Entering the world of work for the first time is an exciting but nerve wracking experience. It also a time that is full of expectations; both of the employee and the employer. Employers must be aware that the key reason behind the failure of some apprentice and work based training programmes is poor workplace communication between the employee and the employer. Businesses across the UK spend vast sums developing effective recruitment systems. Once recruited, the common communication pitfalls must be avoided. Making those early days of employment a more rewarding experience for all can make a great deal of difference in the long term performance and retention of staff.
Adapting to a new job and the culture of a workplace can be a very challenging experience. For young people entering the labour market for the first time, working out how to fit in to a workplace can be a particularly difficult challenge. Factors contributing to the culture of a workplace will include a range of both written and unwritten codes. Most workplaces will have written terms and conditions which cover issues such as taking breaks, starting and finishing times, and line manager supervision arrangements. However, there are also a range of unwritten rules in a workplace. These often include, implicit codes of conduct governing interpersonal demeanour, relations with colleagues and managers, dress and language. For those with little employment experience and unaccustomed to a working environment, recognising relatively intangible factors can be especially difficult. Therefore, the way an employer communicates with and supports their new employees can be crucial in their future success, both for the individual and the company as a whole.
Everybody experiences particular difficulties once they had start work. However, it is often the simple recognition that these issue exist, and the attitude and effects of their colleagues in helping them overcome these initial anxieties that is highly valued by the newly employed. Appointing a mentor for a new member of staff is a straightforward and productive way to encourage mutual and effective communication.
Ideally a mentor should model the following:
Employer expectations will be high – but as an employer, it is also your responsibility to make your expectations clear and achievable. If this is not happening, then a ‘difficult conversation’ is essential to get the worker back on track to fulfil your expectations.
Learning to work in a hierarchy, specifically relating to ‘senior’ or more ‘junior’ colleagues, are all important features of working life. Although clearly the ‘hierarchical nature’ of organisations will differ dramatically depending upon the culture of the workplace. If the treatment of individuals is perceived to be unfair, where there is poor communication, unclear or conflicting instructions or a lack of support from senior staff then it will not take long for problems to arise. Research tells us that companies see the best results when new staff are expected to use their initiative, but always have support available when required. In particular, it is the provision of regular and constructive feedback that it highly valued by employees in terms of improving their future practice.
Receiving different instructions from different people above you in a company hierarchy can clearly lead to mixed messages and confusion. Indeed, often juniors or apprentices are left confused when simply trying to follow directions. They can also feel undervalued where their availability is not confirmed before they are delegated to different duties. This treatment results in frustration for this individual and, in time, contributes towards a sense of distance from the workplace. However, where there are clear communication channels, line management structures and a positive professional relationships with managers the knock on effect is that an individual’s sense of attachment and loyalty to their workplace increases.
Staff who are new to employment cannot be expected to instinctively know how to behave in a place of work. Training is essential. Employers should provide the time for managers to explain to apprentices, and the newly employed, why and how the communication channels in the organisation work. Effective communication will foster commitment, develop a sense of inclusion within the organisation. When this is achieved, the many associated benefits will evolve from having an effective and committed workforce. In order to achieve this, effective training is essential. In a pressured working environment, it can be difficult to find the time to train staff. Therefore a more effective solution is to use external providers to instil and reinforce the greatest of expectations in the workplace.
Having worked with young people for decades, we know that the majority, with training, will prove to be excellent employees, but in recent years many of them have been let down by the inadequate training they have received. A major national provider has recently been failed by OFSTED and told to close by 2018. It has emerged that 85% of the £200 million this company received from the government went on ‘management fees’. Thus suggesting that 15% went on the actual face to face training for young people. In contrast, this is where both employer and employee can benefit from our training. The training we provide is outstanding because as educators and business owners we have created the course, and as highly experienced teachers and trainers, we are delivering the course, too.
Do you have new staff or apprentices who you feel will benefit from bridging the gap between education and work? If so, take a look at our new training programme ‘Bridging the Gap Between Education and Work’ where we combine our expertise in education and training with the professionalism and rigour of the workplace. We can help you fulfil the greatest of expectations in your staff by supporting you in creating a mutually beneficial environment where staff at all levels are both productive and successful.
By Peter Thomas