Learning How Not to Be Boring

Do you think most successful people find their jobs boring? Just now I switched on my favorite Pandora radio station on my phone to stay alert as I write. I listen to music all day, every day, that I’m in the office, or working, to make the day more enjoyable—and to combat boredom. If you’re bored, it means that everything is going as it should, right? That no glitches have occurred to interrupt your expected routine.

That would mean bored workers are a sign of a healthy company, in which everything runs so smoothly that few unplanned for things occur.

The problem is boredom is unpleasant.

A new study from Rapt Media (U.S. Employees Are Detached and Disconnected) shows that most employees are “bored and disconnected”:

  • 69 percent of employees are open to other opportunities, or already seeking their next jobs.
  • One in four employees (24 percent) are fibbing, or outright lying, on their employee engagement surveys.
  • 60 percent of employees are bored by their company’s internal communications.
  • 74 percent have forgotten some, or all, of the last mandatory training they completed.
  • 82 percent learn better from visual training content, instead of static materials.

Is there anything these statistics tell us about how you should best train employees and keep them engaged?

From my perspective, as an employee, it tells me corporate cultures and management styles that take a “we’ve always done it this way” approach to tasks are asking for a disengaged workforce. That’s exactly what my boss told me a year ago when planning out our publication’s holiday hiatus schedule for our Web publication. Rather than discuss the possibility of doing it differently, he angrily shut down the conversation by writing in an e-mail to me and our boss, “we need to do exactly what we’ve been doing.”

A friend of mine at work reported a similar exchange with her boss, in which a new idea was shot down with a “let’s just do what we’ve been doing.”

In addition to the shortcomings of these individual managers, the reasons they are hesitant to try something new—and less boring—is that they are risk-averse. It might just be their nature to be risk-averse, but that default nature could be compounded by a corporate culture that isn’t forgiving of mistakes. Does your company allow employees to fail without consequence if they fail in the course of a noble experiment, something that was worth trying?

You have the option of continuing to be successful at the same level you’ve been successful, or you have the option of being even more successful, possibly much more successful, trying it a new way. The downside is you may fail and end up worse off. But if you keep on doing it the same way as an automatic choice, you’ll never know.

Being risk-averse, and, therefore, not changing processes and products for your employees and your customers, is, itself, risky. You’re gambling that your employees and customers will always be satisfied with the exact same thing. You’re gambling that they have a high threshold for boredom. What if they don’t?

Is it best to wait for signs that your employees and customers are bored, and then make changes, or should you stay ahead of the boredom and keep work processes and products for both those you employ, and those you sell to, interesting—and different?

I get irritated when a Website, such as Facebook, an e-mail platform such as Gmail, or an app changes when it seemed to be working fine as it was. I always think of the adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Now I understand that they are trying to stay ahead of the curve, to not wait until user boredom and dissatisfaction occurs before making a change. The savvy owners of these businesses realize that by then, it might be too late.

If you wait for signs your employees are bored and disengaged, such as lost productivity and lower retention levels, it might be too late to make changes to be less boring. The good news is you won’t be bored now that you have a new challenge—your failing business—to confront, but the bad news is your business is failing.

How do you keep your work processes and products interesting and stimulating for your employees and customers?

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