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Engaging Business Teams with Digital Signage

EPISODE 22 | Guest: Sean Matthews, president and CEO of Visix

Today’s business environment is competitive, and internal communications need to support and encourage employees continuously and consistently. Engaging business teams with realtime messaging, data visualizations and recognition on digital signs is one of the most efficient ways a business can support everyone from the c-suite to HR, to sales and customer service, to production and facilities.

Different teams can use digital signage to increase the reach and effectiveness of their communications, though each one will use it a bit differently. Not only can digital signs engage employees in different departments, it can help them engage their own target audiences.

  • Explore how 10 different business teams can benefit from digital signage
  • Get real-world examples of what each team might want to see on digital signs
  • Discover how digital signage can create a culture of communication and community
  • Understand how digital signs can replace or reinforce email
  • Learn how digital signage can support change, productivity, engagement and retention

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Learn more about this topic in our Masterclass Guide 2: Digital Signage Communications Planning

Derek DeWitt: You know, we’ve talked a lot about how employee engagement is important. It’s really a driving force behind successful businesses, and different teams inside of an organization can be engaged in different ways through the power of digital signage and the way that you use it for each target audience. So, we’re here today with Sean Matthews, president and CEO of Visix. Hello Sean.

Sean Matthews: Thank you, Derek. Glad to be here.

Derek DeWitt: Thank you Sean for talking to us. And thank you everybody for listening.

Derek DeWitt: So as we said, we’re always talking about you really need to know your audience, and especially when you’re doing internal communications with your employees (not public-facing but internal-facing stuff), each department is going to have different needs, different interests, different wants, right?

Sean Matthews: You know, in our experience we’ve identified as many as 10 different teams that will benefit from digital signage, and mapping the appropriate content to those audiences is a key piece to being successful with this type of technology.

Derek DeWitt: Okay. What’s a “team”?

Sean Matthews: Well, let’s just start at the top, because it seems to be easy to start at the top, I guess. So, if you think about executives — when employees are engaged and informed, you know, your company just simply does better. There’s higher productivity, lower turnover, and overall job satisfaction is just higher. And so, use digital signage to drive change and just impact the bottom line of the business. I mean, that’s really in the end what executives are wanting to do. They’re trying to motivate and encourage and recognize productivity. You know, it’s a powerful tool.

Derek DeWitt: Well, you know, talking about the sort of “management stuff”, I know the Harvard Business Review, where they have seven traits that they said companies need most in their executives. They have to be leaders: you get words like “inspirational” and “visionary”; I mean, I think digital signage can certainly… beyond just inspirational quotes (though, why not a couple of those?) Strategic thinking: so that means, I think maybe getting them even involved in the planning process.

Sean Matthews: Sure. Yes.

Derek DeWitt: They may have insights that maybe the team that’s technically in charge of the digital signage system might not have. Obviously tech skills. Team building (a lot of digital signage is all about creating this sense of community.) Communication. This concept of “change management”, being able to drive transformational change. And again, digital signage can be reactive, and it can be dynamic and can change on the fly as new information comes in or as things change and adapt and so on. And then integrity, which is proper ethical standards and behavior, things like this.

Sean Matthews: Yeah, and if you think about all of those things, this medium allows those executives to convey information, and reinforce what they may have said in town hall meetings or group chats, or even their own podcast on their business campus. It just is a visual vehicle to help reinforce what they’ve already said.

Derek DeWitt: When you’re a worker, even if you’re mid-management or something, it’s very easy to get stuck in the trap of, “Well, I just gotta get through my tasks” and “The bosses are the ones who think long term”, but I think we all know any company or organization benefits when people are not just thinking short term and not just focusing on “How do I get through this week, so I can get to the weekend?”, but long term goals. And again, digital signage can certainly do that. You throw in some campaigns and things like this to really help encourage that mindset of thinking of more long term and a little more outside of just your small purview.

Sean Matthews: I think what’s interesting, you talk about the long-term strategies, when you think about people in business, there are various personas that exist in those businesses. And so, the opposite of that long-term thinking is, you know, a group of people in the sales force, for example, that obviously very …or often (I shouldn’t say “obviously”)… often very focused on short-term goals.

Derek DeWitt:  Get that nut.

Sean Matthews: Yup, you’ve got to do that. And so, you know, motivating sales teams, and motivating them to excellence by showing the top performers (we’ve talked about leaderboards in the past, for example), but sales is one population in an organization that really sort of revels in the recognition of their success today. And so, that success could be in the form of recent contracts closed, current sales figures, progress towards quota and even the current dollar amount of quotes outstanding, and our close rate, I mean, the numbers that you could choose from on the sales side are… they’re just…

Derek DeWitt: Massive.

