Employee engagement is a term we hear a lot these days which is becoming the top priority of internal communications (IC) departments. How do IC departments successfully reach their target audiences? What works? What doesn’t? Is there any new, magic way of “engaging” people?
A 2015 study published by HRN Europe states “Employee engagement” is among the top five challenges employees face at work. According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, only 13 percent of employees say they feel engaged at their workplace. This rather disheartening result means that actively disengaged workers (negative and potentially hostile to the organization they work for) outnumber engaged employees almost 2–1.
Path to Engagement: Shaping Communication
According to Communication ROI Study Report, over the past five years, companies with highly effective communication have had 47% higher total shareholder returns than firms with less effective communication. Organizational psychologist Dr. Ritika Srivastava emphasizes the importance of effective communication channels in organizations. She writes, “Communication is a powerful tool that can have an enormous impact on the success of any organization. Effective communication can increase employee engagement, boost workplace productivity and drive business growth. Communication is the cornerstone of an engaged workforce.”
Now that we have generations X, Y and Z trying to play well together on the same playground, engagement is tougher than ever. It’s crucial for IC departments to attract everyone’s attention, ensure words are received and remain in control of messages. To do this, they need to plan and execute various strategies that get results. Since the goal is to reach all employees effectively, communication channel matters most.
The firm Hollinger and Scott surveyed communication professionals about the channels they use. The survey found the top three most commonly used channels to be meetings, intranet, and e-mails. The survey also found “employee engagement” to be the biggest challenge in communicating with stakeholders, meaning that typical communication methods no longer work adequately enough. In today’s quickly-evolving business environment, face to face meetings are too time-consuming, posters and banners are not eye-catching for busy employees, and internal e-mails can be lost in cluttered inboxes.
According to another survey conducted by Gatehouse (“State of the Sector Internal Communication & Employee Engagement,” 2016), print is “in decline, video on the rise.” The survey concludes, “we expect many of the best intranets to be largely built around video in the coming years. Video is also seen as one of the most effective internal channels.”
Content is King, Video is its Crown
Video is being hailed by many as the future of content. Its value as a communication tool continued to rise in 2017, its growth directly proportional to the expanding mobile phone industry. A Cisco study predicted that mobile video traffic will account for 75 percent of total mobile data traffic by 2020.
“No more long, cumbersome marketing documents, no more boring presentations. Video is how companies and business should communicate,” says Mark Leaser, Worldwide Offerings Manager, IBM
Video is becoming a critical information source for senior executives as well. According to a study conducted by Forbes, more than 80% of executives said they watch more online video today than they did just a year ago, and 75% of executives said that they watch work-related videos at least weekly.
Not only has video become the preferred content form in social media and daily business dealings, but it’s also a new mode of IC, used to engage employees in an impressive range of ways.
Associate professor Gerald C. Kane of Boston College and Alexandra Pear, a senior at the same school, examine what makes video content so internally useful in their article “The Rise of Visual Content Online,” published by MIT Sloan Management Review. According to Kane, “Nearly 60% of all digital impressions are now driven by images. Visuals receive 94% more page visits and engagements than those without and elicit twice as many comments on average.”
For large organizations that want to launch new material internally, video is unquestionably the most efficient method. It engages people quickly and increases their understanding of the launch process by as much as 74%. Video also makes it easier to reach a variety of target groups. As shown in a consumer behavior survey conducted by Hubspot, video (55%) is the type of content to which people pay the closest attention, followed by social media posts (52%) and news articles (49%).
Driving engagement with motion graphics videos
When it comes to “engagement problems,” motion graphics solutions can do wonders for IC. “Motion graphics is basically . . . a combination of design, typography, and animation,” says Federico Ponce, creative director of multiple Marvel projects. “It’s not necessarily character animation and it’s not necessarily effects animation. It is more of a stylized approach to a solution to a problem.”
“Motion graphics videos work, simply because a new animation stimulates the viewer every 2–6 seconds, meaning the content dominates the external world,” says Tugrul Turkkan, the founder and CEO of Vibons, a community-based animation platform focused on corporate learning and communication. “It also engages the user by combining different techniques such as storytelling, infographics, data visualization, metaphors and dynamic and colorful motion effects.”
A growing number of companies have started using motion graphics videos to enhance their employee engagement. Boston Scientific used a series of short videos to tell employees about the launch of a new CRM assessment tool. Panasonic used videos to inform its employees about a new digital application called “On4Care.” According to Ylvi Buza of Panasonic, “Panasonic has seen customer participation and usage of the platform increase to five times as much [as before].” Vodafone, the British telecom company, has a similar story. They used video to explain and promote work-from-home options for employees. Koc Holding, a Turkish conglomerate, promoted its new benefits program, Flextra, to twelve different corporate groups via a three-minute explainer video along with a five-minute “how to” video. IKEA used an animated video to improve engagement with the “internal architects program.”
Four tips for improving internal communications via video
1. Less is more. Don’t exceed four minutes, since research shows that people rarely watch longer content. Achieve this by keeping it simple: stick to your core idea and remove any unnecessary information from your script.
2. Use storytelling. Explain core ideas (or ask your copywriter to do this) via stories and examples, since this dramatically improves information retention.
3. Use live action for shorter videos, animation for longer ones. If a video has a runtime that’s under 30 seconds, you could probably record it on your mobile phone and still succeed. Longer videos — or those about more crucial topics — , require post-production and animation strategies to ensure engagement.
4. Find a vendor that specializes in producing internal videos. If you have budget constraints, digital agencies may not be ideal partners. Start-ups like Vibons or Visually are good examples of more affordable, agile companies.
Given a choice between a short video or a long e-mail, which would you prefer? In our social and personal lives, we tend to choose video for information or entertainment. Perhaps it’s time to consider to take the same approach to our business lives.