There is a growing body of evidence that suggests employees respond better to visual forms of communication, such as videos and imagery. Improving the way you communicate with staff could also benefit your business.
Employees are faced with a constant barrage of email content both internally and from external customers and suppliers, and this can be pretty overwhelming at times and hard to manage. We send more than 280 billion emails every day. They are an integral part of how businesses operate and it’s not likely to change anytime soon.
Yet despite evidence that visual content is easier to digest - especially with the rise in popularity of memes and short videos - today’s businesses are twice as likely to be increasing their use of plain-text email over any other type of communication (including video, video calls, and social networks).
67% of employees are better at completing tasks when communicated with by video or text with images than by plain text.
But that’s not what employees need, or indeed want. There is a growing desire from workers for more visual content in workplace communications. Research undertaken amongst 4,500 office workers shows many businesses are sending more plain-text emails and that may be causing problems, not just on morale, but also on productivity and the bottom line of the business.
How visual communications impacts business performance
- 67% of employees are better at completing tasks when communicated with by video or text with images than by plain text.
- 47% of employees think their company relies on plain-text email to communicate.
- 50% of companies have increased their use of email recently.
- 25% of employees have received a video message in their company
Younger workers stated they are twice as likely as Baby Boomers to use images and video to communicate in their own time and they are two-times more likely to want more visual content (such as video and images) in workplace communications.
As a result, they are the most likely demographic in the workforce to have been demotivated by poor company communications. With Millennials and Generation Z now forming the biggest segment of the workforce, the onus is on businesses to step up and adapt their communications to be more visual.
The research also found that 47% of workers under 40 want to use more work-based networks (Slack or Yammer) as part of their role, a more interactive tool for information and knowledge-sharing. Thirty-four percent of all respondents said they felt held back because of the culture of their organisation and feel uncomfortable making their communications more visual.
The age old productivity and engagement issue
As part of the research project, our scientific study looked at how the brain responds to different workplace communications. The study tested accuracy, speed and understanding when processing work information.
A leading doctor in behaviourial economics monitored office workers on their completion of three everyday office tasks: uploading a post to a website; downloading new software; and filling in an expenses form. For each task, they tested how using visual and non-visual communication methods affected understanding, recall and speed.
Using visual communications at the right time and in the right way could unlock precious time, money and resources
Not only do they absorb the information better, they also do so 7% faster. Visual content also increases comprehension. Using text coupled with visuals instead of text alone increases accuracy by 8%, and using video rather than text increases accuracy by 6%.
This means that using visual communications at the right time and in the right way could unlock precious time, money and resources. And the benefits can be realised throughout an organisation, not just impacting on more positive employee experience but on marketing communications channels, customer service methods, L&D and even the recruitment process.
The research shows that in a business scenario, visuals prompt a deeper level of understanding and engagement, proving humans react to visual stimuli in the same way at work as they do in any other situation.
Those that fail to invest in more visual ways of communicating internally ultimately will struggle to educate and engage employees, which is dangerous at a time when many businesses are struggling to grow and attract the best talent.
What does the future hold for email?
Don’t get me wrong, email is the lifeblood of how we communicate professionally (and that will remain true), but with by adding screenshots or a short video to emails fosters better understanding and reducies the need for follow-up.
Employee expectations have been raised, assuming a level of excitement and interest in communication methods to enhance overall experience. At a time when resources are stretched and the levels of disruption in business can be overwhelming, the good news is that the shift companies need to make when it comes to communications does not require a fundamental change to operations. With the right tools, knowledge, and leadership support, incorporating visuals into everyday processes can be straightforward and will unlock productivity, creativity, optimism and profit.
How to improve your communications
- Use text purely for context: reduce the size and wordiness of an email using a photo or screenshot. They can be used to illustrate a point, a workflow, or even directions much more efficiently than words alone.
- Start small: think about small changes you can make to influence the email communication culture across your organisation. Experiment with imagery, graphics, graphs and even emojis.
- Get noticed: when collating content for a newsletter or sharing a progress report internally, try something different with a short video. You can talk through stats, results and insights, rather than sharing a standard report.
- Introduce another network: consider using a different communication method internally, such as Slack or Yammer, for certain messages. It will reduce the amount of items in your inbox and encourage a more visual, instant communication culture.
About Matthew Pierce
Matthew Pierce, Learning & Video Ambassador from TechSmith Corporation, has created videos for learning and marketing for over a decade. He is the lead behind TechSmith Academy and Camtasia Certification programs. Matthew has been a speaker at multiple learning and development focused and marketing conferences. He is a regular contributor to various training publications. Matthew has an MS in Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University.