Sean Matthews: Yeah, there’s a ton to choose from. And so, salespeople often, they respond positively to that. Like, nobody wants to be at the bottom. So, you know, “What can I do tomorrow to get off the bottom rung?”

Derek DeWitt: So yeah, you’re talking about…like, KPIs obviously would be an easy way to do that. You just feed…because you’re feeding the data in somewhere anyway.

Sean Matthews: Yeah. I mean that’s it. You make a good point, because nobody wants to sit down every day and go through a spreadsheet and calculate these when you can take that data from some other source that’s auto-populating and put it on screen, and you automatically have your leaderboard without really having to do anything.

Derek DeWitt: Right. I mean, what do you do for, say obviously that works very well for sales teams that are in the physical property, at least, you know, one day a week or every couple of weeks or what have you. And again, we talk about dayparting a lot. If you know, “You know what? The salespeople have a tendency to come in on Fridays, so we’ll put that stuff up on Fridays. There’s no need to have it on Tuesdays. We never, ever, ever have a salesperson here on Tuesdays.” What about people who work across the country?

Sean Matthews: Sure. Most organizations now are somewhat dependent on a CRM and a CRM app. And so, more than likely, you’re going to pull that same data from the CRM or the ERP that those people already have access to. So really all you’re doing is, they’re looking at their numbers on their own anyway.

Derek DeWitt: Obsessively, maybe.

Sean Matthews: Yes! And so, you’re just reinforcing their success to the rest of the business. Because when they are in town, for that annual sales meeting or whatever, you know, the, the water cooler conversation is, “Hey Derek, man, dude, you are killing it this year on the leaderboard.”

Derek DeWitt: “Well, heh heh, I am actually. Yes, thank you.” Yeah, that’s true. I think especially because it’s an incentive-based job, basically anything that motivates them and gets them energized is a bonus, I think.

Sean Matthews: Yeah. And so, you know, another one that’s sort of numbers oriented but in a different way is your accounting department. You’re really, you’re trying to keep everyone in the loop with all the current metrics and, again, progress towards financial goals. Not that they can impact those financial goals except for areas where they might be looking at the bottom line numbers, for example, in places where they might be able to find, even as accounting teams, areas where they can make change financially by cutting certain costs or recommending changes to certain cost structures.

So you know, even that group of people is motivated by numbers, in a slightly different way, but also benefits from a visual recognition of the overall financial performance of the business – positive or negative, top line or bottom line, doesn’t matter. But they see and benefit from that same sort of calculation.

Derek DeWitt: Help them increase efficiencies and so on. And you know, it’s funny, the accounting department, any office environment I personally have ever worked in, nobody knows the accountants.

Sean Matthews: That’s true, right?

Derek DeWitt: Like in tech companies, nobody knows the accountants or the developers, they’re this weird land unto themselves.

Sean Matthews: It’s funny. Even in our own building, you mentioned developers; they’re in a totally separate part of the building.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, right. Isolated. Who knows what goes on in there?

Sean Matthews: Right. But you did mention the idea of motivating people and productivity. And so when you think about production teams, whether it be manufacturing or some other type of production, of course you want to include information on the factory floor, not only on the factory floor but what the factory floor is doing and how that affects the rest of the business. But on the floor, you have things like safety tips (and we’ve talked about that in the past), updates to what’s going on in the business that might affect them on the factory floor, because often, they don’t have access to realtime information at a workstation like you or I might have because they’re actually out there producing something, right? And so, having screens that provide that sort of productivity information is certainly useful.

But you know, there are other things about training opportunities, delivery procedures, critical KPIs. All of that stuff plays into the production area, and you can really use this technology to motivate them. Particularly if there are teams of people, and again, sort of gamifying the productivity between those teams.

Derek DeWitt: What about, I don’t know, HR, how about those guys?

Sean Matthews: You know, HR is obviously one of those sorts of things that, sometimes people don’t really know what they do. You only end up in HR if there’s a problem, right?

Derek DeWitt: I have a friend who loathes HR, and he says that’s where people who can’t do anything else go. I think that’s not true! And very often, in a lot of organizations, HR is actually a charge of the digital signage, or at least interacts and interfaces with it a lot.

Sean Matthews: Yeah, they are. Because HR’s influence is over all human resources, right? It’s over all people in an organization. And so, you want to extend your influence and make sure that you’re touching all of those resources in an organization.

So, wherever employees congregate, whether it be break rooms or shared office spaces, elevator banks or bays or whatever, you have an opportunity as an HR person to highlight employee anniversaries, you can point out birthdays, new current benefit offerings, deadlines for certain paperwork submission, whether it be for medical benefits or 401k or whatever things that your organization offers, there are often deadlines for that. And you can reinforce what you’ve already delivered via email, or you’ve already posted on social media, which you’ve already placed on the intranet. This is just another vehicle.

Derek DeWitt: It’s in a memo.

