The simple act of paying attention can take you a long way.
Let’s understand the metrics to be considered while hiring for 21st-century jobs.
My colleagues at work really surprise me. Ashish keeps chatting with others and still manages to finish his work. Kaushik sits in the corner working all day and still does not finish his work. Neha keeps working and walking around with her laptop. And I wonder how they manage to complete their tasks. Well, I finish my work… or maybe not.
It is a well-established fact that each individual’s ability to pay attention differs.
Attention is the cognitive process of positioning ourselves towards relevant stimuli and consequently responding to them. It’s a selection process that helps us choose and focus on tasks while responding to internal and external stimuli. Paying undivided attention helps in interpreting information more effectively, prioritizing goals, and avoiding irrelevant stimuli.
Attention can be classified into:
1. Selective Attention
Selective attention helps us focus on a particular task for a certain period of time. It allows us to filter the most relevant factors at the moment. In short, we center our attention on certain components of the environment by ignoring the rest or pushing them into the background.
For example, we are surrounded by co-workers and electronics at work, which can act as distractions. We use selective attention to focus on our work and keep the noise at bay. It’s safe to say that if an individual holds the ability of selective attention, avoiding distractions and concentrating on priorities is easy.
2. Sustained Attention
This is the ability to focus on something for long periods of time without being distracted. In other words, we concentrate on time-consuming work giving our undivided attention to it.
For example, air traffic controllers need sustained attention, as their job is to pay close attention to monotonous activities for long periods of time. If an air traffic controller has poor sustained attention, it can lead to life-threatening consequences.
3. Divided Attention
The ability to focus on two or more tasks simultaneously is called divided attention. This ability is also known as multitasking. Divided attention uses focus on a very large scale - not allowing us to focus on any one task fully.
Examples of divided attention include answering a call while driving, watching TV while making dinner.
4. Alternating Attention
Similar to divided attention, alternating attention is also a kind of multi-tasking. However, unlike divided attention, one does not perform multiple activities at the same time. Instead, it involves serially focusing attention on a specific task while switching back and forth.
For instance, we use alternative attention when reading a recipe (learning) and then performing the instructions for the recipe (doing). It could also be alternating between completely unrelated tasks such as cooking and helping the child with homework.
Now, let’s discuss what is most important at work.
Attention to detail
Attention to detail refers to an individual’s ability to be thorough, maintain accuracy and consistency when working on tasks. For example, while drafting reports, employees who pay attention to detail do their best to avoid errors and have a keen eye to ensure that facts and figures are stated right.
Attention to detail is important to generate better outcomes in any and every role. For an entry-level role, attention to detail is an important criterion in selection. In senior-level roles, attention to detail is essential to ensure well-drafted policies, proposals, and contracts.
Maintaining attention to detail ensures efficiency as one works through projects, increasing productivity, reducing the chances of errors, and thus making the job easier in the long run.
The relevance of attention to detail is very evident in areas like proofreading, editing, quantitative analysis, designing, project management, marketing, public relations, human resources, quality inspection, and customer service.
Our final word is that attention allows us to focus on important details, which is integral to performing well at work, and therefore recruiters, in the process of hiring, should make sure to test the candidates’ ability to pay attention to detail.