Fighting for attention in the age of Facebook

Fighting for attention in the age of Facebook

Does a great user experience mean a great employee experience?

Capturing your employee’s attention in the digital age can be difficult. There are a plethora of apps, devices and demands on worker time that means getting your workforce to engage with even the best technology and platforms - to help them achieve their professional goals - can be difficult a task. The impulse to reply to emails, react to Slack notifications and respond to social media pop-ups can seem much more pressing than doing an extra bit of e-learning, admin or searching an internal jobs board for an opportunity.

This fight for attention, posits James Williams, author of the prize-winning book Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy, is exactly what most of us have to contend with all the time.

With the business models of almost all digital applications relying on the capture of our attention - Netflix’s CEO once said their biggest competitor is sleep – what is it that makes an employee more inclined to trawl through Facebook during slow moments at work than engage with an online learning module? There’s clearly a lesson to be learnt from these productivity-sapping ‘distractions’ often viewed as an enemy that must be beaten off or blocked on the office computer.

In fact, there is an obvious benefit to employers comparing their internal platforms, and the subsequent user experience to the platforms that seem to distract them. If organisations
considered UI and UX like Facebook did; if they considered how their learning content could appeal as Netflix or Amazon Prime’s films and TV shows did; if they saw digital as an ongoing journey – that employees take on their workplace platforms every day – would capturing employee attention be less of struggle?

John Vickerman, HR Director, Fujitsu UK & Ireland, certainly thinks so. He notes the explosion of digital firms that operate in the consumer sphere – Amazon, Netflix, Ebay – which rely on great UX as a: “critical point in customer engagement in order to compete for attention now and in the future.”

Vickerman believes the same rules should apply in the workplace. “We should apply the same to HR corporate systems. With most employees used to swiping, clicking and filing in seconds, users have to come to expect the same in their working lives as they have their personal lives.”


Considering how your technology comes across to employee’s is a crucial workplace consideration. Geoffroy De Le Strange, Associate Director of Product Marketing EMEA at Cornerstone OnDemand, explains that its by examining your own technology and ensuring that it works to benefit employee engagement, can progress be made in solving the engagement and productivity issues businesses face.

“Companies need their employees to be engaged and motivated, and technology can bring a huge host of benefits for the employee experience and productivity to help this,” he says. 

“We find some of the greatest benefits are in the growth opportunities technology provides.”

De Le Strange continues: “For example, if an employee can have customised learning suggestions from a machine learning algorithm in a user-friendly interface, which they can complete when they want to, it’s going to be much more engaging than classroom-based courses. Furthermore, we have done research with IDC over the last three years of European HR and line of business managers that found high growth organisations are more likely to be those embracing collaborative practices, internal mobility, and collaborative learning systems.”

Essentially, what De Le Strange makes clear is that, much like the consumer technology most employees use in their personal lives, the technology in place to assist employees at work must provide a similar experience to spark better engagement with everything from learning content to the day-to-day innings.

And although employee engagement can be impacted by a variety of different factors, including everything from management, the state of the economy and their work-life balance, if anything could be done to improve it, wouldn’t firms want to take a punt? Canon are one such firm who did. They considered the importance of how having a better, more integrated platform could improve both the digital experience of their employees and thus their career opportunities.

Caroline Price, Senior Vice President of HR within Canon’s EMEA region, explained that staff are better stimulated and informed by the opportunities - both developmental and career-progression erring - as a result of a platform designed to give easy access to performance metrics, learning modules and career opportunities.

Called the Canon Development Hub, Price notes that it has given employees autonomy over the learning and pulled together different parts of the employee experience that might have otherwise operated in silo. This includes giving staff access to curated-for-them training modules and opportunities to work abroad. It’s worked to make the employee experience more coherent and engaging.

Rebecca Garrod-Waters, CEO of Ufi Charitable Trust, has had similar experiences to Price. “Technology has had a substantial impact on vocational learning. As technologies such as VR, AR and mobile apps have become more widely available, the scope and scale at which people can learn on-the-job has increased exponentially.” She has one warning though.

“This technology though is only effective when people find it enjoyable to use and intuitive to interact with."

"This requires attention and care to be put into the user experience of any of the vocational learning technology that a company invests in.” This is maybe why Canon report such great success with their platform.

With over three years of development, Price notes that it “totally integrates to an employee’s role” and forms a compelling part of Canon’s employee engagement proposition. And, with the pace of digital change seemingly always increasing, Canon are on the ball to ensure that their workplace platform is updated as often as consumer platforms, meaning, continuously. Like the best interfaces, it needs constant attention to do its job.

The upswing in learning uptake and engagement, as a direct result of a great platform, is something that Garrod-Walters expects. “Great UX removes barriers to learning, allowing learners to track their progress and motivate themselves,” she says. “By putting human experience at the centre of the technology, employees are able to effectively upskill and employers will make the most out of their experience.” Which is what it’s all about - ensuring the technology in place is great, so employees are engaged and the bottom line is impacted in the most positive of ways.


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