October 8, 2013
When executives at Ford Motor Co. want to communicate about quality with employees, 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 employees at other meetings, with in-person answering of questions.
"We try to be efficient with our resources," Tatchio says. "We try to communicate with employees the way they communicate with each other in their daily lives."
Ford isn't alone. Nearly 90% rate video as "important" or "somewhat important" in their employee communications, according to a survey from Ragan Communications and Ignite Technologies, "Engaging Employees with Video."
In this story, video is defined as a live event streamed to desktops or mobile devices, 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 a portal.
Fifty percent of organizations with more than 5,000 employees say video is "very important to their employee communications," while 44% of those with fewer than 100 employees say that. The figure is 20% for organizations with 101-999 employees, and 38% for those with 1,000-4,999 employees.
"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 messages."
Webcasting? Fifty-eight percent of organizations produce employee webcasts, including video and slides, the survey reveals.
Most organizations' employee videos are webcasts with videos and slides (70%). Fewer produce live-streamed events (45%) or audio with slides (41%).
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%). Smaller ones with fewer resources are less likely to do this: 33% of those with fewer than 100 employees live-stream events. This compares with 26% of those with 101-999 employees, and 33% of those with staffs of between 1,000 and 4,999.
Even as hand-held videocams and quick videos become affordable, the survey reveals differences 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 staff to push the videos out. Smaller organizations can only envy such capability.
"They'd love to do it, but it becomes just a 'nice-to-have,' because there are fewer resources," Lueders says.
Videos add a more personal and emotional dimension to communications, says Manfred Weber, editor-in-chief of the cross-media platform at Hoffmann-La Roche, a Swiss pharmaceuticals company.
"In written communication, people exist as a name and a title. Videos add a face and a voice," Weber says. "Also, in a global, multicultural company, written communication might lead to misunderstandings. We think that seeing a certain facial expression while hearing the related words reduces this risk."
Most organizations (51%) produce 10 or fewer employee webcasts or live events a year; 40% produce between 11 and 100. Only 2% answered "none," and 6% produce between 101 and 1,000. Cranking out more than 1,000 a year? Whew! You're in an elite group of just 1% of our respondents.
Videos and webcasts connect with employees and drive home the message. The largest share—74% of organizations—uses videos and webcasts to engage employees. Also, many cite the medium as an avenue for learning and development (63%) and employee interest (56%).
Nearly half (44%) use videos and webcasts to reduce travel costs. Are the bosses twisting your arm to make movies? About a third (34%) of those who use videos and webcasts are mandated by their executives to do so.
Several respondents mentioned the need to engage a far-flung or 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.
Barriers to webcasting
Barriers to producing employee webcasts are like those that hinder employee videos. Nearly 30% said, "We don't have the equipment," and 26% 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 that comes with a classroom style. The majority of the workforce is below high school level."
Others (24%) complain that video takes too much time. Another 24% 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: Only 8% said it was too expensive.
"We are a manufacturing facility of 2,000 employees, most of whom 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 videos," 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% of those producing live-streamed events use video training and CEO communication, making these the two most common purposes. Other major uses include senior management communication (56%), and product or service announcements (49%). Another 46% live-stream town halls.
Swift, a cooperative that supplies software for financial messages, uses live feeds for divisional gatherings as well as for an annual company meeting, says emerging media manager Innes Macleod.
"The divisional gatherings tend to 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 employees 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 on various safety issues and 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% cited "improving communication with remote employees," while 58% liked "alignment with company/organizational goals." Forty-four percent felt their employees are more engaged with senior executives, and 42% 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%). For larger organizations, that drops. This benefit was cited by 63% of those with 101-999 employees, 60% of those with 1,000-4,999 employees and 58% 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 affirmatives from 51% of the giants with more than 5,000 employees, while only 33% of organizations with fewer than 100 employees cited this. This benefit was listed by 41% of organizations with 101-999 employees and 42% 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%) or "extremely well" (28%). Only 10% 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%), having a good video experience without technical difficulties (71%), and making sure all employees can participate (58%).
Fewer (36%) cited analytics that met or surpassed goals. Not so important: interactive features within the video (13%) and post-event replies (17%).
A communicator from a Midwestern power company said the main factor for a successful employee video is footage "worth watching and interesting. If it offers nothing for them they won't watch it."
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