enterprise-wide reach and engagement on their existing infrastructure with its proven, simple, low-cost enterprise video platform.

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