Do you remember playing Monopoly when you were younger? For me it always began with fighting over who got the thimble and who got the race car. Despite being young, we played Monopoly long into the night (which in retrospect was likely 10:00pm). This is astounding to me for two reasons. First, I can only stand playing Angry Birds on my iPhone for about five minutes these days, and secondly my children don’t even know what a board game is.
My premise here is that technology has altered our perceptions of time. I’m not here to debate whether this is a good or bad thing, but what I can tell you for sure is that managing people has and will become more complex than it once was.
During a speech in Atlanta late last year, I was approached by a senior executive with a very large publicly traded oil company. He confided in me that his company had initiated Interpersonal Skills training for their new employees because they were finding that the younger generation of workers being hired was not able to look their boss or supervisor in the eye for any length of time. This gap in skill was reinforced for me during a recent talk with a group of MBA students, during which about 90% opened their laptops before I even began my talk. Very few were actually able to sustain eye contact with me.
The mind space of employees has become increasingly difficult to capture. As leaders we are competing with a diminishing attention span due to the likes of Facebook and Twitter.
As I’m fortunate today to work with a variety of businesses and their diverse teams from around the globe, I wanted to take a moment to share with you some critical components of employee communication and engagement that are proving to be successful in engaging today’s younger generation:
1. Frequency and Brevity: From my research the maximum attention span for any employee is about fifteen minutes. Any communications that extend beyond fifteen minutes falls on deaf ears. As a result our communications, whether they are face to face or otherwise, must be kept brief. It’s also important to ensure communication is frequent. It’s not enough to simply make a point and then walk away. Follow up with an email; reinforce the message using an example during a future meeting; have employees tell you how the change will impacted their role. Frequency and brevity reinforce the message and ensure retention.
2. Planning Your Delivery: Early in my career I instituted a daily meeting in order to tell staff what the priorities were, and to address their concerns. Based on the variety of communication channels today, this is not the best forum for all messages. It’s important to consider how a message will be received, following which you can structure the most effective means to deliver the message. What is your best approach – is it to send something via instant message or to round employees up for a five minute talk? Defaulting to a single form of communication reduces the power of the message. Plan out about the best means to deliver the message.
3. INJECT POWER!!!: We are lead to believe that using capital letters suggests we’re yelling. Not true anymore. We have become accustomed to various fonts, emoticons, and symbols as part of our written language. It’s up to you then to use them if you want the message to be absorbed. Think about it; we connect best with those messages that are in a form we are comfortable with. If your employees use instant messaging, then you should be too. Increase the power of your messages by incorporating the style of interoffice communications.
Engagement results from communication, and communication is only effective if your methods change with the times. Incorporate the three points above and improve both your communication power and employee engagement.
© Shawn Casemore 2013. All rights reserved.