The eLearning Guild’s latest case study describes how a cross-functional team at PwC, a global professional services network, used interactive video to support a learning and marketing program for digital transformation. PwC is driving digital transformation through a combination of business, experience, and technology (also known as the BXT method). This program, Enhancing Digital Capability, forms an overarching framework that encourages learners to move from digital “awareness” to “fluency” and, ultimately, to “expertise.”
PwC is one of the largest professional services networks in the world, with over 223,000 employees in 743 locations within 157 countries. The network offers a wide range of industry-focused services for public and private clients that include audit and assurance, consulting, cybersecurity and privacy, people and organization, and tax services.
In the United States, PwC is headquartered in New York and operates as a subsidiary of PwC International Limited. This case study describes an interactive video solution created by a collaboration of various groups (hereafter the “digital learning team”) around the world, including US Learning & Development, Global Consulting Learning & Development, Global Digital Learning and Human Capital, and PwC Digital Services.
What does “digital” really mean?
Karel Dörner and David Edelman, writing for McKinsey Quarterly in 2015, asked: “What does ‘digital’ really mean?” They answer by asserting, “We believe digital should be seen less as a thing and more [as] a way of doing things.” According to these authors, this concept of “digital” encompasses three processes: “Creating value at the new frontiers of the business world, creating value in the processes that execute a vision of customer experiences, and building foundational capabilities that support the entire structure.”
The interactive video initiative described in this case study is called Digital Awareness, and it exemplifies the “vision of customer experiences” and the “foundational capabilities” that Dörner and Edelman see as essential for today’s digital world.
People challenges in a digital world
In response to today’s business challenges, professional services firms are evolving to meet the changing needs of their clients and the job requirements of the emerging global workforce. These firms must not only compete for the best and brightest talent, but also confront the fact that communication channels and development approaches for attracting and retaining high-quality talent are also transforming. The world is now digital, and employers are facing the reality of recruiting a workforce that has deep familiarity with technology and responds best to employers that demonstrate digital relevance, or the increasing need to create digital content that has genuine meaning and relevance for the intended audience.
Matthew Murray, digital learning leader for PwC’s US Learning and Development Group, says one of his most critical people challenges focuses on the needs of the modern worker:
With a large, tech-savvy, and client-focused population, we must provide learning that is engaging and modular. Our staff expect learning to be high-quality, easily accessible, and comparable to what they experience in their daily life. We need to provide greater awareness of PwC’s breadth of services and digital capabilities so that our staff can have stronger conversations with clients. As part of our commitment to attract and retain top talent, we have to demonstrate that PwC is digitally advanced and is providing learning in a forward-thinking way.
Let’s look at several key reasons why the ability to demonstrate digital presence is essential for successfully attracting, training, and retaining today’s high performance talent.
Note: Many industry analysts use digital relevance and digital presence as essentially interchangeable terms. In this case study, we use digital presence, while acknowledging that other analysts—such as Ardith Albee—prefer the term relevance. See the case study for more details and resources on this topic.
Millennials as digital consumers
There is an increasingly large body of research and opinion on the characteristics of Millennials as digital consumers and digital learners. Rather than review that body of literature, let’s summarize what we know about Millennials as digital consumers.
Setting the stage: According to a Pew Research Center analysis of 2015 US Census Bureau data, Millennials (estimated at 75.4 million individuals in 2015) have surpassed Baby Boomers (74.9 million) as the nation’s largest living generation (Figure 1).
Source: Pew Research Center, 2016
Figure 1: Projected population by generation
In a blog post, the digital marketing group FlashStock identifies six characteristics of digital marketing content that have proved effective in marketing ideas and products to Millennial consumers. In this same post, FlashStock CEO Grant Munro writes that digital materials should be relevant, educational, entertaining, authentic, cutting-edge, and socially responsible.
In fact, interactive learning video is particularly relevant to the “cutting-edge” characteristic, appealing to early adopters of new technologies and thus, uniquely suited to employers who present a positive and effective digital presence.
The importance of digital presence
Creating cutting-edge interactive video that appealed to internal staff was a key requirement for PwC’s Enhancing Digital Capability project team. Fortunately, the team was able to leverage an already strong digital presence and use this to their advantage.
How important is having a digital presence? According to Tom Cochran, writing in Entrepreneur magazine, “If you don’t have a digital presence today, you don’t exist.” Furthermore, as Sarah K. White observes in CIO, “If your business is lacking in digital presence, Millennials might be wary about applying. It could imply that the business is behind the times or unwilling to evolve.”
The digital marketing group webSURGE defines digital presence as “simply how your business appears online” and notes, “Your digital presence is your online reputation.” The group goes on to say that a positive digital presence is essential to business success: “In today’s era of technology and digital advancement, a strong digital presence is vital if you want to see success on the Internet. A lot is happening online. Traditional marketing is still important, but you don’t want to miss out on potential customers who are mostly—maybe solely—online.”
