Want More Productive Employees? Avoid Cognitive Overload with These Tips

Your employees are more than likely experiencing cognitive overload.

Think that’s a generality that doesn’t apply to your workforce?

Think again.

Help your employees avoid Cognitive Overload.

Help your employees avoid Cognitive overload.

Employees are constantly bombarded with information, from texts and emails, to training and development materials, and when a human experiences cognitive overload, the result isn’t just that they become distracted or burned out – they’re also going to be less productive and less engaged, which is going to cost you money.

The Overload Reversal Trend

Some of the world’s biggest and most successful companies, including SAP and Google, are recognizing the negative impact cognitive overload is having on their workforce and their productivity, and they’re looking for ways to solve the problem.

The key to reducing the cognitive load of employees is to cut out all of the unnecessary noise, and instead clearly let them know what’s important and where their focus needs to be.

While cognitive overload can be a general term and certainly doesn’t apply exclusively to your training and development, it also can definitely be used in terms of these concepts.

So how do you cut through the noise, reduce cognitive overload, and get your employees focused and engaged with your eLearning?

With these tips:

  1. Group your training and development materials into relevant sections and create shorter overall eLearning courses. Rather than trying to train your employees on five different subjects within one course module, do yourself a favor and break them apart. Employees need to not only see relevance between the materials they’re being expected to learn, but they also need a break in-between different subjects to better digest information.
  2. Make it easy for them to understand what you’re trying to convey. Getting your employees to focus on key concepts within eLearning and training can actually be quite simple – spell it out for them. No one has the time or the desire to weed through information to try to find the salient points. When you’re creating training content, use things like headlines on each and every screen to let your employee know the primary take away from that page. You can also do smaller headings throughout a page that show the point of each small section of training content.
  3. Group information in a way that’s smart and intuitive. We’ve already covered keeping modules to only related information and also ensuring they’re brief, but if you’re including multiple elements to address one topic, for example text that supports an image or a video, keep these elements together on one page. If you’re giving an employee explainer text and then they have to search for the image or video that goes with it, it’s a navigation nightmare that can lead to cognitive overload.
  4. Don’t present the same information in multiple ways. For example, if you have a video that shows a certain process an employee will need to utilize, don’t then reiterate the exact same script as written text in your multimedia training. It’s extraneous information and when a learner feels like they’re being presented with the same information over and over again, they’re going to feel overloaded and check out.
  5. Edit, edit and edit some more. We don’t mean editing for spelling or grammar mistakes (although that’s of course important as well). You need to edit several times to ensure you’re only giving your employees the bare bones of what you need them to understand. Once you’ve edited your multimedia training content, have other people edit it as well. Keep it on a need-to-know basis.

Cognitive overload is something that’s starting to be addressed in global workplaces, and while it’s a problem that tends to appear in many channels, one of the primary places we see it occurring is with training and development. Employers can reduce their employees’ cognitive overload by creating smart, concise eLearning that’s going to put a laser focus on the information they need to know, without creating distractions or background noise.

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