Mistakes are bad in any job. They can be costly regardless of the business size and industry. That is why it pays off to look for job seekers who are attentive to details. After all, attention to detail is an important criterion when recruiting and hiring new employees to fill a role or vacancy in the organization. So, why is attention to detail important and how do you assess it?
Attention to Detail Explained
Chicago State University defines attention to details thoroughness or diligence in accomplishing a task, showing concern for all aspects, areas, and elements regardless of how small or large they might be. It describes a person’s ability to allocate cognitive resources efficiently to achieve accuracy and scrupulousness in completing activities.
For example, a secretary with impeccable attention to detail will avoid spelling errors, observe grammar and syntax rules, circumvent internal inconsistencies, and convey only crucial and relevant particulars in every document she prepares. The employee’s work output speaks highly of her dedication, thoroughness, and accuracy.
Attention to detail is also present in everyday life. People with attentiveness to detail will inspect an item thoroughly before buying. They will look for product features they like, assess the unit in person, and clarify issues before deciding whether to purchase or not.
Employers can identify an applicant’s attention to detail, an important trait, especially in the workplace. Companies can see this trait in action, such as tasks that require following predetermined processes and those that need extreme focus.
Attentiveness to detail is advantageous in project management, administration, management, journalism, the legal profession, human resources, public relations, and other jobs that involve strict processes. It is also applicable to occupations or activities requiring thoroughness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
Importance of Attention to Detail
Attention to detail is a part of everyday work as in daily life. However, attentiveness to detail plays a more significant role in businesses and other organizations. The following items describe the importance of attention to detail in today’s workplace.
- Mitigates Litigation Risks and Costs
A lack of attention negatively impacts work output, increases the occurrence of errors, and raises overall operational costs. These work outcomes do not sit well with a fledgling business, especially if it is trying to stay afloat amidst stiff competition.
A case in point is lack of attention could lead to poorly written procedures, contracts, and policies that might cause legal troubles later. For example, an American dairy company lost $5 million in a lawsuit filed by its delivery drivers because of a missing ‘oxford comma’ in Maine’s labor legislation.
Another case is that of automotive giant General Motors. In the early 2000s, GM’s Chevy Cobalt had issues with its ignition switch, causing the engine to turn off during operation and losing power braking and steering functions. Authorities ruled that the faulty ignition switch caused 97 deaths in 2003.
Unfortunately, GM labeled the issue as a ‘customer convenience’ problem unrelated to vehicle safety. The vague language and euphemism use somehow prevented a looming legal action. It took another 11 years before GM finally recalled its 2.6 million Cobalt cars, costing the company $1.7 billion.
The two cases presented are only the tip of the iceberg. The Daily Beast says poor business writing costs American firms close to $400 billion annually. It is easy to imagine how many billions of dollars more companies lose yearly because of inattention to detail.
- Reduce Risk of Errors
Every employer wants qualified staff that can perform the job correctly. Attention to detail will not only save organizations time but also increase productivity. It empowers organizations to reduce, if not eliminate, costly errors.
Organizations always consider accuracy benefits vis-à-vis error costs in their strategic planning. Quality improvement models and other theories of organizational dynamics emphasize the elimination of errors to optimize a company’s productivity and operational potential.
Unsurprisingly, the Japanese have been at the forefront of error-elimination philosophy and strategy. The Poka-Yoke technique emphasizes correction of possible defects and thorough inspection of sources to prevent errors.
Attention to detail speaks of someone’s thoroughness, consistency, and accuracy when performing tasks, such as writing contracts or drafting important legal documents.
The opposite of attention to detail is carelessness, implying a lack of interest or appreciation in the finer work details. With reckless abandon, an employee is more likely to rush through their work due to procrastination or poor time management, and other reasons.
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When someone is careless in the workplace, they spend so little time checking their work for precision or do not check for errors or mistakes. It results in poor quality work output, which can earn the ire of team leaders, supervisors, or managers. To compensate, employees must redo the task, creating a bottleneck down the line.
Careless employees can also exhibit behaviors like giving reckless remarks to customers or clients. Such a situation can lead to customer dissatisfaction, shooing the client from the business, and writing about the negative experience on social media for the whole world to see.
According to Forbes, nearly half of all customers are more than willing to share their positive experiences on social media. However, three out of ten customers will not hesitate to let the world know how their interactions with a company were a nightmare.
