The use of video conferencing can be used to improve communication between employees, keep teleworkers engaged, transform internal education programs and help cut down on travel time for staff. Smart HR professionals can play a pivotal role in the use of these systems but they need to know what's out there and what's possible.
While the benefits of video communication have been expounded for many years, until recently the experience left much to be desired and was a technology of last resort. With the introduction of new, high definition (HD) video conferencing, video now offers an exceptional quality image over lower bandwidths, making it more accessible for use in home offices and on the road. HD also means that images are sharper and true-to-life and, with proper configuration, lets users see people in full size, replicating the feel of being together in the same room.
In addition to delivering an immediate reduction in travel expenses, companies that implement video communication quickly see gains in productivity and business performance thanks to improved communication, accelerated business decision cycles, increased employee morale and decreased turnover.
Video communication offers broad HR benefits to all organizations, no matter the size. Many companies start by installing HD video conferencing in the locations where employees travel to most, and often find that the systems pay for themselves within three to six months in travel savings alone. Conference rooms, executive offices, field offices and home offices can all be video enabled. The latest technology allows for mobile video devices to be taken on the road or streamed over the web, and for multi person calls of up to 16 locations without compromizing quality. This is in strong contrast to the days when video conferencing was confined to the boardrooms of top executives.
The most exciting aspect of video communications, however, is the way in which innovative HR departments are using it to redefine how their company does business. More and more, HR professionals are looking beyond cost savings and utilizing the wider application of video to serve their staff better and more efficiently.
Recruitment - Video can enable an HR department to reduce recruitment costs without losing effectiveness. By using video communication to meet candidates, interview times are not limited by travel or time differences and the team is able to look further afield for potential candidates, whether that be interstate or internationally. Bringing new staff on board and carrying out an effective and personal induction process can involve both HR and other senior managers that may not be based in the same office.
The adoption of video communication is important for those organizations trying to recruit the best candidates, particularly graduates. The next generation of staff is video savvy and used to video communication as a standard; delivering the technology they expect will help attract top people.
Training and staff development - Staff development and training are a significant but necessary cost for all businesses. For many companies, training courses can mean a few days out of the office, often in other towns or cities. HD video communications allows companies to bring in remote experts for training and continuing education, with instant benefit to the professional development of employees at a far reduced price. The true to life experience of today's video communications also allows highly technical training, such as medical and engineering training, to be successfully conducted remotely. Video enables remote talent coaching and more meaningful and frequent contact between staff and their mentors, no matter the location.
Business and HR communication - Business communication doesn't end at what we traditionally call the 'office.' New technology now allows video communication to be viewed on any desktop computer, streamed live over the internet or connected through portable devices while out of the office. This enables HR to take business communication to all staff, anywhere - whether they are in another time zone, on the road for business, out of the office sick, or those who may have special needs that cannot be met in a specific business setting. Important information, multimedia presentations and communication can be shared with all employees through HD video, and technology now enables video to be recorded and shared with new staff or replayed for those who need to review the discussion multiple times.
Rostering and staffing management - With HD video communications, staffing is limited only to an HR department's imagination. Staff at retail outlets can be complemented by having a video communications point at each branch, allowing a staff member at a central location to service customers during busy periods, no matter where they are in the country.
Reducing travel time for staff - Each meeting carried out over video conference reduces the need for a business trip, whether that be across town, interstate or international. For companies and staff using this technology, hundreds and sometimes thousands of hours are saved through a reduction in travel; the result is greater productivity during work hours and a more balanced lifestyle.
Greater employee collaboration - The simplicity of high quality video communications promises significant usage and value; with high level usage comes enhanced organizational communication and greater productivity. When using video communication, employees engage in the conversation more than when using just a telephone so productivity, efficiency and retention are significantly increased.
Team morale - Increased collaboration and communication between staff brings with it greater morale amongst workgroups. Staff can feel as if they are part of a larger team and not working in silos, and have more people with which to discuss and share issues and best practice. Video communications also allows for greater and more productive home working, with staff able to make valuable contributions while maintaining a happy work-life balance.
Creative teamwork - HD video communication allows geographically dispersed teams to share everything from rich media on the PC to hand-drawn sketches on a table; supporting creative collaboration between colleagues.
We are seeing video communications increasingly become a vital tool to support entire companies. Most often, this technology is not being driven by the IT department, but rather the HR team who see value in better and more personal communication across the business. HR professionals are supporting the intelligent growth of their organizations through the smart use of video, and will continue to be the major driver into the future.
About the author
Tim Fulton is the country manager, ANZ, at LifeSize Communications