When it comes to comms, it’s time to embrace the visual, says Matt Pierce.
In today’s always-on world the methods of communication at our disposal can sometimes be overwhelming. We receive DMs, voicemails, texts, and emails, and it’s often acceptable to choose to reply by a totally different channel, perhaps by WhatsApp or Messenger. And often we use nothing more than an emoji or two to convey our sentiment.
You could argue this is how many of us communicate in our private lives, but what about when it comes to training our colleagues and receiving materials we need to learn from and retain? The truth is, most of the business world is stuck in a 90s-esque time-warp of plain text emails and bland PowerPoint presentations, which can be less than inspiring.
But with the growing popularity of video channels such as 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 training environment it can provide significant advantages for employees and the bottom line of a business.
In recent research, it was found out that workers under 40 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.
The way forward isn’t to continue in the monochrome world of text.
Nearly half of younger workers believe their company is too reliant on plain-text email. And 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 making up the biggest segment of the workforce, there is an urgent need to adapt business training programmes to be more visual.
The global research also found that, for workers under 40:
- 53% find it easier to access training materials if presented visually
- 53% want more video learning
- 52% said current training methods at work were boring
- 34% said they felt held back because of the culture of their organisation and would feel uncomfortable making their communications more visual
Engaging the brain
But it’s not just about what people want. The scientific element of the global research project looked at how the brain responds to different workplace communications. It’s not enough to accept the needs and wants of the workers based purely on how they prefer to digest information.
The study tested accuracy, speed and understanding when processing work information. A leading doctor in behavioural economics monitored office workers on their completion of three everyday office tasks. 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, especially in transforming our training environment.
It’s becoming more common for organisations to adopt a knowledge-share culture, with employees creating and sharing short videos to walk through processes, share tips and ‘hacks’ and creating a much more fluid and convenient always-on network for learning and development needs.
You can see how this can really benefit companies with locations around the world and how it can be especially helpful for remote workers.
The research showed that 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.
What does the future hold?
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. The way forward isn’t to continue in the monochrome world of text.
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 and the training environment can be straightforward and will unlock productivity, creativity, optimism, and profit.
Practical training tips
- Start small: Have a think about small changes you can make to influence the training culture across your organisation and experiment with more imagery, graphics, memes and videos.
- Use text purely for context: Reduce the wordiness of an email or training handout using a photo or screenshot. They can be used to illustrate a point or a workflow more efficiently than words alone.
- Embrace GIFs: GIFs are certainly here to stay and are quickly becoming a mainstay in the way Gen Z and millennials communicate with each other. A picture paints a thousand words, right? So can a simple GIF.
About the author
Matt Pierce is learning and video ambassador at TechSmith