How Live Video Business Communications Can Engage Employees

Walk into any company today — big or small — and you can easily see how technology has made an impact in how we engage with our employees. Workplaces are rapidly changing with a world of digital tools at our disposal. Parallel to that is a growing focus on creating a culture of transparency. As we move beyond traditional office spaces towards remote arrangements, how can we leverage live video business communications to build a culture of trust and transparency? Livestream hosted a panel with leaders in culture and internal communications from WeWork, DigitalOcean, and Publicis Health to address how technology can be used to engage employees.

Using Technology to Build Relationships

As a cloud infrastructure provider, DigitalOcean sources its talent not just within the country, but across the world. “We leverage technology extensively, including video technology like Livestream, to make sure that we’re building those relationships,” said Matt Hoffman, VP of People at DigitalOcean.

He added: “We have to create real connections to be able to work at our pace without being in physical locations. Livestream has allowed us to facilitate those authentic relationships through our team meetings and one-on-ones.”

A big part of DigitalOcean’s business is its developer community. With livestreaming, DigitalOcean has been able to connect with its developers around the world. “The idea that you are an equal member who is seen, felt, and heard drives engagement,” said Hoffman. The cloud startup hosts several meetups and speaking events throughout the year not just for its 500 employees globally, but for millions of others that build their products and platforms on DigitalOcean.

“We use Livestream to connect with developers around the world. At that size and scale, you really do need a platform like Livestream to do it,” said Hoffman. “It’s a great way of continuing to foster that developer-first mentality and share all the things we’re doing – regardless of where employees and customers are located.”

Being Human

It all goes back to that human connection, said Kipp Jarecke-Cheng, Chief Communications Officer at Publicis Healthcare Communications. Employees consistently have fundamental needs they seek to meet at the workplace, said Jarecke-Cheng. “They want to be supported and recognized, and connect and collaborate with each other. The greatest impact to come from technology is that people’s expectation of speed and accessibility have now changed dramatically,” he said.

Panelist Lucy Gao, Senior Manager of Communications at WeWork, a company which provides shared workspace and services, believes livestreaming provides a great showcase to both inform and inspire your employees. In addition to livestreaming its community and all-hands meetings, WeWork also livestreams the ‘Creator Awards,’ its global initiative to recognize and reward startups and entrepreneurs from all over the world.

“We want to make sure that our employees are informed, engaged and connected in meaningful ways,” said Gao. Following the recent natural disasters of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and the earthquake in Mexico, WeWork held a company-wide livestream with employees that were directly affected. “With the help of Livestream, we were able to go live with our General Manager [in Mexico City] and CEO. It became a really emotional moment for our entire company where we came together and listened to their experiences. With this technology, we were able to inform people of what’s going on not just at company level, but at an emotional level,” said Gao.

Be Intentional

Simply using engagement and digital tools like live video for business communications isn’t enough to keep employees excited and committed. You have to be intentional about how you use them in order to make true meaningful change, said Hoffman. He recalled the early days of DigitalOcean where communicating the company’s vision to 100 employees was much easier. “As you get bigger, the challenge is how do you make people understand your vision?” he said, calling on growing companies to think big and “scale up” in their communications to communicate those values in an authentic way.

“Do people feel like the vision of the business is aligned with theirs? Creating that sense of connection and communication is what drives engagement,” said Hoffman. “[Employees] are asking: ‘When good things happen to the company, do they also happen to me? Do they care about the things I care about?’ The more you create that authentic connection – and it does not require a physical location – the more you drive that engagement,” he said.

Assessing ROI of Business Communications

Asked about the return on investment of business communications, Gao said livestreaming has become so second nature to WeWork that it is now a must-have in its communications.

“For us, it has become such a part of our culture. We’ve been doing it so consistently and everything is always within budget,” she said. “If it’s going to really provide that connection with our global employees, it’s totally worth it for us.”

The speed of change in businesses today is so rapid, said Hoffman, that if companies do not invest in tools to really communicate to employees, the cost of inertia is “much slower agility and a real drag on efficiency.” Finding time to get people on the same page through business communications like livestreaming is imperative, he emphasized.

Flexibility to Go Remote

Technology has enabled employees to work away from conventional offices. But questions posed by the audience (shout out to our partner Slido for making it happen!) show some trepidation in how remote working can be arranged in a way that’s best for employees, and the companies that employ them.

The panel acknowledged that while the workplace is increasingly moving to remote scenarios, not every single role can be done remotely.

“For us, it differs, depending on the function you’re in,” said WeWork’s Gao, pointing to the company’s community team as an example. “It really depends on each team and how your manager sees it,” said Gao.

