Teaching Employability

We have had a number of young kids working with us lately, as trainees or SWL – Structured Workplace Learning (they get one day a week off school and come to work instead), and juniors who help out with sports coaching and kiosk service.

It has recently occurred to me that I have been approaching what I am meant to be teaching them all wrong. (Why does it take me so long to catch on sometimes?)

Some of these kids are as young as 14, and their experience with us is their first work placement, and half of them probably aren’t even interested in the work we do. Many may think, “the Leisure Centre sounds cruisy.” They’re after a few shifts a week to get a bit of money so they can buy phone credit and go shopping with their friends.

We’re after dedicated and motivated and inspired workers!

So we’re teaching them what to do for us, how to make lolly bags and move netball posts, giving them training to do sports coaching for little kids, and are wondering why we have to keep telling them what to do and why they don’t just jump up and do it! Clearly, what we haven’t done a very good job of, and what we should really be imprinting upon them, is how to be a good employee. Most of them will move on to completely unrelated carreers. Most of them don’t give two tosses about what we do, and are just glad to not be working at Chicken Treat!

Here is a list of some of the things I think we need to be teaching them. Feel free to pipe up with yeas or nays or additions to this list:

1) Tell the truth. You didn’t get any sleep last night and aren’t feeling well. You had a big fight with your boyfriend. You’re hungover. You forgot. You didn’t check. You didn’t get to it, you didn’t have time, or you needed help. Tell us. As long as you don’t make a habit of it, we are most likely going to make a disapointed face, then understand and even comiserate. Then we’ll get down to fixing whatever problems we have. Lying makes it worse. Don’t tell you did it if you didn’t. Don’t say you were there if you weren’t. Getting caught at that will make things go terribly bad for you.

2) Be on time. Notes on point one aside, make every effort to be at work on time and leave on time. Even if you knew it’d be quiet, or that someone else was going to be there, or one of the others said it was okay, if you don’t tell management you’re going to be late, need to leave early, then you’re going to get that disapointed face again. And maybe a few stern words. And poked fun at for awhile.

3) Bum in seats. Unless you’re in the enviable position of tele-commuting, generally speaking, you’re scheduled to be at work to be a bum in the seat. In other words, it might be absolutely DEAD at 3pm, but if you work in retail, for example, you can’t just leave the shop unattended. Don’t wander away from the point of contact with the customer unless you’ve got no choice. If you seriously can’t find anything to do, please don’t spend the time facebooking or tweeting about how bored you are. If you must spend time online or reading, please look at something industry-related so that when a boss pops in unexpectedly, you’re not looking at something questionable on YouTube, you can say, “Did you know that the latest trend in (blah) is (blah)?” We’ll accept that. And then ask you why you haven’t wiped the counter, printed those flyers, folder those letters or stocked the fridge.

4) Ask anyway. You’ve got something important to do inside work hours. There’s enough staff on and all your jobs are done. You can make up the time tomorrow. You’re going to head out and take care of this errand. Please ask anyway. In fact, ask yesterday. Once again, if you haven’t asked management you’re going to be in all kinds of trouble. We can all be flexible. But we still want to know about it. And we might even have reason to say ‘no.’ Another thing to ask about: we’ve provided you with a list of tasks, and a procedure for going about it. If you want to make significant changes to your task list or the method of doing it, please ask. Not that we want to micro-manage, it’s just that there might be a very good reason we asked you to do something a certain way (safety, legalities, or just good old fashioned tradition), and there might be a very pressing reason to have it done when we say it needs to be done. Which leads to point 5.

5) Understand when, how fast, and how well. This actually seems to be our biggest stumbling block. There are some things we just need done now and quickly. And some things we need done today and done right and it can take as long as you need. And some things we need done eventually, but done to the best of your ability as quickly as possible. And some things that will need doing in stages and checking in with us. And a million other possible combinations. So, please don’t rush through a job that doesn’t need to be rushed through. Please don’t linger on a job that doesn’t need to be lingered over. Make 10 lolly bags and get it over with. But stock the fridge correctly. Get the posts wound up, but take the time to use the safety equipment provided. It won’t actually take you much longer to do it right. And no one will get hurt or even get the disapointed face.

And finally…

6) Sometimes you have to do things that aren’t your job, aren’t fun, and aren’t glamourous. Get over it. In a small business, the boss still cleans toilets if it has to be done. Everyone pitches in to help the team look like everything took no effort at all. Picking up rubbish creates a clean and inviting environment that keeps people coming to your place of employment and makes them want to come back. This is the source of your paycheck! Do your job, ask if you can help, and then look around for something else to do! Oh, and remember, you don’t get to be the CEO in the first few months of your employment. There is a hierarchy, and we expect you to respect it.



One response to “Teaching Employability

  1. Pingback: More on Employees | Chasing the Blackwood Marathon·

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