Want to Engage Employees? Use Video

Medium fosters a culture of engagement, innovation and purpose

By Ari Bixhorn May 16, 2014
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In recent years, changes in technology and culture have made video an increasingly valuable tool for organizational learning.

Spurred by the commoditization of video cameras in smartphones and laptops, the cultural normalization of social video among Millennials, and the rise of virtual teams, we’re fast approaching the point at which it will be easier to share knowledge with video than it is with text.

Video can be far more than just another supplemental training tool. Video can break through organizational communication. It can accelerate innovation and creative problem solving. And it can give employees a greater sense of connection and purpose within their organizations.

When video is used as a companywide asset for knowledge sharing and communication, its real value is in cultivating a healthy workplace culture. Here’s how.

Empowering Employees to Be Seen, Heard

When employees have a new idea, how do they share it? In a traditional organization, they may discuss it with their manager, who can, in turn, run it up the management chain for further review.

But what about all of the other people across the company who could contribute to an idea—refining it, expanding its scope or simply offering support to see it come to life? Too often, tightly controlled communication models and management hierarchy inhibit the flow of ideas across team boundaries.

Video is changing that, and it’s expanding the scope of impact employees can have within an organization. A few years ago, Microsoft launched an “internal YouTube” channel that allows employees to record their ideas and share them with co-workers. Within three years, more than 10,000 videos had been posted to the channel.

Employee-generated video fosters a sense of individual contribution and empowerment. It enables everyone, regardless of rank or title, to share their ideas and insights in a way that has traditionally been reserved for higher levels in the organization.

Fostering Continuous Innovation

In a study from Indiana University, a team of cognitive scientists reported that the most effective way to drive innovation is not through sudden flashes of insight, but rather through simple imitation and incremental improvement. People innovate by observing the subject matter experts around them, learning from them and then applying their own improvements to the original solution.

Many employees are continually testing and finding new ways to be more effective. The key to turning those improvements into organizational best practices and competitive advantage is sharing that knowledge with others.

When organizations encourage employee-generated video, they recognize that every employee is a subject matter expert in something and that sharing that expertise will lead to a virtuous cycle of imitation, improvement and innovation.

Giving Employees a Sense of Purpose

Successful companies know that a clearly stated purpose (beyond financial performance) is critical to driving employee loyalty.

Yet simply stating organizational purpose isn’t enough. To inspire employees, leaders at all levels need to connect their teams’ day-to-day activities with that mission.

Video can help.

Short videos recorded by managers and executives can draw this connection in a way that engages and motivates their employees. Fortunately, for most executives, using video to communicate isn’t new. According to Cisco Systems Inc., four in five executives already use video on a weekly basis.

The opportunity then is to make video more than a simple medium for communication, and to use it to inspire a greater sense of meaning in the workplace.

Ari Bixhorn is senior vice president of Panopto, an international software company based in Pittsburgh, Pa.

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