- The average person has a shorter attention span than a goldfish – eight seconds compared to their nine. That’s down from 12 seconds in 2000, based on Microsoft research.
- Every minute of every day, 204 million emails are sent, Twitter users tweet 277,000 times and Facebook users share more than 2.4 million pieces of content. (study by Domo, Inc.)
- Today’s U.S. employees say their organizations have too many internal initiatives and conflicting work priorities. They’re also more connected to their profession than the company, according to a 2016 study by the Institute for Public Relations.
So if capturing your team’s attention is a challenge, the good news is you’re not alone. Even better: you can do something about it, without spending a dime. And the returns are great: improved productivity, profitability and overall performance.
Numerous experts have developed strategies to gain and maintain employee attention and improve engagement. Many involve simple behavior changes that can bring big benefits. If you want to truly connect with your team, here are 3 ideas.
1. Pay attention to them yourself. Author Kare Anderson did research for Disney to determine what best captured children’s attention at their theme parks. The answer? Their parents’ cell phones. Hungry for attention, the kids watched their parents check their phones more often than the Disney “magic” around them.
Anderson says the same is true of leaders and employees. “Giving undivided attention is the first and most basic ingredient in any relationship. It is impossible to communicate, much less bond, with someone who can’t or won’t focus on you,” Anderson wrote in the Harvard Business Review.
How you connect makes a real difference. Put the phone down, lean forward, look your team in the eye and truly listen. When a leader engages that directly, people pay attention.
2. Target your message. Employee needs and interests depend on their experience, role, location, involvement and more. Mass-market messages are often ignored because they don’t “speak” to the individual or to specific groups.
How can you fix that? Determine who needs to know what, when. View information through the lens of the employees you are trying to reach – and tailor your message accordingly.
3. Tell stories. A good story captures attention in 15 seconds. All stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. But Andrew Linderman, founder of the “Story Source” consulting firm, notes good stories are specific, honest and personal. “It’s about connecting,” Linderman told Entrepreneur magazine. “You need to be vulnerable and connect to the vulnerability of others.”
Too many leaders choose bullet points and PowerPoints over story-telling – and their teams tune out. Instead, think of stories to bring your message to life. What circumstances led to the business decision or change? What customer anecdotes can you share? What did your child or grandparent ask you about work that made you think differently? Getting personal is more engaging – and numerous studies show people remember stories more than data points.
As information sources expand, the battle for attention will only increase. For example, the growth in social networks such as Vine, Reddit and Snapchat in just the past few years provide more and more venues to connect… and cause distractions from work.
Personal connections to cut through this clutter will make a difference to your team – whether it’s simply paying attention, targeting your message specifically to them or telling stories. Or perhaps all three.