In summary, digital presence is essential for recruiting and marketing. According to webSURGE, an effective digital presence allows employers and marketers of all types to:
- Create visibility. Information seekers should be able to learn everything there is to know about your company from your digital presence.
- Establish your authority. Demonstrate industry knowledge and expertise, build trust, and explain why your company is the best in the industry.
- Build rapport and relationships. The Internet audience is composed of people, and people are relational. Digital presence should enable your company to show a human side and to offer something that can help your consumers or potential recruits.
Before we look at PwC’s video initiative, let’s examine the partnerships that PwC undertook to create the end result, as well as the organizational learning context in which the interactive video project took place.
PwC partnered with two production and technology firms to design, create, and deploy Digital Awareness. These partners were The Electric Factory and Rapt Media.
The Electric Factory helped produce the interactive experience. The company was involved from brainstorming and scripting to shooting, editing, and post-production through its in-house company NIKO Post & Films. Also, The Electric Factory designed, developed, and tested the interactive experience. With production offices in Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay, and commercial offices in the US, Chile, China, Spain, Panama, and Puerto Rico, The Electric Factory is a creative innovation group responsible for co-creating, developing, and implementing strategies, products, and solutions that have redefined the value of interactive experiences in advertising.
The second partner was Boulder, Colorado-based Rapt Media. Rapt Media provides a compelling alternative to engage employees and consumers, inspiring them to act. Its cloud-based interactive video platform drives deeper engagement, resulting in enhanced learning and rapid behavior change.
PwC and The Electric Factory worked with Rapt Media to enable the Digital Awareness videos to optimize the capabilities of the Rapt Media interactive platform. The team did this by using APIs (application programming interfaces) to extend the native capabilities of the hosting platform, so that different videos are displayed based on device used, and video users are presented with a “conclusion” screen. The additional API functionality enabled the viewer to “unlock” this screen after clicking on a required number of hotspots.
The organizational learning context
Murray, the digital learning leader for PwC’s US Learning and Development Group, described the broader organizational learning context in which the interactive video efforts were positioned:
Our aim is to provide impactful learning that is easily available close to the point of performance. Our learning must be scalable and also personalized, accessible across devices. We have a broad portfolio of systems and platforms that enable us to deliver training in many different ways. We work closely with third-party providers to make sure that our platforms meet our security, production, and learner needs.
A story-driven learner journey
The goal of the PwC team was to create a series of story-driven, interactive videos that could be accessed by staff and partners globally, and also by the firm’s clients and members of the public. As such, Digital Awareness served as one component of a larger “Learner Journey” framework (Figure 2) that encourages learners to progress from awareness to fluency and, ultimately, to expertise.
Source: PwC, 2016
Figure 2: Enhancing Digital Capability learning framework
The goal of Digital Awareness is to generate excitement for, and awareness of, the ways in which PwC’s digital capabilities positively impact the world. In accomplishing this goal, the team faced two major design challenges:
- Sustaining a focus on the story while, at the same time, also permitting the learner to take deeper dives into more detailed topics
- Creating an experience that feels exciting and spurs interest but does not feel like a sales pitch
In an effort to resolve these challenges, the team and their partners designed the video to equally balance two ideas:
- How digital technologies and capabilities impact everyone’s life
- How PwC, as a network of global professional services firms, is adding value for clients and consumers in a world that is being disrupted and transformed by digital challenges and opportunities
As a way to achieve this balance, the team decided to limit branching and avoid multiple storylines within the same video experience. In this way, they focused on having learners move quickly through the same learning points and view the entire body of content.
Using interactive video enabled PwC’s team to create character-driven stories that invite people to connect and relate to the videos, and then use their interactivity features to dive deeper into PwC’s digital services and capabilities through use of these interactive visual hotspots. Interactive hotspots enable video designers to direct viewers to other sections of a video, give them the option to replay parts of the video, or even launch an external website or secondary video overlay.
Undertaking the journey
From the digital learning “hub” (Figure 3), learners can choose which of the three characters they wish to follow on the story-driven journey. Each character has a story that explains how emerging technologies and digital platforms are impacting their world and creating opportunities that did not previously exist. Voice-over narration provides additional insights into the on-screen action as well as a more comprehensive view of the transforming digital landscape. As Murray said, “Each of our stories has a twist that we think will surprise and delight learners.” However, as he also noted, the team “deliberately avoided too much humor because this was a global initiative”—and humor sometimes does not translate well across cultures.
Source: PwC, 2016
Figure 3: The digital learning “hub”
From a practical design standpoint, the voice-over narration provides the PwC team with a flexible approach for updating the message content in the future without needing to reshoot the video. Another advantage of the voice-over narration was that it enabled the team to avoid having the characters speak. This accelerated the video production process, and it increased global relevance by improving character identification and simplifying the process of translating and subtitling the narration.
