Neurons firing
30 June 2016

5 ways our minds have changed and what HR need to do about it


Barry Chignell

Barry Chignell

Barry Chignell worked in Ciphr's marketing team from 2012-2020.


Employee engagement Leadership and management


The internet, and the modern technology that utilises it, is likely the biggest leap forward for mankind since the discovery of fire or the invention of the wheel. We all benefit from online resources and mobile devices in some way or another, whether directly or not.
Just a few years ago we were unable to work at home and now not only are millions of people carrying out their day’s activities from the comfort of their living room, but from anywhere they want to!

The effect that this new-found level of convenience has on our lives is largely positive, but has also caused a shift in how we think, both in our private lives and at work. In order to cater for this shift (and take advantage of it), where the workforce is concerned, HR and business leaders need to adapt.

Below are 5 such ‘shifts’ in how we think and what modern employers can do to adapt:

1. We have shorter attention spans

In the year 2000, humans possessed an average attention span of 12 seconds; since the mobile revolution, this has dropped to just eight seconds.
As we’re bombarded with more and more information, we have less time and tolerance for anything that doesn’t get to the point immediately.
Many of us have adopted second and even third computer screens to keep up with the various sources of content that require our, albeit short, attention during the day.

short attention spanEven when we get home and are supposed to be relaxing, we’re probably browsing our mobile device while trying to simultaneously watch the TV. Many social networks provide information and content in short, sharp updates or ‘snippets’, which are easily and quickly digested.
Infographics have become very popular as a means to provide a huge amount of information in a quick and very visual manner.
If that same data was portrayed simply as a block of text then the average reader probably wouldn’t manage to get two thirds of the way through without giving up.

“I’d have a longer attention span if there weren’t so many shiny things.”
Author: Darynda Jones

As a business, it’s important to adapt to this change in human behaviour and use ‘snippets’ of information where possible. Infrequent and lengthy emails, for instance, probably won’t be absorbed as well as regular short and succinct updates on your company’s social platform.
Using visual examples to get a message across can also increase how that message is received and its effectiveness at being absorbed by employees.

2. We won’t tolerate anything other than immediacy

immediacyWith the convenience that mobile and smart devices offer us in every aspect of our lives, we’ve become far less tolerant when it comes to waiting for anything.
Automation, connectivity and notifications, are an everyday part of life and we don’t like it if things don’t happen quickly on their own.

When we log a query or issue with a product or service we expect an almost immediate response – we’re no longer happy to wait 24 (or even 12) hours for that brand to reply.
It’s the same at work, if something’s not working as it should be, we expect an immediate resolution.

Improving response times and the processes that support the relevant internal communication is an important role for HR and the IT department. The more streamlined and optimised the process is, the more efficient the business will become at resolving issues, thereby improving employee satisfaction, engagement and productivity.

3. We expect things to adapt to our needs

adapt to our needsNot so long ago, the idea of working from home on a regular basis was considered a rare luxury, but with the increasingly online world telecommuting has become a normal part of working life.
Working the hours that suit them is now something that many employees enjoy. Whether it makes for a better commute, because of personal priorities or simply because we work more effectively during certain periods of the day, the ability to choose is something we’ve come to expect.

The ability to attract the right people to work for and represent your brand relies on a number of factors, such as how flexible you are as an employer. Employees expect an employer to respect their right to a private life and to appreciate that flexibility is required in order to improve work/life balance, engagement, retention and advocacy.

4. We’re a lot more health conscious (at least where work is concerned)

health conciousEmployees are more aware of their own health and wellbeing than ever before. Standing desks are just one example of how the traditional way of working as a desk has been identified as a health threat and subsequently addressed in the modern office.
With this increased awareness among the workforce, employers now need to consider ways to monitor, identify and treat such health and wellness concerns, in order to maintain a healthy and efficient business.

Brands must be more aware of the effects that the working environment they provide has on employee health. Ergonomics, air quality and lighting are all areas that most businesses don’t currently take too much notice of, but could have a dramatic effect on costs, productivity, motivation and wellbeing, if addressed.

5. We crave validation and recognition

social validationMost of us share content online; whether that content is about our personal lives, our profession or passion, we mostly update others about something for social validation. The more ‘likes’, ‘retweets’, ‘+1’s’, ‘repins’ or shares our status updates get, the better.
When we receive such validation, we see and use it as encouragement to do more and improve, it’s ingrained in us from birth.

Employees have the same need from their employers – a lack of recognition, encouragement or validation, results in a reduction in motivation, engagement and, ultimately, productivity.

Simply thanking employees for a job well done, rewarding teams that worked together to achieve a difficult goal or organising a company-wide event ‘just because’, are effective ways to maintain and increase employee engagement and improve your employer brand.