Succesful video communication. A Cisco / Pearn Kandola research report

The Current Picture

The past twenty years have witnessed seismic changes in the way that organisations have grown. These changes have been driven partly by the growth of global mergers and the rise in opportunities to compete in markets that years ago were inaccessible, and partly by the huge and rapid growth of new communications technologies.

Where businesses once operated with large and centralised workforces, now there is a significant chance that the same organisations will employ mobile and remote workers instead. As global expansion continues, more employees than ever are working within teams that span different countries and different continents. In the near future, many millions of employees across the globe will find that their job role is delivered from ever-changing remote sites.

The recent steep rises in the cost of oil, together with a growing desire to reduce CO2 emissions, have also started to impact on business travel. Recently, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) estimated that businesses across the United States can typically spend up to $180 billion on annual travel. With these increases in costs, added to the impact of the recent global banking crisis, many businesses will be turning to alternative solutions to enable them to reduce their costs and enhance their ‘green’ credentials.

Remote Connections

A critical question, therefore, is what are the viable alternatives for businesses who want to cut costs, reduce travel and develop stronger mobile and remote work teams?

Over the past few years, the choice of communication solutions has grown considerably. The recent wave of interest in video conferencing technology suggests a move away from the traditional models for doing business. The emergence of telepresence and enhanced video conferencing solutions are still relatively new, but could offer significant alternative options to organisations seeking to answer many of these issues and reduce their annual outlay.

In previous research studies into global team development, several factors have been isolated as being critical to the success of remote teams. Among these, developing trust across the team was seen as an essential element of effective team functioning. The most direct and effective
route for many team leaders to establish trust within their teams was to find ways of enhancing face-to-face communications.

Remote and mobile workers benefit hugely from being able to interact in a way that models face-to-face communication. A landmark study on rapport by Albert Mehrabian measured the impact of voice tone and body language on perceptions of the trustworthiness of other people.

He found that:

  • 53% of the impression made on another person derives from behaviour and body language.
  • 40% of the impression made derives from who people are – through credibility and
    personality.
  • 7% of the impression made derives from the spoken words.

If only 7% of the impression that people make is from their spoken words, then audio communication solutions are clearly limited in enabling us to build the rapport that we need to communicate effectively.

While the use of video in communications can enhance meetings, anecdotal evidence equally suggests that usage rates are still relatively low. There have been relatively few clear research investigations into the way that remote working might be enhanced by video communications,
and yet the recent advent of telepresence systems, which offer high quality, life-like meeting experiences, has already improved usage rates to between 40 to 60 percent* and could, in principle, revolutionise remote communications.

This report explores video communications from a psychological perspective in order to understand how such technology – from video phones, web-based video conferencing and dedicated video conferencing systems, to the top-of-the-range telepresence systems – might deliver significant benefits to organisations. The report examines individual differences in approach to video communications, the influence that group processes can have during communication, and the impact of specific factors relating to age and culture.

It draws on a wide range of sources, including established research in the field of psychology and communications; a series of live observations of video communication enabled meetings; one-to-one interviews with global team leaders; and questionnaires exploring the mind-set and behaviour of remote team members.

The report reveals a number of surprising facts about what it takes to be successful in video communications and how organisations can maximise the value they get from using video communication technology.

Download the full report

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