The Efficiency of Interaction

Communication is key. A phrase that we hear all the time but very rarely think of the context behind the saying.

The medium in which we communicate with each other at work is in constant change, be it through choice (by investing in the latest operating software) or through necessity (like a pandemic). But as we put more technology in the way to “make our lives easier”, are we really focusing enough on the information we pass through it? Does Joe Blogs from Operations have all the information he needs to deliver the work because we punched a few numbers into a system? Or does this technology make the gap of communication even wider?

Inefficient communication can cause an array of knock-on effects; it begins with low productivity, which naturally affects morale and increases stress levels and can ultimately increase staff turnover, all of which can negatively impact service levels and therefore customer satisfaction. The interfaces we use within our businesses are crucial for bridging the gap, so let’s explore how we can make them as effective as possible.

When we hear the term Interface most of us will automatically think of technology and the physical way in which humans interact with it, like the screen on your iPhone. Since the 1980s millions of pounds have been invested in making these interfaces as efficient as possible in a field of study called Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), and it has worked! With just a click of a button, or simply asking my phone to do so, I can see what my schedule looks like for the week, predict any transport issues and whether I will need to take an umbrella. Our phones have made our lives more efficient and that is largely thanks to the way in which we can easily access accurate information. If only our business could run this smoothly…

HCI focuses on four main components when trying to increase the efficiency of interaction between a computer and its user:

1 – The User: Their needs, goals, and how they interact with technology

2- The Task: The complexity of the task and how long it takes

3- The Medium/Interface: The best way to give the information. Whether we display the information visually, use sound or touch

4- The Context: In which the user will be accessing the information

HCI have been abiding by these principles for decades and, more importantly, they have tried, tested and amended our interfaces – proving that there is always a better way of doing things. These principles have shaped the world that we live in and can easily be applied to improve the efficiency of interaction within our own organisations.

Let’s explore how we can take these principles and apply them to the workplace to improve our departmental interfaces.

The User/Users

In the workplace we are talking about more than one user, communicating information to one another, so what are the needs of our users? Are we taking into consideration different skill levels and abilities? Are our interfaces accessible to the intended user?

The Task

Clearly defining the task is the first step towards successfully completing it. This must include setting expectations of quality, deadlines and ownership. Can the task be fully understood with the information provided?

The Medium/Interface

Is it best to send this information via email, by phone or through an operating software? Or do we just need to sit down and talk to each other? Do our interfaces encourage 2-way communication to iron out any details and get clarification?

The Context

Focus on when and where our users will be accessing this information. Are they working from home, out in the field, or in an office? How can we improve our interfaces to accommodate these needs?

These are the questions we need to be asking ourselves and our colleagues if we want to improve the efficiency of interaction. So, give it a try! Who knows, you might start to see an increase in productivity from removing the frustrations and stresses from the operation.