Student Placements Work

One of the inevitable truths for every business in every employment sector is that there will be changes in personnel. Over time, people come and go, and if you’re fortunate, the people you bring onboard will make a positive impact on both the others they work with and the customers/clients which receive the end products or services they deliver.

Changes in personnel is undoubtedly the biggest area of concern for any organization. When you bring the right people onboard and they turn out to be invested and committed to the company, an organization can succeed and flourish as the owners or stewards envision. However, the opposite is also true, as discovering the people you’ve invested in are liabilities rather than assets can set an organization back, in some cases even tarnish an organization so severely it ceases to exist.

Hiring therefore, becomes the single most important factor in the success of an organization. Employer’s do what they can to ensure those doing the interviewing and making personnel decisions understand this, and they in turn do their best to ensure those hired understand and share similar values, beliefs, and goals. The more someone aligns with these on a personal level, the greater the likelihood that they’ll add to an organization, meeting the employer’s expectations.

The reality is however that businesses must evolve over time in response to societal needs and end user preferences, and that evolution may require new thinking, fresh ideas and if done right, these allow businesses to flourish. It’s a delicate balance to maintain core values and beliefs upon which an organization was built, yet respond to changes in the market which keep traditional customers while attracting new ones to it.

When it goes wrong, you hear comments like, “People just don’t care anymore”, Things aren’t like they used to be”, or, “Where did customer service go?” These comments and others like them, are indicators of regret for what’s changed and a longing for what was.” Given choice, customers may depart from their unwavering loyalty to a brand or organization and seek to have their needs met elsewhere; the biggest concern for a business. And these days, every business has many competitors working hard to grow their own customer base.

So it comes down to having the right people; not only on the front line, but also in middle and upper management. Hire the right people, and they in turn develop the culture, add to the overall value of an organization; safeguarding a businesses integrity and assuring both employees and the public that things are in good hands.

Where I work, my colleagues and I have the good fortune to host university placement students throughout the year. As we’re in the Social Services field, the students we bring on board are from this discipline. They themselves may have personal goals to work in specific areas such as Addictions, Poverty Reduction, Mental Health Counselling, Child Welfare, etc., and they may or may not be considering remaining in school beyond getting their degrees to obtain their Masters.

I really enjoy having these students around. They bring enthusiasm, energy and optimism with them as they are eager to learn and want to make the most of their experience while with us. I think it’s incumbent upon us who act as hosts to do what we can to mentor and support these students as they transition into the workforce fulltime in the near future. Sharing what we do is one thing but of greater importance is sharing the philosophy behind what we do and how we are unique. When they learn and hopefully value the similar values we hold, they have a greater appreciation for those values and are far less likely to innocently act in some way which lessens the user experience.

Now on any team, you’ll find that while everyone is working towards common organizational goals, individuals have unique strengths, areas of expertise and it’s these differences which add to the overall team identity. Hence it only makes sense that staff will provide varying levels of direction to students; some taking on formal responsibilities to guide, train and support a student, others providing encouragement, expressing thanks and having less direct involvement in their individual learning goals.

My trust that the future is in good hands is pretty high when I look at the quality of students about to enter the field. Academic intelligence is highly valued of course, but honestly, what I look for most is personal suitability. Are they caring? Do they demonstrate a receptiveness to growing empathy for the population we serve? Are they compassionate, responsive and willing to seize opportunities to assist and support those who need support and understanding more than anything?

Like I said, I’m feeling pretty good about our students and hopefully my colleagues and I have done enough to train them and expose them to our work in such a way that they benefit from the experiences we share with them. I suppose one thing as placements draw to their inevitable conclusion is whether or not we’ve fed their desire to work in the field; possibly even with us not as a student but as a full-time colleague.

Wherever they end up, playing a small part in shaping their thoughts and actions by sharing our own, hopefully puts the future in good hands.



Out Of Work, Not Out Of Options!

Imagine yourself sitting down in an interview for a job you actually want. It’s been a while since you’ve had a job, and you’re a little sensitive about that growing gap on your resume. Things get off to a good start and you’re feeling fairly good; better if truth be told than you thought you might. After all, interviews haven’t been coming as frequently as they used to, so you wondered how you’d perform, but like I say, your confidence is rising.

