The YouTube revolution and growth in broadband Internet access have not been lost on the HR/benefits community.
Online videos can reach a mass audience. For that reason, more large employers are creating online videos for their intranets. Some companies are even using their executives, workers and human resource staff members to star in the videos.
Experts say online videos allow companies to deliver clear and consistent messages about workplace engagement, benefits and open enrollment.
Video as a medium also addresses all learning styles and meets the needs of a multigenerational workforce. "It delivers customer service from the good old days with technology of tomorrow," says Dora Judy, the director of total health management at Bon Secours Health System in Maryland.
Bon Secours employs more than 16,000 workers who are spread across seven states. The organization's intranet houses a Web portal with an educational video library. Employees can go online and view professionally produced videos that cover topics ranging from the Family and Medical Leave Act to how copays work under the company's health insurance plan.
"When you work in an organization that is 24/7, it's very hard to get everyone in a room and go through information. Offering online videos provides us with that opportunity to consistently communicate with employees, regardless of where they are," Judy explains.
Being in the health care field, "it's important that our workers understand their benefits. That's really what brought us to online videos as a communication tool," she adds.
In June 2008, McKinsey, the business consulting firm, conducted a survey on Web 2.0 technology.
The survey, which polled 1,988 executives from around the world, showed that 20% of executives at North American companies indicate that having video sharing capabilities on their intranets was important to the company; 26% of executives in India and 19% of senior managers in Europe shared a similar view.
In addition, U.S. Internet users watched a whopping 11 billion videos in the month of April alone, which is 71% of the total Internet audience watching videos online, according to industry research. That means your U.S. workers are probably used to the format.
Naturally, the ability to create, host and share online videos is shaking things up in the corporate world.
Bon Secours reached out to the company Benefitfocus for assistance with producing, delivering and hosting online video content. Based in South Carolina, Benefitfocus, a health care benefits software provider, operates a production studio and postproduction facilities similar to a television station.
The company will visit employers' facilities to film HR managers and executives explaining the benefit offerings.
"We are about to launch some significant wellness initiatives, so we will actually use our executive vice-president as talent. In the video, he will explain the importance of employees taking care of themselves and the value of them identifying their health status and working with their doctors to ensure that they are treating chronic conditions that they might have," Judy says.
The technology to support online videos may mean companies will have to shift or split out money earmarked for employee communication programs, but in the end, "you are getting a bang for your bucks by using online videos," she adds.
Before setting up an online video library on an intranet, employers need to make sure that their IT infrastructure can sustain a high volume of video streaming, so that videos don't take forever to download.
It's key that organizations "understand the science and technology of video hosting and streaming, so that the end-user can download the video quickly," says Shawn Jenkins, president and CEO of Benefitfocus.
That means, in part, that human resource and benefits professionals will have to become conversant in digital bandwidth and video compression issues.
For example, if an organization is trying to explain certain aspects of its health plan, it's probably best to create a string of videos. "When you are watching a video online, you want it to be brief and concise," explains Jenkins.
One long video, running up to five or six minutes, may make some employees lose interest in the content. The message has to be broken down so that it's communicated in a logical narrative.
Using online videos also allows employers to track which videos are being watched all the way and which ones are being stopped before completion, perhaps because they are not useful or effective in grabbing the viewer's attention.
Such instant feedback grants employers the opportunity to instantly update or revise their messages as needed.
Employees as talent
"While technology has made things more efficient, it has also made life more hectic and busy," says Jim Kelly, U.S. brand leader at Pricewater-houseCoopers.
Consequently, employers feel obligated to respond 24/7 to workers looking for fast and succinct answers to their benefit questions.
Organizations have to be respectful of that, so the online video "medium becomes a very viable way to communicate to employees," adds Kelly, who is responsible for all creative aspects of internal and recruiting communications at PwC.
The accounting and business consulting firm produces an online video series called "The Firm," which utilizes employees as on-screen talent.
The series is in its third session and consists of five to seven videos broken out into segments. Each segment focuses on a corporate message that the company would like to emphasize to workers - for example, the importance of teamwork, coaching and performance appraisals.
The videos are done in a tongue-in-cheek manner similar to the off-beat humor of the television show "The Office," explains Kelly. With online videos, workers are not looking for information presented by talking heads or in a lecture-type fashion. They would prefer to grab information from their peers and fellow workers.
Kelly believes that this brings an authenticity to the message presented online."The employee can say 'I understand where that person is coming from because I am in a similar situation,'" he explains. L.C.B.
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