Listening gets more difficult in digital workplace

Read time 2min 40sec
The vast majority of today's professionals spend part of their workday multitasking, says Accenture.
The vast majority of today's professionals spend part of their workday multitasking, says Accenture.

In today's digital workplace, listening has become significantly more difficult, as professionals are mostly always multitasking.

That's according to a global research study of 3 600 business professionals, titled #ListenLearnLead and conducted by Accenture.

The study revealed that while nearly all (96%) global professionals consider themselves to be good listeners, the vast majority (98%) spend part of their workday multitasking. In fact, Accenture says, almost two-thirds (64%) say listening has become significantly more difficult in today's digital workplace.

Listening is very important in the workplace, says Charlene Naidoo, talent acquisition lead for Accenture SA. Many of the respondents who completed the survey valued listening skills and cited: 'thinking before speaking, asking questions and taking notes'.

"Listening skills are imperative for career success. By listening to what is required in the workplace, one can process, ask relevant questions and deliver accordingly. Listening is also basic professional etiquette in the workplace," says Naidoo.

While 66% of respondents agree multitasking enables them to accomplish more at work, more than a third (36%) say the many distractions prevent them from doing their best, resulting in a loss of focus, lower-quality work and diminished team relationships.

When asked what interrupts their workday the most, respondents cited telephone calls and unscheduled meetings/visitors more than twice as often as they cited instant messaging and texting (79% and 72%, respectively, versus 30% and 28%, respectively).

The research discovered eight in 10 (80%) respondents say they multitask on conference calls with work e-mails, instant messaging, personal e-mails, social media and reading news and entertainment (cited by 66%, 35%, 34%, 22% and 21%, respectively).Those who listen actively on calls typically either need something from the call or are required to lead, participate in or follow up on the discussion, says Accenture.

"In today's fast-paced workplace, we are faced with many day-to-day demands and continuous distractions such as telephone calls, unannounced visitors, e-mails, etc. Multitasking is definitely a tool that enables an individual to get through more than they usually could.

"However, on the other hand, effective planning and prioritising is very important and is more powerful. Blocking time out for certain tasks and having the discipline to stick to a plan helps manage one's workload and produce a quality deliverable. Too many distractions can cause higher levels of stress," she points out.

The research also found the majority of respondents (58%) believe technology enables leaders to communicate with their teams easily and quickly, and almost half cite additional benefits, such as flexibility for teams to work anywhere/anytime (47%) and increased accessibility (46%).

Accessibility, however, is seen as both a help and a hindrance to effective leadership. More than six in 10 women (62%) and more than five in 10 men (54%) view technology as "overextending" leaders by making them too accessible.

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