Sean Matthews: Yeah. And what’s interesting is, we just said all of these other vehicles, but all of those vehicles, Derek, they require you to go look at them. Whereas digital signs are sort of omnipresent and while you’re waiting for that elevator, it’s conveying information to you that’s relevant, maybe, to these particular timelines. It might affect you.

Derek DeWitt: This purely technological communication form, digital signage, it’s all tech (it needs computers and electricity and all this stuff) actually is a very powerful way to emphasize the human part of human resources. Like you say, personal information about people. Really just reminding people that these are people here.

Sean Matthews: That’s another team of people that often can augment human resources. So when you look at like a communications department, particularly internal communications, you know, you can take the information that HR is delivering and rely on people in the communications department to create certainly attractive, engaging ways to deliver that information that might even be more engaging than what you see in printed signs. So, you really want to empower and engage the workforce. You want to grab their attention, and you want to grab their attention with movement and video and well-designed messages that visually are attractive, that deliver information that might be extremely relevant from human resources or others.

Derek DeWitt: Right, you’re delivering in a way that actually mimics the way that people are already accessing information in the world through their computers and phones and stuff. And I would argue one of the jobs of HR…I mean, it’s about work culture, obviously, it’s about your benefits packages, professional development certainly gets in there, but there’s also, I think, an element of employee retention as well. We know from recent studies and things that more engaged employees stay in jobs longer. Like there there’s some crazy statistic about millennials that something like (or maybe it was across all different generations) something like 74% of them or something who felt actively engaged and who felt that they had a lot of development and growth possibilities at a company stayed longer than they knew was good. Like they knew, “I can no longer afford to live on this salary” for whatever reason or “The commute’s killing me because I have a fifth kid,” or for whatever reason. But that feeling that HR can help create, and digital signage can help create, kept them there longer than was maybe even good for them.

Sean Matthews: All organizations look at that data about employee retention and productivity and engagement because all of those things, like retention and engagement, do affect, in the end, productivity. And again, this is just another vehicle. It can never replace the daily correspondence that you and I personally have if you and I work together. That’s, you know, that’s very different. But reinforcing, certainly top-down communication or other departmental communication and how that affects me, keeps me involved and more engaged.

Another easy one to think about here would be customer service. It’s more like a sales group in the sense that it’s easy to recognize their work productivity, like the production floor or the sales team. Because you know, when you look at that team supporting clients…. So, most customer service teams typically deal with problems, right? And that’s just the reality of their job. People don’t call customer service to say, “Hey man, everything’s great. I just thought I’d call!” That customer service team, keeping them abreast of recent promotions that might be going on because the conversations that they’re having, tying into queuing systems that allow them to understand how many calls are on hold, what’s our current volume, CSAT levels (customer satisfaction levels), you know, all kinds of call center data.

Derek DeWitt: “Hey, we’ve got more webinars up. Hey, we’ve changed the FAQ.”

Sean Matthews: Yeah, I mean there’s just tons of stuff with like service tips, training, webinar schedules. I mean, it just goes on and on and on. But really where I was going with it, is that team, if you think about, you know, customer satisfaction levels, that’s one that’s easy to promote and recognize. Call center representatives who receive five stars versus the guy who has four stars. What’s today’s star rating for Derek or Sean or whatever? You can create the same kind of leaderboard concept in that team that you can with sales or production, or you name it. So, it’s a good vehicle.

Derek DeWitt: A few years ago, Forbes Magazine wrote, they say customer service is no longer just a post-sale activity. They consider customer service to be part of the total buying cycle because especially now, you get a lot of this, people coming back. Customer service is starting to integrate more with marketing departments. We’re really seeing a blur in many ways. There’s always been this war/symbiosis between marketing and sales, and now we’re seeing customer service kind of get mixed into the stew. And it’s really, in many ways becoming one thing, you know, all together.

Sean Matthews: Yeah. And, I mean, if you think about a company like ours even, customer service used to be the help desk, sort of thing. But now, given the sophistication of the these technologies, it can’t just be the help desk because people are calling in and looking for not just an answer to a question or fix a specific problem, but “Help me create this, because what I’ve created this far doesn’t seem to be working.” And so that’s more than just “Let me help your technical problem.”

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. “I can’t find it in the drop-down menu.”

Sean Matthews: Yeah, that sort of thing.

Sean Matthews: Beyond those organizations, there’s two here…I talked about 10 teams, but there are two that I would kind of lump together, which would be the IT/network and then facilities teams. We kind of put those all together even though facilities might view their role as different than IT.

Derek DeWitt: It is infrastructure.

Sean Matthews: It is. In the end, it’s infrastructure. And so, if you think about the IT department, you, as an IT leader, can help your company move beyond the nightmare that is email, the environment that’s the intranet, the social media craze. You can show dynamically presented data by integrating all those collaborative apps, whether it be social media, webpages, calendar programs; anything that you can show on a screen individually, can be mixed on a digital side simultaneously, right?

