How Long Should Your HR Communication Videos Be?

By Andrew Davies

Seemingly small details – like the length of your employee videos – actually play a large role in creating a great employer experience. Here are the optimal lengths for a variety of HR communications videos, including those for recruitment, benefits explainers, and L&D training.

Attention to Detail

In the first episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast “Go and See” he introduces the listener to the Japanese concept of omotenashi. Although not a literal translation, this term has come to represent an obsessive desire to “Anticipate the needs of your guest and address them without your own ego getting in the way.” Gladwell tells the story of how Lexus responded to reports of 3 of its cars having minor flaws after a huge launch. They recalled all 8000 cars, paid to have them repaired, and delivered them back to their owners with a full tank of gas and a special gift on the front seat. If you’re impressed, just imagine how those customers felt. Lexus also designs the windows on its vehicles to slow down imperceptibly when they seal shut and for the entire vehicle to literally rise to greet you when you get in.

This level of attention to detail may seem unnecessary. “Does it really affect the bottom line?” you ask. Indeed, these details communicate respect and engender trust more than we think. Likewise, when we care about the details of how we hire, retain, and train employees, those efforts pay off substantially in the areas of employee engagement and retention as well as standard business outcomes.

Different Lengths for Different Types

One such important detail in the employee experience is the length of the videos we create to attract, educate and engage employees. As videos become more widely used in the workplace, attention needs to be paid to when they’re used and how long we’re asking viewers to sit through them.

The tricky part is there is no one, single optimal video length. Viewers’ attention spans vary based on their expectations and state of mind. We do, however, have an informed guide and the below recommendations were gathered from several studies on viewer preferences in a variety of typical employee video-use cases.

Recruitment Videos: 1:30 min

These videos typically cover your corporate culture, offering up an enticing view of what it’s like to work for your company. The recommended length, of course, isn’t a hard constraint, but aiming for a 90-second run-time forces you to make tough editing decisions that only keep the most interesting bits in the video.

“Modern candidates want to connect with your employer brand through video, and you have 1 minute 36 seconds (on average) to tell your story. This data from Skill Scout’s 450+ employer videos across YouTube and Vimeo reveals the importance of short, crisp, intelligently created recruitment marketing videos in 2020.”

– Chiradeep BasuMallick, Why Video Is Essential to Recruitment Marketing in 2020, HR Technologist, February 2020

Benefits Explainers: 2 min

Does the video hosting service offer analytics, chapters within the player, and privacy settings like locking down the video to only play on the benefits website’s URL? It’s best to know what limitations, or opportunities, the platform offers upfront, so you can make the best use of their features with a fully optimized video.

“Videos that last 2 minutes can generate great engagement. If you are capable of keeping your video under 120 seconds you will keep your viewers captivated.”

Ezra Fishman, How Long Should Your Next Video be? Wistia blog, July 2016

Portal Demos: 2-5 minutes Each

When training someone on a new piece of software, keeping it down to a single video is virtually impossible. But trying to fit an entire demo into one video would be an ineffective use of the audiences’ time and your efforts

“Make your demos two to five minutes long. It’s better to produce several smaller demos, each on one aspect or feature of the product, than one big one. It’s a lower barrier to entry for your viewers, and you can always string them together in a playlist for those who want the whole thing.”

– Chris Gillespie, How Long Should Videos Be? The Ultimate Guide to Video Length, Vidyard, September 2019

Training Videos: Under 6 minutes each

Employees are used to training videos being delivered as a collection, and the benefits of doing it this way are obvious.

“Not only are chunked video modules easier for trainers to update and modify than 30-minute-long video courses, but they are also convenient for busy learners who may be viewing with a mobile device or who only need one training module to understand the material.”

Panopto, How Long Should Training Videos Be?, February 2020

But studies show that for each video within a given course, the limit for a viewer’s engagement and, subsequent retention of the content, is around 6 minutes.

“A large-scale study conducted by MIT of over 6.9 million video sessions recorded for MOOCs [Massive Open Online Courses] found that the optimal video length should be under 6 minutes. Shorter videos were found to be much more engaging. Videos longer than 6 minutes were found to result in significant viewer attrition.”

Video Length in Online Courses: What the Research Says, Emporia State University, April 2018

The exception to this rule seems to be webinars, where the expectation is that these will take up to 60 minutes. Even so, editing these down into smaller chunks for use in later training efforts is a smart use of existing materials.

Town Halls: Under 10 Minutes for each “Chapter”

Since these events are usually live-streamed and recorded for future viewing, the length of the video is usually about an hour. But instead of releasing the entire session in 1 video, think about breaking it up, or at least delivering the video on a platform that allows video chapters for easier browsing. In an article for Streaming Media magazine, Nadine Krefetz recounts,

“Rather than produce hour-long town hall meetings, Raytheon would take that same bit of content and split it up into 5- or 10-minute sessions and present a new video on-demand once a day, where it can be promoted repeatedly so people are more inclined to watch. The result: “One business, when they first did that, their viewership went up by 400%,”

-Nadine Krefetz, Top 10 Enterprise Video Trends, Streaming Media magazine, October 2016

The Necessity of Measurement

These are all suggested ranges based on other companies’ scenarios. The only way to know exactly what length is optimal in your situation is to look at the analytics on your video hosting platform. Track how many people are watching your videos and where most of them seem to be dropping off. Then adjust accordingly and look for any improvements. Regardless of what your optimal video lengths turn out to be, it’s probably going to end up being shorter than you think.

Being mindful of how long your videos are might, on the surface, feel as inconsequential as the speed at which a car window seals shut. After all, in a corporate setting where the content of the videos is more important, viewers are more motivated to watch all the way through than on YouTube, right? That assumption might have been true 10 years ago, but now that online video is ubiquitous and workers are bringing those expectations to work with them when we ignore details like video length, we do so at our own peril.