Context-Switching Can Cost Companies Billions

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There are numerous tools we rely on every day to do our jobs—e-mail, LinkedIn to stay in touch with friends and colleagues, Slack to communicate with coworkers and clients, and Zoom for virtual meetings, just to name a few. 

But like anything in life, nothing is free. There are subjective costs to using these tools, and those costs usually translate into lost productivity. And over time, lower productivity means lower revenue and dampened employee morale.

How can companies learn from this and use these tools more effectively? To start, we need to realize how they impact productivity in both a positive and a negative way.

What Is Context-Switching, and How Can It Slow Us Down?

Switching between different channels directly lowers our efficiency and causes interruptions in our thinking. These interruptions throughout the day can result in an 80% productivity drop, and knowledge workers in the United States alone waste as much as 25% of their time at work—costing the economy $997 billion annually. Despite all the benefits, there are real consequences to having too many platforms that help us do our jobs.

Consider, for example, the change in gears your mind goes through when you switch from reading an e-mail to checking, say, a Slack notification. Going back and forth between these different channels changes our focus and breaks our concentration. 

Yet in spite of this, many organizations have done the opposite and have added more digital tools to their daily workflows. After all, technology is often designed to help. But sometimes, too much technology only adds to the confusion.

In the sales world specifically, research from Accenture has found that 55% of sellers think their company’s sales tools are more of an obstacle than a facilitator of performance. Additionally, 59% say they have too many sales tools. 

And that’s just for a single department. When you add in the tools and messages salespeople use to interact with other departments or to complete their daily job functions—such as ongoing training, for example—context-switching can become even more overwhelming.

That’s especially true given that training is often required, not suggested. But when switching between different channels is already so challenging, how can companies expect to divert more attention to training?

Workplace Tools Can Do More Than You Think—Use Them Accordingly

One highly effective way to address this is by making training modules available on the platforms already used by employees. 

By making training simple and accessible on platforms such as Slack, Salesforce, and others, organizations can reduce the need to switch between different channels and interrupt attention spans. Delivering small, bitesize training sessions (microlearning) via the same systems employees use daily can go a long way toward accomplishing both productivity targets and HR leaders’ goals of increased training adoption and higher rates of participation.

The best way to accomplish this is to use a learning management system (LMS) that can integrate directly with your customer relationship management (CRM) system or other platform of your choice. By embedding training modules directly into Salesforce or Slack, your team can easily participate in the training they need without halting their workflow. 

By integrating training platforms with the channels employees use in their daily workflows, organizations can increase productivity, increase access to training, and boost employee morale—all at once. 

Mohana Radhakrishnan is the CoFounder & COO of ExpertusONE.

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