By Matt Pierce, Learning & Video Ambassador, TechSmith
The methods of communication now at our disposal can sometimes be overwhelming. We receive DMs, voicemails, texts, and emails, and it’s often acceptable to choose to reply by another channel, such as WhatsApp, Messenger or even a Facebook meme. And often we use nothing more than an emoji or two to convey our sentiment.
While, many of us communicate this way in our private lives, when it comes to interacting with our colleagues, most of the B2B world is stuck in a monochrome time-warp of plain text emails and boring PowerPoint presentations. But with the growing popularity of YouTube and Instagram stories, and rise in use of communication portals like Slack and Yammer, we are becoming more accustomed to absorbing information visually than ever before. By encouraging a more colourful communication culture within the business world it can provide significant advantages for both employees and the bottom line of a business. And it’s the younger generations that we need to learn from.
Show me the evidence
In our recent global research project, The Value of Visuals, 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. Nearly half of younger workers believe their company relies too heavily on plain-text email. 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, businesses must 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. Nearly half have never received a video message in their company which seems unfathomable in a world where video is on the rise and is used regularly to communicate externally. Over a third (34%) of all respondents said they felt held back because of the culture of their organisation and feel uncomfortable making their communications more visual.
But it’s not just about what people want. As part of the research project, our scientific study looked at how the brain responds to different workplace communications. It’s not enough to accept the needs and wants of the workers purely based on how they prefer to digest information. The study tested accuracy, speed and understanding when processing work information. A leading doctor in behavioral 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, he tested how using visual and non-visual communication methods affected understanding, recall, and speed.
The results showed that 67% of employees perform better when communicated with visually compared to text alone. 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. We will always have a more visceral reaction to visuals than text. 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.
Whether we like it or not, 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.
- Start small: Think about small changes you can make to influence the communication culture across your organisation. Experiment with imagery, graphics, graphs and even emojis. Why not start by brightening up your next PowerPoint presentation?2. Get noticed: When preparing for the launch of a new project, collating content for a newsletter or sharing a progress report with a client, try something different with a short video. Talk through stats, results and insights, rather than sharing a standard report or email.
3. 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.
4. Embrace GIFs: GIFs are certainly here to stay and whilst they are quickly becoming a mainstay in the way Gen Z and millennials communicate with each other, don’t underestimate the value they bring to a conversation. A picture paints a thousand words, right? So can a simple GIF.