Transitioning from school or university can be tough. When you consider ‘workplace readiness’ and what this might encompass, it soon becomes apparent that work newbies need a strong foundation to survive and succeed at work. We have all heard seasoned workplace crew saying “they don’t know what work is” or that “they don’t know how to work” when describing newbies at the office, forgetting that a bridge to work is required for everyone. They have forgotten that what they call “normal” at work was once strange and scary to them too. Its not about being a millennial or being lazy and entitled, it’s about arriving at work excited and inspired and not knowing where to direct all the energy and enthusiasm you walk in with. Newbies need a bridge to cross over into work and the workplace also needs to be ready to receive them.
A colleague once described how two super-smart interns showed up for a six-week work experience in her accounting firm. It was pre-COVID and the office was full. They were bubbling with excitement and smiles. After making coffee for everyone, making copies, being told to wait for someone to tell them what to do for hours and treated like a nuisance they had been informally onboarded into that firm. “What’s it like here?” she asked them after their first week. “It’s a place where nobody cares and everyone does what’s required to stay out of trouble” and, “can’t wait to finish up”, they responded.
Workplace readiness means everything from knowing how to get started, where to direct your energy, how to maintain pace and navigate culture so that you can succeed despite bad starts and work-weary colleagues. Those of us that know workplaces know that its all up to us and that every day we need to focus on what we need to achieve, how and when to collaborate and that every word and action breaks or build the culture. In short, newbies need to learn to hunt and gather and it’s a hard start. Of course, they need a bridge, a learning programme and support!
From time management to inter-personal skills and presentation skills, newbies need to be ready to face work with a range of foundational capabilities in place. Communication, co-operation, problem-solving, and conflict resolution all require skill building. Understanding professionalism is critical. Professionalism is the silently agreed-upon standard that allows people to work together. Newbies need to learn that professionalism is a specific set of behaviours that inform office discourse. It involves collaborating and supporting agility and confronting one’s own stereotypes in diverse teams. It involves lifelong learning and being open to radically new ideas, disruption and increasing digital enablement.
When these practical and interpersonal skills coalesce, you work and contribute and build a career. You create value in your organisation and are recognised for the unique flavour of your contribution. It takes a long time to be able to do all of this at once and some people never get it right. Let’s support newbies with navigating the turbulence of work, with the thinking required to read the maps, the practical and social skills required to know how to find their way so they can hunt and gather and enjoy the dignity of work and the success that follows value creation.
Find out about the Workplace Readiness programme offered by CPS. This will bridge the gap and inspire lifelong learning on a foundation of truly valuable workplace skills. Build your organisation, build your nation, support newbies at work.