Thirty percent might not seem much. However, if one were to look at the power of social media, it comes as no surprise that negative social media posts generate twice as many engagements as positive posts.
To put it into perspective, a customer with 100 Facebook followers can expect at least 50 people to share the negative experience to their respective social media network. For each of the 50 followers, at least 30% of their social media circles will also spread the negative post. It becomes a web of intrigue stemming only from a single episode of carelessness.
Employers will want their new hires to have exceptional attention to detail. Not only does this innate attribute advantageous in mitigating litigation costs. It is also beneficial in eliminating errors and mistakes that can undermine the organization’s customer-centric goals.
- Minimize Supervisory Activities
Attention to detail also minimizes the time to check, edit, and supervise staff. Although it is part and parcel of a supervisor or team leader’s job responsibilities, attentiveness to detail can reduce the time and effort needed to accomplish these activities.
Keen employees can perform their jobs without glitches, avoiding inconsistencies and eliminating errors. They can include all the essential details that the work requires. With this, employers can feel more confident that employees can do the job without much supervision.
On the other hand, careless employees will always need supervision from managers or colleagues, resulting in poor team productivity. Careless, sloppy, or inaccurate work can be noticeable and lead to problems.
For example, Mary is a financial analyst who should make monthly reports. However, with carelessness, she often forgets to double-check the entries and correct the errors if there are. In this case, her colleagues need to do the checking and correct errors.
A lack of detail-attention or detail-orientation screams unprofessional conduct. Losing the details, no matter how small they are, can lead to putting people at risk and losing clients, to name some.
That is why attention to detail is valuable in job candidates and employees. Unsurprisingly, those that can pay close attention to details and do their work precisely are more productive. They can also contribute to the team and reduce the time wasted from revisions and extra supervision.
- Boosts Productivity
Bottlenecks in operations, systems, and processes can cost organizations millions of dollars annually. Even the slightest oversight in one’s fundamental task can create a backlog, depriving next-station workers of critical resources while halting the processes in the sections upstream.
It is easy to imagine how an employee’s lack of attention to detail can cause productivity issues. Companies operate on a tight timeline, squeezing every second to complete crucial tasks. Lapses in judgment or unforced errors can take away critical minutes, pushing the task accomplishment beyond the expected completion time.
Employers might compensate by requiring employees to render overtime or realign organizational units to ‘unclog’ the bottleneck. Unfortunately, it can cost the company thousands of dollars hourly, a resource it ticks on the debit column.
Attention to detail addresses these productivity concerns by eliminating errors and ensuring everyone does their job accordingly.
- Showcases Adherence to Quality Standards
No company wants to create a mediocre-quality product or a haphazard service to its customers. Every organization adheres to some form of quality standard to ensure survivability amidst stiff competition and globalization.
However, it would be wise to recognize that quality goes beyond a good product or an impeccable service. It encompasses everything about a company’s hows, whys, whens, wheres, whos, and whats.
Many companies adhere to global quality management systems, such as ISO 9001, Six Sigma, CMMI, IATF, and AS9100. Although these systems have varying scopes, they share common elements. Quality requirements include consistency, reliability, availability, usability, customer service, maintainability, performance, and resources.
Each quality standard has measurable characteristics and expectations. Employees with attention to detail can identify if the task process and output comply with standards. It serves as a blueprint for employees, allowing them to be productive while ensuring adherence to quality standards.
Ensuring high-quality products and services guarantees customer satisfaction. A recent Deloitte survey revealed that nearly 40% of Millennials consider quality the deciding factor when buying products or availing services.
This observation is welcome news to companies with a robust quality management system and an excellent motivation for employers to seek job candidates with keenness to detail.
How to Assess Attention to Detail
Employees with exceptional attentiveness to detail will not miss even the little things and do not let errors slip through. They do not rely on their colleagues or managers to fix their mistakes.
However, it can be hard and challenging to find candidates who can pay attention to detail and work precisely. For this reason, you need to know how to assess potential hires and their attention to detail. Here is how.
You can assess attentiveness to detail through pre-employment tests. If hiring for entry-level positions, many employers try to determine attention to detail through basic grammar and math skills assessment, helping them assess if someone is reliable and consistent.