Measuring interactive video success
Feedback both from learners and from company stakeholders has been uniformly positive. With the launch of Digital Awareness, the PwC team activated its measurement plan and began tracking the following metrics:
- Number of hits on the Learner Journey microsite in order to access the video
- Number of clicks on the video link itself
- Number of internal and external viewers who complete all three stories
- Number of internal and external viewers who, after completing all three stories, actually go on to “unlock” the final video segment
- Number of times internal and invited external viewers download the Digital Fitness Assessment from the microsite (see Figure 2)
- Additional business and goodwill generated by external clients who participate in the awareness and assessment phases of the Learner Journey
Murray summarized the following key lessons that he and the PwC team learned from their interactive video experience:
- Deal with internal security. Deal quickly and effectively with any technical or network-related issues surrounding streaming video and enterprise security processes.
- Create separate versions of the interactive video, one for PCs/tablets and one for smartphones. The use of hotspots and other interactivity elements meant that PwC had to create two version of the video, one for use on personal computers (i.e., desktops, laptops, and tablets) and another version for use on smartphones.
- Test early and test often. Get early versions of videos out to stakeholders sooner, and do not worry that they look unfinished. Prototype through early versions, and follow the old communication adage of “show, don’t tell.”
- Keep the core team small. With a project this size, it is easy for a large group of individuals to lose sight of the original vision. The PwC team was able to hold on to their original vision for the video by keeping their core team small (three people), although the total number involved in designing, producing, testing, and launching the video exceeded 80 people.
- Keep the user experience front of mind. Murray and the PwC team applied a design thinking approach and user experience (UX) frame of reference. Murray explained, “This meant that we resisted trying to cram too much into the video and focused, instead, on what the viewer could reasonably comprehend and absorb.”
- Take plenty of time for the video design phase. Allocate a sufficient amount of time to the brainstorming and ideation phase, and make sure that the high-level concept of the video is clearly in place. Avoid the pitfall of moving forward too quickly and prematurely writing the script before all design details are complete.
- Make the stories and interactivity fun and creative. As discussed earlier in this case study, professional services employees respond best to what Murray calls “a clever hook that engages people and keeps them exploring and learning. We wanted fun and engagement, [with] memorable characters that were unique and defied archetypes.”
Looking ahead to hybrid digital learning
Looking to the future of Digital Awareness, and the broader digital learning framework to which it belongs, Murray summarizes PwC’s first significant foray into interactive video:
[We meant this video to be a] high-touch, lean-in, immersive experience causing a high level of engagement. We tried to balance the ability to watch video uninterrupted versus interacting with the video. In our design, we made a conscious decision to let people just watch and not need to interact with the video if they chose not to. But we also enticed people to interact and delve into the secondary content to enhance their awareness of the digital landscape. [So we] create both paths: passive versus interactive. [The] hidden final video required learners to interact if they wanted to view each story’s conclusion.
I was struck by one other comment from Murray. He said that what he and the PwC team had created was part of a hybrid digital learning solution (i.e., the journey framework) that succeeded in “combining learning, communications, and marketing goals.”
This is interesting because a substantial amount of industry research now talks less about “training” and more about “digital learning.” Digital learning has been defined as “learning facilitated by technology that gives students some element of control over time, place, path, and/or pace.” Compare this with the following definition from DigitalLearningDay.org, by the Alliance for Excellent Education:
Digital learning is any instructional practice that effectively uses technology to strengthen a student’s learning experience. It emphasizes high-quality instruction and provides access to challenging content, feedback through formative assessment, opportunities for learning anytime and anywhere, and individualized instruction to ensure all students reach their full potential to succeed in college and a career.
As we saw in this case study, high-quality, interactive video is being combined with other forms of digital content to achieve goals beyond “just” training. Similar to PwC’s goals, these may include marketing, organizational communication, change management, collaboration, assessment, and beyond. The point is that interactive video is a hybrid learning resource that can enhance the design creativity, learner engagement, and effectiveness of future digital learning solutions.
Alliance for Excellent Education. “About DLDay.” Digital Learning Day.
Cochran, Tom. “The 4 Building Blocks of a Strong Digital Presence.” Entrepreneur. 9 January 2014.
Dörner, Karel, and David Edelman. “What ‘digital’ really means.” McKinsey Quarterly. July 2015.
Fry, Richard. “Millennials overtake Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation.” Pew Research Center. 25 April 2016.
Munro, Grant. “6 Types of Content to Win Over Millennials.” FlashStock Blog. 29 July 2016.
PwC. Digital Awareness. Video.
webSURGE. “What Is Digital Presence for Business?” 15 July 2016.White, Sarah K. “6 ways to attract and retain millennial workers.” CIO. 21 May 2015.