Many people use YouTube and Facebook to achieve “15 minutes of fame” in their personal lives by making videos about their interests and enthusiasms. Now employers are encouraging them to do the same at work.
Reality TV has been a big influence, and everyone wants to be on camera now, says Vern Hanzlik, executive vice-president of Qumu, a video management software company. “Video is becoming a much more mainstream method of internal communications for companies, from the chief executive to junior employees,” he adds.
This was borne out in an international survey of 300 companies in February and March this year by Kaltura, another video management software company. Some 70 per cent of respondents said they regard video as essential for internal communication, knowledge sharing and collaboration.
More than three-quarters agreed that video provides a “nearly in-person” experience, making messages powerful in a way that written communication cannot and helping connect geographically divided employees.
The problem is video’s voracious appetite for bandwidth and storage space. “Video clogs up corporate networks, so you need the infrastructure for intelligent routing and streaming,” says Mr Hanzlik. This is the aim of products such as Qumu and Kaltura.
Bayer piloted Qumu last year when it held a singing contest to celebrate its 150th anniversary. It invited employees to upload videos of their performances to its corporate network, assess each other’s rendering of the specially commissioned song, share their favourites and vote for winners.
The contest was a huge success, attracting 200 entries and 680,000 viewings, says Thomas Helfrich, Bayer’s global head of social media. “It was unbelievable to see how excited contestants were, and the venues and styles they came up with,” he says.
“There were entries from more than 50 countries, including China, Mexico, Machu Picchu and the oldest stadium in Uruguay.” But they comprised 100 terabytes of data and there was no way Bayer’s existing network would have been able to cope.
Qumu handled the task so smoothly that Bayer has since adopted it for all its videos. Philips had similar success with Kaltura last November, when it asked employees to make videos of what the company’s brand meant to them.
The aim was to build staff awareness of Philips’ three businesses – healthcare, consumer/lifestyle and lighting. Again there was an enthusiastic response, says Paul Osgood, Philips’ head of internal communications.
A Philips employee in Brazil filmed himself cycling through São Paulo, contrasting a dingy and deserted neighbourhood, which felt dangerous, with a brightly-lit street where people were partying on the pavement. A female employee in the US made a video demonstrating how different her headphones made her life while jogging.
“People loved watching the videos and they went viral,” Mr Osgood says, but without Kaltura this could have brought down the Philips network. The software also lets Philips integrate the videos with its in-house TV channel, so that they can be viewed on TV screens by people working in factories where they do not have PCs.
Video management software makes the approvals process much more efficient, says Bayer’s Mr Helfrich. Many Bayer videos have to be checked for compliance and intellectual property issues such as copyright, patents and trademarks.
The software also provides better security than ad hoc systems built in-house. This was important at Bayer, where videos need to be stored securely for legal reasons and to ensure data privacy. “We wanted an application we could run in a protected environment with access restricted to employees,” Mr Helfrich says.
Ease of use is crucial for such software to be adopted widely across an organisation. The simplicity of Qumu meant that some 25,000 people had largely taught themselves how to use it by the end of the contest.
“We invested nothing in training beyond making a short online tutorial,” Mr Helfrich says. “It involved far less effort and education than usual when introducing new software.”
The next big step with corporate video, says Mr Osgood, will be giving staff access to it on their mobile phones. In the Kaltura survey, 75 per cent of respondents said that the ability easily to include video in corporate emails, social media and instant messaging would play an important role in the near future.
Employers are becoming much more receptive to the idea of their staff making and sharing videos, says Michal Tsur, Kaltura’s president and co-founder. “Three years ago, managers worried that employees might say the wrong thing, so their focus was on moderating, patrolling and reporting tools,” Mr Tsur says.
“But there has been a change in culture towards empowering employees. Organisations are recognising that communication need not be just top down, but can be bottom up, and that employees may have information that chief executives do not.”
Organisations have also realised that videos can help identify talent, spot charismatic employees and get more information from and about them, Mr Tsur says.
All this may be good for employees wanting to raise their profile at work. But as with other online activities, they would do well to check what they might subsequently be able to remove, should circumstances alter. Otherwise people may find their “fame” lasting longer than they bargained for.
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