All entries for April 2014

Attention Span in The Work Place

Days are increasingly busy for employees,which means there’s less time to revisit the necessary skillswork training.jpg for a job.Employers use training to refuel industry practices, but there seems to be a continuous thread of discussions about what schedule works best.

Based on a recent study, adults begin to lose interest after just 10 minutes. We presume that our short attention span is based on our reliance on technology and the need for speed to complete daily task, however this isn’t necessarily true. According to a study published in The Lancet during 1978, doctoral students began to lose focus in just 10 minutes, the study event suggested lectures be shortened to 30 minutes opposed to the original brief hour format. The same goes for training in the workplace.

Tips for Conducive Workplace Training:

  1. Short and sweet: Shorter more frequent sessions are beneficial in the workplace. In a study published by the Medical Research Council, researchers compared four groups of postmen who were training to type alpha-numeric code material. Training was based on sessions lasting for one or two hours once or twice per day. According to the study, learning was most efficient in the group attending one 1-hour session per day. Training was least efficient in the group that attended two 2-hour sessions. The study also tested retention rates, and found that after one, three or nine months, the group that attended the shorter training lessons had a higher retention rate. The study indicates shorter lessons should be distributed over time rather than massed all at once.
  2. Practice Makes Perfect: Consistency is key for workplace retention and skill. An industry study in 2006 finds that expert performers practice the same amount every day but the amount of practice never exceeds five hours per day. This means that the tools learned during training exercises should be relevant to everyday duties and the employee should be enabled and encouraged to use these skills daily.
  3. Make Key Points Readily Available: Occasionally long-form training is necessary. Should you resort to this method – make the key information readily available at the beginning and end of each session. Research indicates that attention spans drop after 10 minutes, but pick back up as a session is ending, scientists refer to this as the “primacy” and “recency” effects.


There are several alternatives to instructor-led based training. Companies often opt for computer or web-based training which allows employees to visit material at their own pace. Other options include web meetings or webinars, audio-conferencing or collaborative document preparation. Should these options be taken into consideration, they should be narrowed to short time periods spread over a period of time.

Employee Engagement: A Hodgepodge of Methods

If it were a Twitter hashtag, it would be trending in all industries: #EmployeeEngagement. It’s the one thing all businesses want to increase – the way that leaders and employees work together. It’s more of a taboo than a science and is believed to be hindered by employee doubt towards engagement programs and the motives behind them. According to the Employee Benefits/Towers Watson Benefits Research 2014, 54 percent of respondents’ flexible benefits plans aim to boost employee engagement.

According to the 2014 survey, companies are focusing less heavily on staff recruitment and retention, return on investment and control benefit costs. As business leaders turn to top companies for insight, what they will find may be innovative, creative and unusual.

In a Fortune interview, Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo, explained her method of personal recognition for exemplar employees. Simulating the gold star reward system in elementary school – Nooyi recreates this method at her Fortune 500 company. She addresses the success of her employees in an unusual but personal way – by contacting the parents of her direct reports and thanking them for the person they raised.

nooyi.jpg “I wrote to them and I told them the story of my going to India and what happened with my mother, and I said, "therefore I'm writing to thank you for the gift of your son, who is doing this at PepsiCo, and what a wonderful job this person is doing."  I gave a -- it was a personal letter for each family member.

And it opened up emotions of the kind I have never seen.  Parents wrote back to me, and all of a sudden, parents of my direct reports, who are all quite grown-up, and myself, we had our own communication.

And one executive, I remember, he went home and he said to his mom, "you know, my boss is really giving me a tough time." And his mom told him, "Nuh-uh, not about her.  She's my friend!"  (laughter)”

Nooyi’s successful method to recognize and boost employee engagement spread through her company as employees worked harder to earn an adult report card. PepsiCo then expanded their employee recognition program to identify 200 people within the company, ages 35 to senior level. Nooyi took 2-1/2 days to spend time with these people – learning their stories and their beliefs, giving them a personal moment with their leader. She then followed that time with a letter to their parents, thanking them for their excellent family-raising skills.

When a business breaks down these professional barriers, though – do personal-life decisions become hindered by one-sided professional relationships? Deeper into Nooyi’s interview with Fortune, she explains how PepsiCo became the top position for one strong job candidate.  She called his mother.

“So the son goes home -- he has no clue I called his mom -- and he says, "I'm looking at these two offers,  Mom, and I'm close to accepting the other one."  And she goes, "No.  You're accepting PepsiCo."  He goes, "Since when did you know anything about PepsiCo?" And the mom said, "She called me, your CEO called me."  And this boy goes, "I had no choice!"  (laughter)  Can you imagine going home every day after that and a mom goes, "but you should have accepted that offer!"

Methods of Employee Engagement vary drastically from industry to industry but undoubtedly personal recognition within a company is the basis for retaining star performers. We’re interested to know – what methods do you use to recognize your top players? Is Nooyi’s approach too personal for work?


Anger Management in the Workplace

What is anger?  According to (n.d.), anger is “a strong feeling of displeasure and usually of antagonism”.  This emotion is not necessarily characterized by raised voices and violent physical action… but in some instances or for some people, the ability to control emotions is difficult to manage.

cherissa blog.jpg

Most of us deal with anger in some shape or form on a regular basis- whether our own while sitting in traffic, racing the clock on a tight deadline, or coming into contact with angry family members or peers.  But when anger becomes an issue in the workplace, the situation may get a little sticky for employers.  Because an employee may have been diagnosed with a behavioral or mental condition, they may be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and any attempt by the employer to ‘correct’ or discipline the employee could easily be placed under scrutiny.

On the other hand, lack of effort to avoid or control anger outbursts in the workplace could be placing other employees at emotional and/or physical risk.  While there are many options in managing the emotional health of your employees, consider the following ideas:

  • Keep an open door policy.  Encourage employees to bring their complaints to upper management- and allow them to vent in a controlled environment.  Be prepared to listen closely to your employee, ask questions to clarify your understanding of their grudge and respond calmly and without bias to attempt to rectify or relieve the situation.
  • Schedule a mandatory Conflict Management workshop. Many companies provide courses in person and on DVD which teach workers how to handle conflict with peers and superiors that can be viewed during working hours.
  • Research and implement regular team building exercises.  The purpose of team building exercises is to assist employees’ development of professional and positive working relationships.  Getting workers’ minds off of work for a period of time and to becoming more comfortable around each other can do wonders for the workplace environment.  Scheduling team building activities for your employees will not only increase motivation, but can assist in communication barriers as well.
  • Develop incentive schemes to include stress-relieving prizes.  What better way to prevent an anger- or stress-related blowout than a ending a long productive week with an afternoon at the spa?  Hold a meeting and ask your employees how they prefer to reduce stress levels and offer these solutions as prizes for high productivity on a monthly or semi-monthly basis.

For more information on how an employee struggling with anger management may be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, view the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 text from the U.S. Equal Employement Opportunity Commission website here:

Webster, M. (n.d.). Retrieved on February 25, 2014 from




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