3 Key Steps to an Effective HR Explainer Video

By Andrew Davies

Employee explainer videos can be an effective part of your internal communications toolkit. But creating one isn’t just about the production. It also involves a bit of planning and consideration about how you’ll promote it afterward.

Regardless of their age, users online still prefer to receive their content in a video. But this isn’t news to you. You’ve probably taken in your fair share of the 500 million hours of video watched on YouTube each day. Chances are if you’ve checked out the landing page for an app, service, or news organization in the past decade, you’ve also seen one of the most popular types of online video: the animated explainer video.

According to Wyzowl’s 2020 State of Video Marketing Report, “96% of people have watched an explainer video to learn more about a product or service”. And when asked how they’d prefer to learn about something, 66% said they’d prefer to watch a short video.

As HR departments witnessed the growing popularity of explainer videos for sales and marketing teams, they also began to see how useful they were for internal communications. But getting the most out of an explainer video for HR means considering more than just the production of the video. The three key steps to creating an effective HR explainer video are:

  1. Planning
  2. Producing, and
  3. Promotion

Let’s explore these three P’s in a bit more detail.

Step 1: Plan

Before you start looking for vendors or resources to DIY it, you need to do some soul-searching. This usually results in a creative brief, which will serve as your roadmap throughout the production process. In addition to style, length, and call-to-action, ask yourself questions like:

  • What’s the goal of the video? (meaning what do you want viewers to do, or learn)
  • Who’s the target audience? (something more specific than “my coworkers”)
  • How will you promote it? (more on this later)
  • What does success look like?

Step 2: Produce

If you’ve done step one well, this should be the fun part. This is where you see your idea take shape and come to fruition. The process should look something like this:

The explainer production process visualized.


This crucial first step sounds simple enough; just write out what you want to say in your video. But you might be surprised at how long it takes to boil your message down to 60 or 90 seconds. It might be worth it to get outside (i.e. seek a professional) for help at this stage to make sure you’re communicating well and not using too much industry jargon. Phrases and terminology that may seem commonplace to you could be confusing to your audience, breaking their attention span and limiting the effectiveness of your message.

Styleframes & Storyboards

Assuming you’re working with an agency for this stage, this will be where they take your final script and visualize it. You should end up with fully illustrated comic-book panels depicting exactly what your final video will look like before any animation has started. Your important role in this step is to offer critical feedback. So keep an eye out for things like:

  1. Is this the right amount of detail?
  2. Are the colors and fonts in line with your brand guidelines?
  3. Are the visual metaphors supporting the message?
  4. Do the characters or scenery represent your message and target audience appropriately? And of course,
  5. Is this something you just can’t wait to see in motion?
The styleframes should break down the various visual elements of the video like colors, typography, textures, and character design.
The storyboards should visualize each stage of the script so that there are no surprises once you get to producing the final video.


Sometimes the thing that makes or breaks an explainer is the quality of the music and voice talent selection (VO: voice-over). So for the music, choose a background track that fits the mood of the video without being distracting. For the VO, it’s best to wait until the script is finalized before getting auditions from voice talent. This way you can have them send you demo reads of your script and compare their performances of the same text.


Whether you’re working with an agency or DIY-ing it, this is where the visuals of the finalized storyboards are combined with the music and voice tracks to create magic. This is typically the stage that takes the longest time to complete.

Storyboards + music and voice = final animation.

Step 3: Promote

If it’s a benefits video with internal information, you’re probably going to post this on a private microsite. How do employees get informed about the microsite or updates to it? Promo emails or intranet posts could see a boost in effectiveness if you attach an enticing thumbnail, especially one promising a video on the other side of the click.

Taking a cue from consumer-focused communications, don’t think of the video as a stand-alone effort but as the core of a content ecosystem. Are there salient points made in the video that could be translated into a useful infographic? If so, the storyboards have gotten you halfway there. Is there a surprising stat mentioned in the video? You could use that section of the animation as an enticing gif on the company’s internal channels. It’s useful to remember the goal of the video: to educate your coworkers on a particular topic.

So why not maximize the work you already put into the video? Delivering the main points of your message thru multiple venues in memorable ways is one of the most effective means for reaching your audience and calling them to take the desired action.