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The latest report from TechSmith, The Value of Visuals, has revealed that:

  • Two out of three employees carry out tasks better when communicated with visually vs. non-visually (and they absorb information 7% faster).
  • Of all the six worldwide regions included in the research, UK businesses are the lowest users of visual tactics, but have the most to gain.
  • By using more visual aids, in a 40-hour week, employees could unlock more than 30 minutes in productivity — and for a business of 500, that’s equivalent to having seven extra full-time employees.
  • On average, this productivity boost could save businesses more than £800 per affected employee, per year.

The research concluded that using visual content in workplace communications is no longer a nice-to-have, but an essential that, if ignored, risks impacting on engagement and performance levels. Employees, including the visually savvy millennials, don’t want a continued focus on text-based information sharing, with a third saying their motivation levels have been affected by poor communications.

TechSmith CEO Wendy Hamilton said she’s not surprised that visual content helps people perform: “We’ve always known that visuals are essential to the effectiveness of communication, and therefore are essential to instruct and inspire. The essential findings of this study are, first, that visuals matter even more than most assume and, second, there is an urgency for leaders to adapt as employee demographics change.”

Practical changes

In a difficult business environment, there is an opportunity aside from the more conventional ways of tackling productivity that companies could employ — especially as older workers continue to transition out of the workplace. Investing in employees’ skills, R&D and focussing on transport infrastructure are necessary, but time-consuming and expensive.

Robert Beauchamp, an economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research, who facilitated the economic element of the research, said, “There will be some initial cost to implementing effective visual communications, but this is likely to be relatively small, presenting a rare opportunity to boost productivity quickly and easily.”

The human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text alone so companies need to think about whether it might be more effective to get their point across using an image instead of, or in support of, a text-only message. There are some practical steps that companies can take to start to move away from a text-only communication culture in the workplace:

  1. Start small: Have a think about small changes you can make to influence the communication culture across your organisation and experiment with more imagery, graphics, graphs, memes and emojis.
  1. Get noticed: When preparing for the launch of a new project, or sharing a progress report with a client, try something different with a short video. You can talk through stats, results and other insights, rather than sharing in a standard report or email (that might get overlooked).
  2. 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.
  3. Embrace GIFs: GIFs are certainly here to stay and whilst they are quickly becoming a mainstay in the way millennials communicate with each other, we mustn’t underestimate the value they can bring to a conversation. A picture paints a thousand words, right? So can a simple GIF.

Real-life examples of organisations that have adopted a more visual culture:

Integrity Data

A payroll and HR software business that, like a lot of organisations, regularly created traditional blogs, newsletters and similar content for clients. But they wanted a new way to convey their client communications to make them more engaging and to enable more personality to shine through. By introducing more frequent use of video, clients can now watch in one-minute what might have taken ten minutes for a client to read in a blog. Their communications are now more memorable, efficient and professional.

Referral Rock Software

A referral marketing company that offers SaaS. Their customer support and sales functions needed a more efficient and accurate way of handling customer software enquiries and troubleshooting queries. In addition, they wanted to bring their internal communications to life, such as company policies, software updates and project feedback between colleagues. By implementing a new screenshot methodology they eliminated the need for laborious written instructions and all the frustrations associated with miscommunication via telephone or video conferencing. More visual communication has saved valuable time, allowing them to better service their clients, better connect with colleagues, be more agile and do more with less.