So Was It A Poor Or Good Use Of Staff Time?


Lest you think I don’t know the answer to the question above, I do; the time was well spend and I’d do it again exactly the same way.

So here was the situation yesterday at work. It was day 1 using a new computer system. There were additional staff in the workplace to help everyone adjust to the new technology, and there were some fun things going on to keep the mood positive when problems arose.

Of course from a clients point of view, the world doesn’t stop just because Social Service’s Staff have something new at their workplace. So the schedule called for myself and one of my colleagues to run workshop on interview skills. As it turns out, only two people turned up for the workshop; a workshop that typically would run from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Now I’ve run this workshop many times, but the colleague of whom I speak has never done so. Given an opportunity to share how he’d like to proceed before we knew our numbers for the day, he opted to have me run the workshop and observe more than truly co-facilitate. With only two people attending, he first asked if we shouldn’t just take one each and work 1:1 with them. Then when I nixed that idea, he wondered if he shouldn’t skip it altogether and do something else for the day. After all, there’s only two people and I can comfortably handle a full class of up to 25 in that workshop should those numbers appear.

If you look at this day in isolation he’s correct. The salary of two staff working with two clients is a poor trade-off. However, factor in that this fellow has never ran the workshop before, doesn’t know the material covered etc. and it’s a different equation. So I ran the regular workshop and had the consent of both participants to do so. After all, in my opinion, aren’t the two who showed up entitled to our very best?

You see the way I look at things, I had two objectives for the day and three ‘students’. Objective one was to give each of the two participants all the help I could to better their interview skills through instruction and practice. But my second objective was to teach my colleague how to run the workshop; what’s covered, what’s handed out, what multi-media do I use etc. and experience it so he can then run it independently in the future and still cover the core content.

I was quite pleased with how the day played out. My colleague and teammate injected his own experiences and ideas throughout the day from time to time. And when it did come time to do a mock interview, it was his idea to have each of them interviewed by each of us one on one and then switch and do it again.

What I found most pleasing and satisfying is that when the workshop concluded, one of the two participants said, “Well I’ve got to tell you I’m impressed; quite impressed really.” And he was genuine. I think he got more out of that day than he ever expected. The other participant realized she needed to work on her stories; the examples she would draw upon during an interview to prove her stated skills and experience.

Now you’ve got to realize that voluntarily showing up for a day getting help with interview skills is not something a lot of people would do. As many people don’t enjoy interviews in the first place, why would they come by choice? So with only two people, I admire them even more because during the day, it’s not like they have anywhere in which to hide amongst a room full of people. Every time I’d ask for input, there would only be two of them to answer. Some other people would have walked out right off the bat if they were one of only two people there. But these two stayed and instead of leaving at 2:30 p.m., they stayed an additional 20 minutes because they wanted to and asked for more.

And here’s another thing I liked about the two of them. Given the option of an hour lunch or a half hour lunch, guess what they chose? 30 minutes. So while my colleague opted to take his full hour lunch, the two of them and myself reconvened after half an hour and resumed the session, with him joining us later. And that worked out well, because both him and them got what they needed over that period.

From a mentoring perspective, I really hope that my colleague got everything out of the day he needs to run this workshop competently and independently. He’s got experiences and skills accumulated from his past employment and volunteer background. He’s welcome as is every member of our team, to add to and delete some content in the workshop as long as the overall integrity and goals of the workshop are covered. The benefit is that he now knows what I personally do in the workshop. He’ll take what will work for him and add things that he’d like to incorporate to truly make the workshop his own. That’s expected.

Was it a good use of time to have us both there? I think so and so too does our mutual supervisor. He just became more valuable and the overall team stronger.

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