Just as you finish off an answer and notice the raised eyebrow on the interviewers’ face that seems to communicate, “Impressive!”, it happens. They ask you what you’ve been doing since your last job finished; apparently 2-3 years ago. All good interviewers are skilled at both listening to your answer and observing your body language as you process the question and start off your answer. That short sigh you took just now; was it more than just gathering your thoughts? Was that a quick look of exasperation? Was it your facial reaction screaming, “Oh great! Honestly I’ve been sitting around feeling sorry for myself and done absolutely nothing you’d find impressive, but I can hardly say that now can I?”

This awkward moment can be avoided with some action on your part now. As long as we’re imagining, why not imagine you’ve got an interview in 4 month’s time. Between now and then you have this window of opportunity to get going on adding some things to your dormant employment record.

First up, you could volunteer. I know, I know, you don’t want to give away your talents for nothing. I don’t see volunteering that way though. No, volunteering gives you an opportunity to hone your fading skills, get a reference or two assuming you perform well and possibly try out a new kind of job or role without the stigma of getting fired or quitting a paid job if it doesn’t work out. Giving of your talents also benefits an organization and those who go there. And make no mistake, giving of yourself in a non-profit organization also looks good to a lot of employer’s. It can show a commitment to your community, a cause that’s near and dear to your heart or simply a way to pay back the help you’ve received in the past.

Another thing you can do is focus on your health, if in fact you have some issue that needs your attention. While you shouldn’t walk into an interview and say you took the time to address a recent heart attack, you can allude to making your health a priority through undergoing some changes in lifestyle; and that the commitment has paid off. You’ve been pronounced healthier, fitter, have the necessary stamina and perseverance requested in order to succeed. Depending on the job, you may or may not actually share the now rectified health concern. If you do, stress that it’s no longer a problem; precisely because you took the steps necessary to overcome the challenge.

Many organizations are big on training and development both on a personal and professional level. So during your unemployment, you could take a course. Hey something like First Aid and CPR training or Health and Safety training are beneficial in a number of professions. These are certainly in the realm or transferable training skills. Of course, something specific to your sector, field or industry is even more advantageous. Get your Food Handler’s or SMARTSERVE Certificate if you work in Hospitality. Update your Forklift training to include a Raymond Reach or Working At Heights certification.

Heading back to the classroom to invest in your future might be an option too. Get that Diploma, Degree or take a general interest course in the evening. Sharpening the mind keeps you in the know, using best practices and will pair nicely with your Life experience in an interview. You might come across as mature and up-to-date on new technologies, practices and procedures.

Invest yourself in getting active on social media; enough at least so you have a presence. It takes some time to build up a following and get some dialogue going that will result in a strong profile, but like I say, you’ve got the time and all that’s needed is the effort.

Doing a self-inventory is an extremely helpful phase to undergo. More than just your strengths and weaknesses, be able to articulate your preferred learning style and know the kind of environment you will excel best in. If you don’t know what you want to do next, talk to people and network to learn what they like, what the struggles are, how much a job pays and where you have to go to find it.

Other things you can do is seize this opportunity of time to get your eyes checked, have a physical, book a dental cleaning and check up. Visit the Nutritionist at your local shopping Centre, make an effort to get out more and go for a walk. Little changes can lead to bigger accomplishments.

The important thing about this time is to fill it consciously and deliberately. It’s going to go by and you’ll find yourself seated in a future interview either glad you took the time to make this productive, or wishing you had done so and kicking yourself for having wasted it.

Looking for work is one thing, not the only thing.


Professional Development Days

Today and tomorrow my employer is conducting some in-house professional development for all the employees across our Social Services department. It’s split over the two days so that we can continue to offer front-line services to our users, while at the same time giving staff the opportunity to take part and learn.

Staff react to these training opportunities in various ways, as I suspect they do in other organizations; perhaps yours. There are those who will be resistant to training; they feel they’ve got better things to do and a day away from doing their job just has them falling further behind. There’s the staff who are apathetic; not really caring one way or the other. Then there’s those who enjoy the day away from the daily routine but aren’t sure what they’ll benefit from. You’ll also find there are those who truly embrace training; the chance to learn something new and they’ll show enthusiasm and gratitude for the personal development training provides.

Good organizations develop their staff, as they recognize the benefits to continually providing upgrading opportunities. Better trained staff keep up with best practices, learn new techniques and strategies so they can do better on the job, and employees tend to return benefits to the employer through working more efficiently.

