Affected attention spans and busier schedules: Reforming Training for Busy Employees
Increased pressure on the employee’s time due to increased amounts of work, means employees face stress and anxiety in our daily lives, which have considerably impacted our ability to pay attention to one task for a long duration. In the context of training activities – this means that workplace training will have to undergo some changes to adapt to the schedule of a busy employee. Many strategies will help the employee to be engaged and be able to perform to his/her full potential. However, dealing with distracted employees, who do not have the time for training, is a big issue. The implications of being distracted all the time mean multiple things: a) the employee has no time to learn new things b) this creates a loop where his performance dips as he/she is unable to incorporate best practices, updated technology or information.
Thus, it is essential to understand how attention spans are impacted in our daily lives. The definition of ‘attention span’ is the ability for a human being to focus on a specific task for a particular duration. The busy employee is bombarded with information through various devices. News, work, personal and social conversations happen endlessly on phones and desktops, which are a source of distraction from the task at hand.
There is a lot of conflicting data on if our attention spans have increased or decreased over the last few decades. Whatever the case may be, one thing is sure that employees are increasingly facing stress and disengagement which is affecting their productivity levels. American Psychological Association says that roughly $500 billion is lost because of workplace stress. For such employees who feel pressed for time and are unable to cope with multi-tasking, it would be difficult to dedicate time to workplace training. According to another study done by American Psychology Association that 52 percent working professionals report that they have less time for career development activities.
Employees are not just struggling with attention spans, being disengaged, but also having to go through uninspiring training courses which are a significant hurdle in getting desired results- such as learning retention and reinforcement. Which brings us to the question, what are some challenges facing employees in consuming training content?
Challenges employees face in consuming training content
- Time constraints: Employees feel that they do not have the time to go for training. Some attributing factors are; that managers may not support training opportunities or that employees themselves may not be interested in learning or up-skilling themselves.
- Increasing Learning effectiveness: How does the learning and training departments ensure that learning happens effectively? Will certifications ensure that employees pay more attention to content? Will have regular learning reinforcement sessions be helpful?
- Un-engaging inadequate course content: Training content must be engaging for learning effectiveness to increase. One statistic points out that ‘only 12% of learning and development teams currently use animation.’ Another challenge is updating content. Sometimes departments may miss or delay updating content which reduces the effectiveness of learning during training.
- Ensuring skill development and reinforcement of learning: Trainers can use augmented reality or virtual reality to reinforce skills development during and post-training. A blended learning approach to training may be helpful as the trainers will incorporate instructor-led training and online training modules to help employees learn better and reinforce learning.
- Content for a diverse workforce – cultural, generation factors: Currently more than 30% of the American workforce is a millennial (workers aged between 18-35 years) and is set to constitute 75% of the workforce by 2030. The data means that the trainers would now need to address training needs of the millennials and GenY who are currently a part of the workforce. It would also be a challenge to incorporate culturally responsive instruction for a multi-cultural workforce.
- Giving feedback: Recent researches have thrown light on the timing of feedback for more effective learning. It is presumed that immediate feedback is helpful in accelerating learning transfer however some studies report the opposite. Usually, with the help of technology, participants are now used to getting instant feedback. It is a challenge that needs to be addressed to improve training and learning effectiveness.
What are some strategies which would help facilitate training at work in short spans of time? These strategies also need to be those that increase learning effectiveness. Some that we have outlined are below
Strategies for Facilitating Training for the Busy Employee
- Go Online: Online training is one of the best ways to save time and cost. Online training platforms help to reach out to employees with online training modules, who may be located anywhere on the globe and is able to deliver different types of learning methods through the platform.
- Microlearning and bite-sized learning: Bite-sized learning (relevant information for the employee to learn for work) and Microlearning (delivering and teaching content in tiny specific bursts) is proving helpful in promoting effective learning. Microlearning videos are usually under 10 minutes to provide information ‘nuggets’ or ‘morsels’ which are easier to learn and used as short modules for learning. These short videos may be combined later to create different, longer modules if need be.
- Immersive Learning: Corporates are now exploring the option of a new learning methodology which is called Immersive learning. It involves including learning in simulated, controlled interactive environments including the use of virtual reality. It is becoming popular because it reduces logistics costs, can engage employee’s attention 100%, and has five times more engaging than any other media. With regards to data analytics, this method can justify/improve ROI with data metrics analytics such as behavioral, eye-tracking, heat maps, and gesture tracking. Immersive learning also helps employees to retain 75-90% information post-training.
- Informal Learning: Informal learning happens outside the formal and structured environs of the training room. This type of learning is triggered when the employee faces some issue – either technical or communication related and searches on his own how to solve these problems. In informal learning, the employee has a context and control over what he is learning- as he can approach various sources for a solution. However, informal learning happens based on the employee’s interests and purpose. When implemented along with formal training, informal learning can be useful.
- Blended Learning: Online training or combined with traditional teaching (live or classroom teaching) methods have been reported to have the most effect on learning and retention. A data point has revealed 59% of teachers were of the opinion that learners/students were more motivated to learn in a blended learning environment. Another heartening statistic states that 73% of educators who used a blended learning instruction model observed an increase in student/learner engagement.
- Virtual Reality, Games, and Gamification: If resources are available, then making learning fun is the best way to engage and have the employee focus on learning. For example, NASA is training astronauts using virtual reality. NASA is working with Manus VR which makes VR gloves which enable the astronauts to replicate their hands in the virtual environment allowing them to touch – helping them to pick up virtual tools and use them in virtual reality to practice their skills. Virtual reality enables employees to learn in a simulated environment replicating dangerous environments which may be risky and expensive. Online games are used to teach, compliance and product knowledge among others and can be imparted through simple games such as puzzles, crosswords among others. Gamification is another way to relay specific skills through competitive games using people natural tendencies for socializing, mastery, competition, achievement, status, and altruism among others. Gamification has been reported to increase retention rates by 9%.
Reforming your Training Activities
To help employees be engaged, focused and learning, it is essential for any organization to remain focused on their training and development activities, incorporating new learning strategies. Overcoming the challenge of shortage of time, disengaged attitudes and distracted attention spans is key to improving effectiveness of learning. New learning methodologies and platforms such as Blended Learning, Virtual Reality, Immersive learning and online training platforms, when combined make the most impact and are increasingly being used in workplace training.