So, creating dashboard effects that really provide a lot of information, and just by using your knowledge of IT infrastructure and combining those things on these big displays. So, you can do a lot there. But the reason I tie facilities into that same group, Derek, is because they’re responsible for deciding whether or not you’re going to use touchscreens for interactive wayfinding and directories or energy dashboards to cut down on consumption in the facility, right? And there’s a lot that you…

Derek DeWitt: Room signs for meeting areas.

Sean Matthews: Yeah, most definitely. I mean, and even realtime shuttle data for mapping the next pickup, particularly on big campuses or big corporate campuses. And so, you know, all of those things are designed to improve the visitor experience and improve safety. And so, facilities-IT-networking all infrastructure…

Derek DeWitt: It goes hand in hand.

Sean Matthews: Yeah.

Derek DeWitt: It’s interesting that you say the way you can kind of…because the email thing is preposterous; the number of emails, I don’t know how many emails a day you get, 60?

Sean Matthews: One or two, at least.

Derek DeWitt: Do you get one or two, yeah? I was surprised to find out that for IT people, it’s almost double the corporation average. The corporation average is somewhere around like 55 or something. It’s 96 a day, nationwide average, for IT people.

Sean Matthews: Interesting. Wow.

Derek DeWitt: Just imagine that it took you two minutes to open, read…and that’s not even responding. That’s three hours of an eight-hour day right there just dealing with emails. So yeah, maybe it’s not such a good idea, especially if it’s short, stick it up on the digital signage.

Sean Matthews: Yeah, I mean this is a perfect segue into what I think would probably be the last department. And not last at the bottom of the list, but in terms of us talking about it. But, you know, the marketing department, right? Because you know, marketing could send out an email for everything if they wanted to, but there can be basic information delivered about new products and services that are being launched or might be launched soon. And just, instead of sending out an email [that says] “Go to the intranet to look for this product that’s coming out soon”…that’s a simple message post that, you know, people are like, “Huh, I guess we are coming out with that new product.”

If there are big price changes or say your distributors, or partners or whatever. But yeah, just keeping everybody updated on basic promotions. I don’t need to put together an entire email because the promotion only affects a handful of people. But the phone call might come in and I happened to take the call as a customer service rep, and I just happened to remember seeing that post about that promotion we’re running. I know nothing about it.

Derek DeWitt: Thank God I saw that!

Sean Matthews: Yep. I know nothing about it, but thank God I saw it.

To me, that’s 10 different groups of people, 10 different teams it any organization that benefit from digital signage and, I think, can put it to a really good use.

Derek DeWitt: It can boost productivity as well, right? I mean obviously you’re engaging people. Like you said, they always know what’s happening and the information is fresh. You’re showing people their goals, you’re showing them their progress towards their goals. You kind of connect front and back office, because very often, you know, “never the twain shall meet.” They don’t, they don’t talk to each other, maybe they don’t even recognize each other. When they’re in the line at the food truck, they go, “Who’s this?” “Oh, we work for the same company” “Oh, do we? I wondered why you were in my parking lot.”

Obviously recognizing achievement, you monitor inventory and things like that, making things work. It’s sort of a modern variant of that just-in-time production that was innovated by Japan and the Toyota group, and all that. And then even like you said, also safety, health, all of this kind of stuff can really just….

Digital signage is just fantastic! It’s way better than email. It’s better than sitting around and talking. I mean talking is great, but like with HR for example, try and imagine if the HR manager really wanted to remind people every day about just this one thing, for whatever reason, because somebody’s on them about it or something has come up, and they just remember like, you know, whatever…”wash your hands”. How annoying it would be to have that person come around to your desk or cubicle every single day and say, “Wash your hands!”? You’d just want to kill them.

Sean Matthews: Yep. And too, you know, even the signs themselves, as the technology in displays, continues to evolve – either projection technology, video mapping, the displays themselves – they’re a part of our everyday experience, and it’s going to continue to be that way. And I think, again, as you see other projection-style technologies continue to improve over time, you’ll see that even the surfaces in buildings themselves become signs, because you can project imagery on them without having to mount a black-framed display on that wall, which even creates a greater opportunity to engage passers-by with artistic elements that are compelling and timely and influence their behavior.

Derek DeWitt: So, you know, you hear people say that the 21st century is the information age. In many ways it’s, it’s the communications age.

Sean Matthews: Yeah, I would agree with that 100%.

Derek DeWitt: So, thank you very much Sean Matthews for talking to us about different organizational teams that can benefit from digital signage. Thank you for talking to us, Sean.

Sean Matthews: Thank you, Derek.

Derek DeWitt: And thank you all of you for listening.