Meanwhile, general aptitude tests can help hiring managers identify abilities, including critical thinking skills and problem-solving skills. Such tests can help managers identify the potential of success of individuals, especially in roles that need extreme focus and attention, including security guards and pilots.
There are also pre-employment assessments that can precisely look at the person’s ability to focus amidst distractions.
Cognitive Aptitude Tests
Detail orientation is one of the primary components of someone’s cognitive ability. Cognitive ability testing is one of the most reliable assessment tools. It determines how well someone uses the mental processes to solve problems, understand complex data, assess information validity and accuracy, and measure one’s ability to learn and process concrete and abstract data.
That is why the real job of the recruiter is more than looking for a potential candidate with the necessary qualifications and experiences to fill a job vacancy. One also needs to anticipate whether the new person will succeed in the job while also fitting in the company’s culture.
However, it can be a challenge because of the limited tools and times that may be available. While background checks and interviews can offer recruiter insights about a person’s detail orientation, they both be low success predictors.
That is why recruiters need to explore further to find suitable candidates. And what could help is cognitive ability testing, which aids hiring managers could make good, not bad hires.
Cognitive aptitude tests measure knowledge and attention to detail. Psychometricians, hiring managers, and recruiters consider these mental aptitude assessment tools the most effective in predicting job performance. Different studies concluded how these assessments are reliable and valid.
This assessment tools measure one’s understanding of basic to complex ideas. They also assess a candidate’s ability to learn from experience, develop, and grow, allowing HR professionals, recruiters, and hiring managers to determine an applicant’s ability to think abstractly and critically and solve problems.
According to studies, applicants that score high on such tests have 84 percent higher job performance. It is also a more powerful predictor of one’s success in the job than their education level or experience.
One of the things that cognitive aptitude tests can determine is the applicant’s attention to detail, assessing a candidate’s ability to develop and grow in the job.
The following are examples of cognitive aptitude tests often used in assessing attentiveness to detail.
- Problem-solving test
All types of problems can arise in the workplace, and knowing how to resolve them helps any business thrive. Problem-solving is a vital skill in the workplace, relying on the employee’s ability to think on their feet, especially when faced with a challenge.
- Reading comprehension test
Reading skills are crucial for almost all roles. For example, your employees need to understand warnings, precautions, and notices to do their tasks. However, roles requiring more complex thinking demands more than reading comprehension. People must also understand and analyze data.
- Numerical skills test
This assessment technique will help assess someone’s ability to work with numbers, although not involving solving any complex algebraic problems.
Testing for attention to detail can help you spot a great talent who will become a valuable asset for your organization. Such can also help you find competencies and measure the results in many significant areas. Ultimately, it can also help predict if the candidate will fail or succeed in the job.
Interviews are also beneficial in assessing a candidate’s attentiveness to detail. Recruiters can determine if a job applicant is listening to interview questions and answering correctly. You can check if they can remember and use information. These things can help employers spot candidates who can notice and remember details.
Attentiveness to detail is one of the most popular skills in the requirements list in job descriptions. It is unsurprising because this innate attribute is valuable in daily activities.
What Industries Would Greatly Benefit from Attention to Detail?
All industries will benefit from employees with keen attention to detail. However, some specific ones are more likely to value this skill than the rest. Generally, jobs that require more focus will greatly benefit from it, including finance, healthcare, and legal professions that need high accuracy. They will benefit from employees that possess attention to detail.
Structural engineers, architects, and other professionals in the building, construction, and manufacturing industries also rely on attentiveness to detail. It is also a must for people working in frontline customer care, public safety, and electrical jobs.
Strong detail orientation is also a must in industries requiring intricate work, including artists. Other professionals that rely on attention to detail are physicians, accountants, and mechanics. Any work that requires a high level of attention to perform optimally requires thoroughness.
Meanwhile, people working on project-oriented assignments and tasks also need strong attention to detail. Sales and administrative professionals should also pay close attention to due dates or deadlines. Without attentiveness to detail, missing a deadline or due date may disappoint customers.
Attention to detail is an innate quality many organizations today expect and require from job candidates. This personal quality entails thoroughness, accuracy, and meticulousness to do things perfectly. Its work implications are immense, such as avoiding costly litigation, minimizing errors, boosting productivity, reducing supervision, and showcasing adherence to quality standards. The challenge is for HR professionals to select a candidate with excellent attentiveness to detail.
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