Could you please stop texting in class?
  • leadership
  • Blog post

Could you please stop texting in class?

It’s natural to wonder whether your employees are getting the most out of their training. But maybe first you should ask yourself something simpler: Are they even paying attention?

It’s a fair question, when you consider the findings of a recent survey by FuzeBox, a provider of videoconferencing.

The national survey of 2,000+ randomly selected information-sector employees found that 92% of participants admitted to multitasking at some time during a meeting. Fully 41% said they did so frequently or all the time.

Now, this survey covered meetings of all kinds, not just instructional ones like training sessions. But it’s not too big a leap to assume that the trends detected by the survey will hold for meetings where employee learning is the specific aim.

The e-mail demon
Let’s look closer at these trends. First, what kind of multitasking are employees actually doing?

Well, 69% said they check electronic messages, 49% said they work on projects unrelated to the meeting, and 44% said they eat. Anybody who’s attended a brown-bag luncheon can attest that it’s possible to learn while you eat — although who knows what it’s doing to your digestion — but it’s quite a bit harder to do while you’re diverted by unrelated e-mail or other work.

Unsurprisingly, people do more multitasking in meetings where they can’t actually be seen doing it. More than half of respondents — 56%, to be exact — said they attend to unrelated tasks during phone meetings, and 23% during webinars.

But some employees are bold indeed. Some 16% multitask during in-person meetings. (Perhaps they’re in the back row?) FuzeBox said just 4% multitask during videoconferences, which neatly fits the videoconference provider’s marketing narrative but wasn’t otherwise explained by its report on the survey results.

Action steps
What does all this mean for HR and others in the organization who plan and conduct training?

1) For starters, it helps to try to make your training sessions interesting enough that people won’t want to multitask, or doze off, for that matter. An employee who is riveted on the subject matter isn’t going to be checking Expedia about hotels for his upcoming vacation.

2) Then, you may want to reflect on how much of your training relies on sessions or classes where you can’t see the trainees and/or impose any accountability for what they’re supposed to be learning. Sure, phone conferences and webinars have a place in the training pantheon, but they shouldn’t be all you do.

3) Finally, you may want to think some more about the way employees prepare for training. Somebody who comes to a training session completely cold, lacking even a nodding acquaintance with what’s going to be presented, is more likely to lose focus and start fiddling around than someone who knows a thing or two about the upcoming presentation, and so doesn’t risk feeling lost when it starts.

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