Recent research is pointing to a diminished attention span among consumers and even the younger workforce. This has some obvious implications for your business, both from the client perspective and the perspective of your workforce. While it may not be possible to reverse the trend, it may be possible to leverage technology to mitigate some of the effects of the shortening attention spans.
What this means to your messaging
When it comes to the messaging you create to engage with your audience, you need to think about their current typical engagement patterns as well as the action you hope they will take. With the rise of social media, it can help to think about messaging in a timeline and what type of timeline update tend to get the most views. For example, if you are able to effectively target your consumer market on Facebook, it might be helpful to think about how you can make your message look as organic as possible, so that it will naturally fall into the usual flow of consuming the timeline updates they consume on a regular basis. Making use of video can further engage consumers and may increase the likelihood that they share your content.
The most obvious problem with that approach is that very few Facebook users take action on a timeline post, other than possibly sharing it, of course. What this means is that once you have their attention, your call to action must be compelling enough to pull them temporarily away from viewing their timeline to engage with you. Even then, remember that you have a limited amount of time to engage them and capture a potentially valuable lead or sale.
What this means to your organization
Consumer messaging is not the only engagement scenario to change with a shrinking attention span. Younger employees, who have always had access to social media are more conditioned than ever to respond to chimes, vibrations, blinking lights and any other notification our electronic devices create. Where it was once considered rude to answer a phone call while having a conversation with someone, it is now considered rude to ignore your phone, regardless of the context or discussion. The impact on training, safety and quality of work on your business environment are significant and could represent a real impact on your bottom line.
How can you use technology to compensate for short attention
What can be done to counteract this shrinking attention span? Perhaps it’s more helpful to look at it from the other perspective of what it is that’s taking their attention away from work. If our generation is constantly engaged on mobile devices, including their cell phones and tablets, perhaps a new breed of mobile resources could train and focus the attention of our younger workforce. Imagine an app that was synchronized with your business and provide the types of alerts, dings, vibrations and notifications that they are already tuned in to receive and would help keep employees on track with deadlines and other commitments. Imagine adapting workplace processes to make use of tablets and other technology that felt natural to use and helped the employee feel as engaged as he does when viewing a timeline in social media.
Whatever the winning combination turns out to be, it’s likely to adapt to the changing culture rather than running counter to it. On the other hand, if you need steady employees who aren’t distracted by every noise and who you can trust to keep track of details and follow through, perhaps it’s time you forget about generation X and choose more mature employees who know how to get things done!