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Increasing the employee attention budget

by jcp
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By: Tim Christensen, CTO, SocialChorus

If there is one thing pretty much every employee everywhere will agree on, it’s that we are all overloaded with information. Emails, texts, WhatsApps, intranet, business applications – the sheer number of messages that each of us must process on a daily basis is staggering.

Research from OpenText found that the number of data sources and applications to check daily is adding to stress levels for nearly a third (31%) of workers across the globe.

This level of information ‘noise’ causes several problems. Not only does it contribute to burnout – with employees feeling overwhelmed and unable to switch off, but it also makes it harder to find and absorb the critical messages, affects productivity as valuable time is wasted trying to wade through the information coming through, and impairs the ability to make good decisions.

Every worker, regardless of role, location, or shift pattern, has a budget of time that they are willing to spend on any given message. It is up to the communicator to make the most of that budget, and ideally, increase it. This means making the moments of engagement as high quality and ‘valuable’ as possible.

So how can you maximise the value of each one of those moments so that employees engage more with critical messages, and can filter out the ones of lesser importance?

Many businesses assume that the way to do this is to simply increase the signal for some messages. The issue with this is that it doesn’t make any space for these messages, it simply just adds to an already heavy burden.

Ensuring that every moment spent on engagement delivers maximum value goes back to putting every worker at the very centre of the decision-making process. How do they receive information, is it effective? Are messages getting through? If not, how can we improve that process?

There needs to be a three-pronged approach when considering how to deliver value for every employee:

  • Reduce the noise. There is a huge amount of competition for time. Reducing the number of disruptions, and if possible, eliminating some of the lesser important communications can help to clear some space. There is also a place for increasing signal – but it must be the right signal. If employees believe they will get value from investing time in engagement, they are more likely to give you more of their precious time.

 

  • Effective orchestration. Used correctly, technology can play a pivotal role in maximising engagement value – streamlining and delivering messages in a way that meets employees where they are. Part of this orchestration is also about ensuring that messages are accessible to all. So much of the software available is built around the needs of the desk worker, but it is also important to make sure that frontliners are equally able to access communications as and when they need to – which means giving careful thought to how, when and in what format, messages are delivered.

 

  • Quality of content. When it comes to maximising value, the lynchpin of it all is the quality of the material. Even with reduced noise and the best orchestration engine, if the content doesn’t deliver value for the employee, they won’t engage. When we think about the marketing industry, professionals know that they have a split second to make a good impression that will keep customers coming back for more, and the same applies to employee engagement. Communications materials need to inspire every recipient to engage with it to win that competition for time.

 

An additional element that will help to further improve all these strands is data. Data can provide valuable insights into whether messages are being accessed, and even more critically, acted upon. It will also give information on how different segments of the workforce are engaging with messages. This feedback loop will ensure that the value of those engagement moments is continually refined, providing an even better experience for employees.

The benefits of investing time and resources into making sure that business communications deliver value for employees are manifold. When a worker consistently receives messages that are relevant to them, in a way that is accessible to them, it will build a trust that increases their future time budget. This increase will lead to a greater awareness of critical business messages. Finally, a streamlined approach to engagement, that creates the best possible experience for every worker, will have a direct impact on employee satisfaction, productivity, and ultimately the bottom line.

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