New Research Reveals Failing to Focus on Visual Communication Threatens Productivity and Engagement Levels

unmotivated people representation

Millennials are transforming the workplace in many ways, but one of the most important ways is how they prefer to communicate.

However, new research commissioned by TechSmith reveals that many businesses are failing to adapt to younger workers’ preferences for more visual forms of communications.

TechSmith has been developing software solutions that help companies and individuals create and communicate with visuals for more than 25 years. As such, when we set out to research the value of communicating with visuals, we we anticipated some likely results:

  • People — especially younger workers — prefer communications that include visual content.
  • People understand and perform better when visuals are included, especially for complex ideas.

However, the results of the study were even more compelling than we expected, highlighting the extent to which visuals help everyone, not just younger workers, understand complex ideas, retain information, and carry out tasks.

The findings

In a survey of 4,500 office workers across six regions, we found that younger workers tend to prefer more visual content in their communications. They’re much more likely to use visual content to communicate on their own time (think Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, etc.), and would prefer more visual content at work.


  • Millennials are twice as likely to want to use more visual communication methods at work compared to baby boomers.
  • More than 64% of millennials say they understand information faster when it’s communicated visually, vs. just 7% who don’t.
  • 58% say they remember information for longer if it has been communicated visually, vs. just under 8% who don’t.
  • More than 54% say they remember more from visual content than from text alone, vs. just over 9% who say they don’t.

Companies are failing in communicating with younger workers

The research also revealed that businesses are missing the mark in communicating with younger workers, with 44% of millennials saying their company’s communications are outdated, vs. just 29% saying they’re not.

With millennials now the largest generation in the workforce, this can be a serious problem for businesses.

Visual content helps nearly everyone — not just millennials

But this goes beyond preferences. Our research reveals lack of visual communications threaten productivity and engagement levels — and not just with millennials, but with workers of all ages. In other words, everyone benefits from more visual communications.

Our study of 125 office workers performing real-world tasks found that communications that include visual content such as screenshots, screencasts, or videos are better, faster, and more engaging than text-only communications for nearly everyone in the workforce. People perform better and feel more engaged than with plain text — and that could boost productivity.

In fact:

  • Two-thirds (67%) of employees are better at completing tasks when information includes text with images (screenshots) or video than by communications featuring text alone.
  • Employees absorb information 7% faster when it’s communicated using text with static images than when it’s provided only with text.
  • Overall, companies would see an 8% improvement in accuracy by using text coupled with visuals — and a 6% improvement by using video.

67% of respondents were better at completing tasks when communicated with by video or text with static images than by text alone. 33% of respondents were not better at completing tasks when communicated with by video or text with static images than by text alone.

On a per-task basis, 7% or 8% improvement may not sound like much. But what if you think about it in terms of an entire workday, work week or an entire year?

Suddenly those small productivity gains start to add up. And that’s just for one employee. What if you have 200 employees? 2,000? 10,000?

In those terms, that could spell real consequences for the companies that fail to adapt.

Our research methodology

TechSmith helps anyone create professional, impactful videos and images to communicate and share knowledge with others, so we have a vested interest in making sure our products help people do what they need to do. A survey of our user base would have yielded results, but only from people already creating images and video.

We wanted real, independent, verifiable data on how visual content, such as screenshots, screencasts, images, and video improves communication for businesses worldwide. These particular research findings are based on the following two types of research that were conducted by external research firms:


The Scientific Laboratory Study

The scientific laboratory test was conducted using 125 office workers in January 2018 by award-winning doctor in behavioural economics, Dr. Alastair Goode.


Each participant was asked to complete three everyday office tasks:

  • Uploading a post to a website
  • Downloading new software application
  • Filling out an expense form

Method of instruction:

For each task, one-third of the test subjects were communicated with at random by each of the following instruction methods:

  • Plain text (for example a text-only email)
  • Text with static images (for example an email with text and annotated screenshots of the tasks)
  • Video (for example a recorded walkthrough of the task with voiceover)

Participants were measured on their understanding, recall and speed, and the results for each type of communication were compared. Participants were also examined on their engagement levels and questioned on ease-of-use.

The Opinion Research

For the business opinion research, 4,500 office workers across six countries/regions were surveyed in December 2017, including – Australia (500), Canada (500), DACH region (1,000), France (500), UK (1,000), US (1,000).

The generational data was analyzed according to age and gender (split by generation: Before 1928, 1928 – 1945, 1946 – 1964, 1965 – 1980, 1981 – 1997).

How can companies easily add more visual content to communications?

Change is hard. But there are a number of ways to begin adding visual content that doesn’t require a culture shift to achieve.

We have several blog posts that provide ideas on how you can start incorporating visuals into existing workflows and processes:



What’s next?

Follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our email newsletter to learn more and ensure you don’t miss more research findings that we will be sharing throughout 2018.


Ryan Knott

TechSmith Marketing Content Specialist and manager of the TechSmith Blog. More than 25 years of communications and marketing experience. Geek. Science and sci-fi enthusiast. Guitar player. On a mission to pet all the dogs. He/him. A few things about me: 1) Mildly (or not-so-mildly) obsessed with the movie Alien, 2) two rescue pibbles (Biggie and Reo), and 3) friend of ducks everywhere. Ask me about my seven+ years as a roller derby coach.

Subscribe to TechSmith’s Newsletter

Join over 200,000 people who get actionable tips and expert advice every month in the TechSmith Newsletter.