As technology changes drastically, “the option to work remotely is a meaningful one,” Jarecke-Cheng said. “When it works, it totally works.” He pointed to the recent New Jersey transit disruption over the summer which affected a significant number of his employees at Publicis Health. “For some, it tripled their commuting time, and so we sat down and looked into making alternate plans for work,” he said.

Leadership Buy-In

Ultimately, change must be driven by leadership, noted Jarecke-Cheng. Implemented that way, it imparts a very clear cultural message. “The first step is to recognize that workplace has changed and workers have changed. If it’s an idea that is modeled by leadership, it becomes ingrained in culture,” he said.

A member of the audience shared how “some thought leaders believe millennials require structure and are unable to work remotely successfully” and wondered if the panel agreed. To which the Hoffman challenged: “Working remotely is not for everyone. I don’t think it’s correlated with the year you’re born in. A good organization will judge you based on your work – not where you are.

Jarecke-Cheng added his perspective: “It is not a generational or age-specific issue. Some older people – or people over the age of millennials – feel like they’ve never had the opportunity to do the stuff that millennials get to do now, and that’s not fair. But you know what, you just have to get over it.”

The Mobile Workspace

The panel agreed that as WiFi speeds increase, new technologies that are enabled will become so ubiquitous that we will barely notice them in the workplace.

“The trend is unambiguously headed towards a more distributed workforce – whether it’s people working entirely remotely or people working in different locations,” said Hoffman.

“As people become more distributed, they are going to have to rely on technology. Interpersonal and emotional intelligence are going to become even more important as a result. As we become technology-enabled, building those personal relationships is going to become more important,” he said.

Gao added that data and research will dictate how the future of workplaces will be designed, as well as how spaces – ranging from desk spaces to phone booths – can be customized and optimized for the needs of employees.

Jarecke-Cheng has experienced first-hand how Publicis Groupe, a company that is over 90 years old, has embraced the idea of a mobile-first organization.

“One day we’re on desktop and the next day, we’re on mobile. In the next three years, the biggest change is not going to be a big change. It’s going to be small incremental changes that happen over time. And because it happens so quickly it just becomes part of how we work,” he concluded.

This Week on Livestream | October 16, 2017

Watch live as singer, songwriter, and activist Billy Bragg honors Woodie Guthrie, Gabrielle Union stops at the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the Boston Conservatory at Berklee raises money for Puerto Rico.

Courtney Barnett + Kurt Vile (Sea Lice By The Seaside) | Pitchfork Live
Monday, October 16
“Philly country-psych zen master Kurt Vile and Australian indie-rock orator Courtney Barnett are at once an odd couple and a perfect union—not so much a mirror image of one another as a negative exposure.”

Amy Tan | Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir | Author Event
Tuesday, October 17
7:30 PM ET
Where the Past Begins is a memoir of Amy Tan’s life, art, and deeply personal inspirations that frame her fiction.”

Remembering Woody: An Evening with Billy Dragg and Friends | The Greene Space
Tuesday, October 17
7:30 PM ET
“Join singer, songwriter and activist Billy Bragg and special guests for an evening commemorating the 50th anniversary of folk music icon Woody Guthrie’s death.”

Gabrielle Union’s Real Life Book Club Tour | Author Events
Thursday, October 19
7:30 PM ET
“Gabrielle Union’s new book, We’re Going to Need More Wine, is an intimate, urgent collection of essays about race, bullying, competition between women in Hollywood, and her own trauma as a victim of sexual assault.”

40 Years of Cosmic Discovery: Celebrating the Voyager Missions and Humanity’s Message to Space | Cornell Alumni
Thursday, October 19
“Only one human-touched object has ever entered interstellar space: NASA’s Voyager 1, bearing with it greetings to extraterrestrials in the form of a Golden Record. Cornell will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Voyagers 1 and 2 and the university’s central role in the missions.”

Vitaly Bulgarov Live & Uncut: Designing for Films, Games & Real-World Robotic | Gnomon
Friday, October 20
10 PM ET
“Join Gnomon School of VFX to learn about the career path of Vitaly Bulgarov, hear his personal insights, and get meaningful answers to your very own questions.”

Boston for Puerto Rico | Boston Conservatory at Berklee
Saturday, October 21
“Students from all departments of The Boston Conservatory at Berklee will be performing in a benefit concert to raise money for hurricane Maria relief in Puerto Rico. All proceeds will be donated to Unidos por Puerto Rico.”

Sexual Assault Crisis Center | Shall We Dance 2017
Saturday, October 21
“Shall We Dance is an uplifting and entertaining event that increases awareness about sexual assault while helping the Sexual Assault Crisis Center.”

Harold in Italy | Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Saturday, October 21
“On a program with DSO Principal musicians as featured soloists, Eric Nowlin performs the music depicting the melancholy traveler Harold, and Wei Yu returns as a soloist for Elgar’s Cello Concerto.”