There are some pretty strong arguments that the use of Smart Phones has reduced our attention spans. In fact, I bet some of you won’t be able to read this entire article without checking your phone or toggling over to check your email.
Publications like “Are Smartphones Making Us Dumber” and “Is Your Smartphone Making You Fat and Lazy” provide evidence that smartphones are creating a negative impact on our cognitive abilities.
For example, how many people under the age of 30 could use a map to navigate their way to some unknown destination? Don’t get me wrong, I have a very close affection for my GPS “lady” in helping navigate my way through some tricky destinations. But, she has led me astray on occasion to a route that seems to pass by a lot of Dunkin Donut Shops.
This leads me to think about the amount of time allowed for a single training program has gone from an average of 1 hour down to 15 minutes. Is this because we know the end-user attention span is short or is this the only amount of time the organization will allow the learner to be pulled away from their job?
Knowing that a training unit seems to be 15 minutes or less, it’s surprising to find that from 2017 to 2020, large corporations have dedicated more than twice as much time into total hours of training
(Chart from this article)
So, if companies are allowing for more training time per employee but less time for each training activity what was the catalyst that caused this dramatic leap?
My hypothesis is that more content is being digitized and accessible via online courseware/video content and knowledge management but are the employees becoming more skilled just because their employer is providing more content and easier access?
According to a study conducted by Professor Mark Williams University of Sydney Australia, shows that something that is read on a screen will be retained 10-30 percent less than something read on paper.
He also states “Our brains can’t multi-task, we have to switch our attention from one thing to another “
How many apps on your phone send an audible or buzzing signal to you throughout the day? These disruptions take our focus away each time we hear them.
I think we are fooling ourselves that by providing more resources to our employees they will automatically consume them to increase their capacity to do their job. I think organizations are taking the “just Google it” approach to providing resources and information to employees. Why not — I can’t tell you how many things I’ve Googled to bring knowledge to me in the moment I need it.
Does that mean I’ve had become an expert on this –no but it got the job done. I think this has become the attitude of many organizations, by providing enough access to on-demand knowledge, we are doing our jobs.
I hope some of you reading this (if you got this far) can prove me wrong. Time, money and chaos are always going to be a driving force in building an educated workforce. Wouldn’t it be great if your company could bring an industry expert to the table when trying to acquire a new client or present the best trouble-shooting team when malicious hackers break into your network. Companies can have this type of human capital without paying higher prices to recruit top talent from the start.
In closing, it would be great to see examples of companies that spend time on training beyond the 15-minute chunks or treat training as a one-time event. It takes time, practice and feedback to gain long-term knowledge and expertise. I’m a huge fan of technology and the benefits it can provide but let’s find ways to leverage technology in a way that enable employees to build long-term knowledge and build internal experts to become more competitive and more “Smart” without relying on our mobile devices.