BY TAHMID SADMAN
There has been an explosion of channels which convey information in the new era. The ushering of these channels has opened up unprecedented opportunities for businesses, nonprofits, governments and individuals. Increasing internet penetration, smartphone penetration, breathtaking innovations in the technological sphere along with the rise of social media contributed vastly to the diffusion of information across the world populace. Entities like e-commerce, big data, Enterprise Resource Planning software, news apps and social media have manifested the burgeoning changes that have accompanied the information era.
These innovations have brought about a renaissance in the way businesses produce goods, deliver services, market these goods and services, manage operations and communicate with employees and other stakeholders. The rise of the importance of information has been dilated on many columns, magazines, blogs and what not. But while basking in the glory of the information age, we are forgetting an important problem that has come to the fore along with the age’s rise.
Information overload has become a major issue for businesses, individuals and other parties. It is a phenomenon where people are bombarded with too much information and as a result find it difficult to make quality decisions or get stressed out. It is more likely to affect white collar employees than blue collar employees because white collar employees are relatively more exposed to information.
Research has unveiled some startling facts relating to the impact of Information Overload:
- Ringing phones along with email alerts can drive down IQs by 10 points.
- 25% of a knowledge worker’s office time is wasted due to information overload.
- 1 in 3 emails are considered unnecessary.
- Two thirds of managers surveyed by Reuters said that information overload causes job satisfaction.
So what can firms do to address this issue?
- Make goals clear- Managers must strive to make goals clear so as to make sure employees are well aware of what is expected of them. Vague goals can be construed to be many things and this can make employees take multifarious approaches to reach the goal. This is highly likely to result in information loading.
- Motivate employees- Urge employees to shift their social media activity to a low band. Also, explain to them the importance of their time to the company.
- Addressing email overload– Educate employees about features which can be utilized to curtail excess time spent on email. For example, Gmail offers a host of features which allows users to do a spectrum of activities such as muting conversations, using canned responses, combining accounts and activating the attachment alerts.
- Embrace Technology-Use Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software to seamlessly navigate through key information. ERP software will help designated company personnel get necessary information in a single platform. This precludes the need to comb through unrelated data from different platforms and analyze their relationships.
- Craft a change in the culture-A lot of initiatives can be undertaken in this regard. A company can arrange sessions where employees will talk about ways to curb information overload. The company can then implement the employees’ perspectives. It is also important to constantly remind employees to focus on the big picture, this will prevent them from swaying into other areas. Employees can be reminded via many ways- the line managers can stress it during team meetings, senior management can talk to employees in person. Also, if possible, a company can employ a task sharing mechanism to reduce information overload. It can also devise a meeting productivity index which can help employees gauge a meeting’s potential benefits and decide whether it’s worth attending.
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