Modern Training

4 top tips to combat the shrinking attention span of your employees

Posted on: August 15, 2019Updated on: June 12, 2023By: Carol Leaman, CEO

Do you ever feel like it’s getting harder to focus? 

Food photos on a phone screen next to a cup of coffee

Between 24/7 news feeds, constantly refreshing social media channels, trending hashtags and switching mindlessly between browser tabs, you may find it’s more challenging than ever to prioritize your attention.

It turns out, you’re not alone. 

According to a recent study conducted by a team of scientists from Technische Universität Berlin, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, University College Cork, and DTU, the combination of our increasingly connected world and the growing volume of new content is exhausting our collective attention. And our thirst for “newness” has us switching more rapidly between topics as we quickly lose interest in the old, and switch our attention to what’s new. 

The research studied various mainstream data sources—from Twitter, Google trends and Reddit, to movie ticket sales, Google Books and more. And, they found evidence of “ever-steeper gradients and shorter bursts of collective attention given to each cultural item.” For example, in 2013 a topic remained on Twitter’s Top 50 Trending list for an average of 17.5 hours. But only three years later in 2016, this decreased to 11.9 hours. 

Essentially, the research concludes that the number of sources demanding our limited human capacity for attention continues to grow over time, leaving us overloaded with information.  

May I have your attention, please

While it’s clear that it’s a challenge for people to find focus among a flood of daily information in their personal lives, it’s in the best interest of organizations and employees alike to enable a better experience in the workplace. This is especially true for those working on the frontlines— employees who are constantly inundated with information, requests, customer inquiries and more in order to keep the business agile, yet often don’t have the luxury of sitting at a desk to consume information in a focused way.

So how do you get (and keep) your frontline employees focused on the right things in a world where our collective attention span is shrinking? These 4 tips will help you prioritize the attention of your frontline on the right things to fuel their success—and yours:

  1. Personalize: We can help direct the focus of frontline employees by providing information and training that’s hyper-relevant to them: the things they already know, how they perform on the job, what their individual goals are, and what they still have to learn. This is where AI can play a key role. Adaptive AI continuously measures an employee’s knowledge and on-the-job behaviors along with the relative impact on a specific business KPI. Then, it adapts training to each employee to fill gaps with targeted information in areas that will generate the greatest business impact.
  2. Simplify: Don’t force employees to go hunting for information. Make it easy for them to access the content they need. Better yet, help it fit right into their workflow. They will appreciate and respond to quick and personalized material, delivered through the technology they already use—from the POS systems in their retail stores to the mobile devices they carry in their pockets.
  3. Engage: It’s easier to keep people focused on learning when the experience is engaging and fun. When you keep employees coming back, the more value they realize and the more opportunities they have to develop.
  4. Reinforce: With so much information out there, you can’t expect your employees to remember everything. Presenting critical topics continuously drives long-term retention and confidence over time. And providing on-demand resources for the rest gives employees even more ownership over their learning. 

Help to keep them focused

We’re living in an information-abundant world. If the research predictions are true, and our collective attention span continues to narrow, business leaders are going to need new tools that make it super-easy for employees to focus on what’s most important. And microlearning is an incredibly powerful tool for making that happen. If you want to learn all the advantages it can bring to your business, make sure to check out our Ultimate Guide.  

Carol Leaman, CEO's Headshot

Carol Leaman, CEO

Carol isn’t your typical leader. She’s driving a revolutionary approach to employee knowledge, but she’s also a doors-open, come-see-me-anytime kind of executive. Carol doesn’t just talk the talk—she definitely walks the walk. You can read more from her on Training Industry Magazine, ATD, CLO and as a regular contributor for Fortune.

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