Managing and Supporting Younger Workers

managing and supporting younger workersUse these rules of the road to help younger employees succeed in the workplace

It’s a tough work environment for many at present, but never more so than for many young people who were just beginning their career journeys. Those who have left education to join a world of work where their workplace induction is mostly virtual or non-existent, where leaders are seldom seen other than online, where you cannot sit in an office and learn just by listening in to all the conversations that go on around you, where lazy eLearning which boringly imparts knowledge has too often replaced participative sessions where people share and learn together in a more stimulating environment, where the rules of engagement and professional conduct now have numerous blurred lines and ill-defined boundaries and where line managers struggle to effectively train up and manage their remote workers.

Those of us who worked for 5, 10 or even 30 years in the workplace pre-pandemic seldom think about how challenging it must be for our young starters at this time

Note: Before too many of you jump up and down and say eLearning is not all ‘lazy’.. we totally agree with you. Just in our experience too much of it is! We would love more businesses to demand more oomph and wow of their eLearning developers!

With all these challenges in mind, here are our 3 Rules of the Road to help line managers provide structured support for their younger – and future – workers:

1. Learning and development

Think and plan the development for your young starters carefully. There is a 70-20-10 rule that can be applied around learning.

  • 70% of learning comes through challenging experiences and assignments
  • 20% of learning comes through learning from others
  • 10% of learning comes through formal training

The 70% – If you are setting work challenges and assignments, ensure to build in time for regular review and feedback so the learning is not lost. Regular review and feedback is always more valuable than one big heavy session 3 months down the line – that is often just too late for valuable learning. Also make sure that you don’t take the easy route of just setting tasks, rather than substantial assignments or building in experiences. ‘Remote working’ or ‘online’ is too often the excuse for a ‘dumping’ of simple tasks on junior people rather than the usual allocation of valuable learning experiences through proper projects and assignments.

The 20% – How are you going to ensure your younger starters have ample opportunity to learn from others? This will be hampered by time in the workplace, the lack of return to office of more experienced workers who previously would share their knowledge etc. But knowing these are the challenges, let’s start to problem solve so that our young starters do not miss out on this 20% of critical learning.

The 10% – Is this planned in yet or are you amongst those who are waiting to the end of the pandemic to ‘get back to normal’. Miss this opportunity with your young starters and they will have missed out on so much at the start of their careers. Don’t delay and, for those ‘die hards’ who believe the only way to train staff is face to face in a ‘classroom’ setting, we challenge you to book a day on any course of your choosing with the Jaluch team to show you just how engaging and interactive online training can be when sufficient effort and thought is put into it! 😊

2. Professional standards

Whilst many of us learnt in the workplace from our managers, HR and colleagues about what can and cannot be said or done, how the rules in the handbook will be interpreted, what our contractual clauses mean in practice, what you can and cannot say to the ‘boss’, where is and is not a place to ask questions etc., our young starters are missing out on more experienced colleagues guiding and educating them. Some of the learning for those of us with more experience will have taken place as we made ourselves a drink in the office kitchen or walked back to our cars or to the bus stop at the end of the working day. Younger people are missing out on much of this, and the more they remote work or the more you have experienced  staff not returning to the office, the more they will miss out on learning about professional standards and behaviour at work.

In some cases, we have seen younger workers defaulting to the ‘professional standards’ taught to them in their last place of work (i.e. the bar, coffee shop or fruit farm) where they had a part-time role or, in some cases, their school or university. If we are not careful, we are going to have some younger people sleepwalk into a disciplinary or failed probationary review simply because they don’t know what they don’t know.

Just this week an employee said they were working from home as it made sense in relation to the work they were doing. When pointed out that their contract required them to attend the office 3 days a week and that they hadn’t been in this week, their comment was ‘but it makes more sense to work from home this week’. When challenged on this, they had no idea that a contractual clause indicates an obligation, not a suggestion. That is our fault, not their fault. We need to communicate more to fill in some of these gaps.

Let us not let young starters down and instead why not draft a ‘rules of the road’ document to give them a fighting chance to navigate the world of work.

3. Day-to-day management

An example of modern day ‘generational’ problems:

…..

AA – Your young starter – rolls out of bed at 9.10 and logs on about 10am. Their working hours are 9-5pm, worked mostly from home.

BB – Their line manager – hears about this and says ‘unacceptable, you have no work ethic, this is a professional environment, you can’t just do what you like.’

AA – ‘But I worked til 10pm last night and nearly cracked that problem we discussed yesterday, what does it matter if I’m late to start today? Don’t you trust me?’

BB – ‘Work just doesn’t operate that way AA. Do it again and you probably won’t pass your probationary period review.’

AA – ‘I thought working last night would make a really good impression, I don’t understand what I have done that is so wrong. At university we were told that organisations are interested in what we achieve (outputs), not what time we turn up to work (inputs) so I thought sorting out the issue was the most important thing. I didn’t mean to upset.’

BB – ‘We might talk about outputs being important and the ‘future’, but most workplaces are still pretty traditional so when I do your probationary review what time you turn up will be just as important as what you have done.’

AA – ‘So you want me to work late to solve the problem quickly, but you want me to get in on time as that is what my contract says? That sounds like you don’t want me to have a work life balance.’

BB – ‘no what I want is for you to not work late at night, but to start work when I expect you to start work.’

AA – ‘but that doesn’t make sense as I was on a roll, and I solved the problem so much more quickly by working when the ideas were coming to me than this morning when my head is fuzzy as I got to sleep late.’

BB – ‘don’t argue with me. Just do what I ask you to do.’

AA – ‘I thought I was working in a modern successful company. I just don’t get it.’

……

Our advice to organisations and line managers is that the world of work is changing and within that will come lots of complexities and misunderstandings. If you are managing young workers, do some reading about what different generations expect and want, consider how you might learn to ‘walk in their shoes’, consider how you can communicate what you expect from them without demotivating them or losing the fresh thinking that they can bring into the business.

As a line manager:

  • Educate yourself so you understand the different thinking and behaviours of different generations (and cultures, genders, religions etc.)
  • Take time to learn and reflect on the value of what the different people in your team can bring to the table so that everyone can be successful together
  • Be clear in what you expect and then communicate your expectations, so there are no misunderstandings
  • Be crystal clear about whether you operate as a business and management team in ‘tell’ i.e. ‘parent’ mode or ‘let’s talk’ i.e. ‘adult’ mode. Be careful not to sell an ‘adult’ workplace during recruitment if you then default to ‘parent/child’ once they are in the team.

So, we have shared some thinking here around learning and development, professional standards, and day to day management. We know your time is valuable but there is so much more we could have shared.

If any of this has prompted some thinking and you would like some support or training for your managers or at a more strategic level for your senior team then please do ask.

Equally, if you want to learn more about adult v parent/child ways of operating and managing then again please do ask as we have training sessions we can deliver on this. A great way to resolve conflicts and frustrations.

Other support that may be of interest:

Our live online training is interactive, participative and we often hear from delegates that 6 hours online learning ‘flew-by’. Nothing, absolutely nothing, online has to be boring! 😊

Or why not try a blend of all three?  eLearning to impart knowledge, followed up by live online to create discussion and share ideas, followed up by facilitated niche topics delivered face to face to identify solutions? All created and delivered by the Jaluch team with your needs, your culture and your people front of stage!

Day to day support through our advice and support centre with individual HR issues – no contract required as we can support on a pay as you go basis. Practical, pragmatic and always striving to strike a good balance between what the law requires and what your commercial needs are.

Call us!

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