Whether it's the distractions of an open office, high stress levels or persistent procrastination, the barriers to productivity in the workplace can be burdensome. For many workers, the ability to work efficiently relies on a combination of factors like motivation, time management, training, mentorship and talent. But, a large part of increased efficiency is also one's ability to learn.
In today's professional landscape, workers -- especially millennials -- report that productivity is hard to achieve. According to a recent Gallup survey, 55 percent of Millennial workers reported they aren't engaged enough at work and their productivity suffers as a result.
But, a healthy office space can act as a professional playground and an educational atmosphere that helps foster higher levels of efficiency. These learning strategies and tools can help Millennial employees perform better on the job while improving retention and output rates for employers.
Implement emerging technologies
Education technology has become a major investment for companies to train and retain their employees. According to McKinsey and Company, effective training combines programs that engage participants, specialized training modules, online and in-person instruction and curriculum that focuses on skilled tasks via physical and digital simulations.
Emerging and artificial intelligent tools can help streamline this learning process and therefore increase efficiency in the workforce. Amongst emerging innovations, AI and automated tools can help foster collaborative learning environments. Salesforce, for example, has developed leading learning and development programs that are customizable and digitized for individual employees to help keep them engaged and productive.
AI's machine learning algorithms can help career development, and thus productivity, in numerous ways:
Personalized and more effective learning. Back-end machine learning like voice recognition via speech identification patterns and intelligent user-friendly interfaces can adapt to workers' specific learning styles and needs. In addition, computers can analyze data to provide real-time feedback during training sessions to help modify a user's learning path based on progress and response. For example, a test can help recommend a specific curriculum based on the learner's input and offer more efficient learning strategies.
Build training reinforcements. Most companies aren't great at reinforcing their trainees. But, career development strategies need to be encouraged so workers can implement, retain and practice the skills they've just been taught. AI can improve learning recall easily. In addition, intelligent systems and apps can engage us and help reinforce employees to produce patterns in the way they operate, increasing their ability to integrate new techniques in the workplace.
Measure ROI and effectiveness. AI-driven big data can help organizations keep track of key performers in the workplace. Intelligent software can now scan large amounts of data from multiple sources including online surveys and assessments. By analyzing daily activity in different learning management systems and training programs, AI can help pinpoint strengths and the areas that need improvement for each employee. It can even match employee profiles to create mentorships or partner employees with similar learning styles. Based on analyzed success and failure metrics, AI tools can help streamline the training and learning process on-the-job so that employees can see productive results in their everyday tasks.
As technology evolves, it can help foster multidirectional career progress among a highly knowledgeable talent pool and create an environment where business practices are more efficient and innovative along the way.
Cognitive control and gamificiation
"Supertasking" is the gifted ability that allows for massive amounts of production in small-time frames. People who have this ability can juggle two (sometimes more) demanding tasks without pausing or making errors. The skill includes a blend of attention, memory and ability to resist distractions.
While one study estimated that only 2.5 percent of people have the capabilities to be supertaskers, many of us have the ability to develop improved multitasking skills through learning tools like gamification.
For many workers, multitasking creates a confusing inundation of information, causing us to make mistakes as we engage and disengage with different projects. However, supertaskers show that people can teach their mind to optimize their cognitive controls. Research indicates that a few typical supertasking skills, such as the ability to ignore and resist distractions, can be learned and practiced. Ultimately these skills make workers more focused, less distracted, and detail-oriented.
A recent study from Gazzaley's Lab found that older players, up to 80-year-olds, who were asked to identify specific objects in video games improved their attention and ability to outperform non-frequent, 20-year-old players. They also improved in memory and attention, showing that the game practice can enhance some factors of cognitive control in players across the globe. Yet, another research study from cognitive researcher Daphne Bavelier found that consistent players can train themselves to ignore distractions and handle multiple amounts of information more efficiently.
One way to improve these cognitive controls is to gamify learning and development trainings along with a company's overall work culture. Already, startups like EvaluAgent use game mechanics for their staff. By implementing staff goals and setting up point values and a rewards system, it can help engage workers and boost productivity in various cognitive ways. Virtual games can help during the learning and development stages, too.
The growth mindset
Developing new behaviors and mindsets can put us on the path to learning and self-actualization. Research shows that a growth mindset can help motivate its proponents through challenges, allowing them to see failures as springboards for career growth and action. However, when challenges arise at work most people project a "fixed mindset" or defeatist attitude, making us believe that our intelligence and our creative abilities are unchangeable.
Workers who showcased this mindset were found to accomplish more in their professional and personal lives than people with a fixed mindset. Rather than worrying about how they look to others, they actively pursue learning new skills to accomplish hard tasks. According to the Harvard Business Review, those who have a growth mindset encounter overwhelmingly more positive workplaces, a major key to workplace productivity.
The Pomodoro Method
Touted by the likes of Northwestern University and numerous studies, the Pomodoro method is a learning technique that can increase productivity. With more than 50 percent of employers citing cellphones as a major productivity killer at work, the Pomodoro method helps manage how you work and lets you stay productive throughout the day. By arranging your day into 25-minute work periods, the method allows users to optimize their time in a fast-paced work environment as follows:
Schedule your work sessions for 25 minutes without any interruptions
Take a five-minute break to rehydrate, re-energize or check emails
After four work periods, take advantage of longer 15-minute breaks
Shorter work periods give workers more substantial time to focus on current tasks. But, if someone distracts you, such as a boss, take the following steps:
Inform teammates that you're unavailable to chat at the moment
Negotiate timely check-ins when you can talk to your colleague
Schedule immediate follow-ups
While it's hard to resist distractions, especially in a very social work environment, some workers can even go as far to install anti-distraction apps like SelfControl, Freedom and StayFocused to block social media as they complete tasks.
When combined, many of these techniques go hand-in-hand to create a fertile environment for productivity, creativity and ultimately innovation. As companies invest in user-based technologies that support the capabilities of the human mind in tandem with emerging technologies like AI, modern businesses can get the best of both emotional intelligence and rational thought from the workers of today and tomorrow.