Training is an organizations way of investing in their most precious asset; their employees. Off-site training is often favoured by most; the chance to get away from the physical office or work place, where the distraction of nipping back to check emails and answer a few calls isn’t present. This way employees can relax more, immerse themselves in the content and network with their peers better.

I’m so looking forward to today because I’m co-presenting with 4 other employees; 3 of whom are from other offices and who up until recently, I have had almost no interaction with. It’s been really good to get this group together, plan out our topic and content, divide up who will speak to what and pull everything together. As a training facilitator, I’ve had the chance to mentor my colleagues, and I’m really excited for them as they are each getting a little out of their comfort zones and standing up in front of their co-workers. That takes some bravery the first time your name is called and up you get. I’m so excited for them.

Our presentation is called, “Making the Most of the Meeting”. You see there is a shift going on where I work in how some of us go about doing our jobs. We work in the field of Social Services, and many of our staff have front-line contact with recipients of social assistance. With each meeting of those recipients, there’s an opportunity to support forward movement; sometimes towards a job of course, but there are other goals people move toward that are required before realizing a sustainable job and the financial freedom it will bring.

Looking at things holistically, it could be a person first needs basic supports like food and housing or help with an addiction issue. Maybe the thing they are focused on is completing an education, a better relationship with a family member or getting connected to the community in which they’ve recently moved to. Focusing solely on a job search is missing the chance to lay the groundwork required to successfully reach that long-term goal. Of course if they are looking for work and can do so with the focus required, that’s great.

Our presentation is all about opening up that dialogue, establishing some trust and finding a way to connect with the person where they are at. We’ve got 4 specific resources to distribute; simple to use, and while by no means mandatory, it is hoped that by providing every attendee with something to take away, they’ll be equipped to try things out and see if they help move the discussion. Leaving with something in hand that is tried and works hopefully inspires staff to pull them out as they feel the timing is right.

If you’ve ever had your job undergo a shift in the job description, you probably had some new training and coaching to increase the odds of success. Without that support, you’d likely fail more than succeed; it would take longer to change over and some would resist the change with all the energy they could muster.

Where I work, such a shift is occurring and will continue to do so as we respond to changes in the needs of those we serve. Our front-line staff will focus more on helping people move forward (whatever ‘forward’ means to each person) themselves rather than exclusively referring them on to others for specific help – say with resume writing. While it’s great having a team of ‘resume experts’, if everyone knows enough of best practices out there to make a few good suggestions, the person receiving help gets help in a time-sensitive way.

Training shares skills; it equips staff with more tools which they can then draw on when appropriate, which makes the experience better for the client, customer, end-user etc. When the person you are designing for benefits, the ripple effect carries over to the person delivery the service, the organization and the larger community.

Wish us the best today. Here’s to hoping we impart our knowledge well enough to inspire our colleagues. I expect a great day ahead!

Learn New Skills On The Job

It’s wise to know when to take on more responsibility in your workplace and when to let those opportunities pass you by. I suppose what it boils down to is making sure you can take on new tasks that require expanding what you know without your present workload and performance standards suffering.

There will always be those who never voluntarily take on anything new, never volunteer to do anything more than they’ve done for years, and can’t understand why any of their co-workers would either if those new responsibilities don’t come with money attached.

Conversely, there are those who prior to mastering existing skills and performing their current roles to the best of their abilities are already clamoring for more.

It is as I say, wise to first master what you’ve now been assigned and then start looking at what else might be available. Often, those other things that might be available involve stretching yourself a bit; perhaps in your knowledge and skills, perhaps in your time commitments and your ability to multi-task.

Surely you’ve got people who come to mind who seem on the fast track in your workplace? You know, the ones who barely are into a job who then are already submitting applications and resumes for positions they know are promotions? The go-getters; the ladder-climbers. They’ve got ambition and they spend much of their time in the workplace networking with anyone they see as advancing their own careers. They smile often, might be taking some classes in school outside of their full-time jobs, and they’ve got favour with people in senior positions in ways you can only guess at.

Nothing right or wrong by the way for those that work hard to accelerate their own careers. For them, it may indeed be the right thing to be doing. A mistake you and I might make would be to judge them for their actions; which is odd because that is precisely what many people suggest isn’t it? Judging people for what they do not what they say.

You see, you and I, we might be very content in the jobs we have. We might one day hope to advance, look to get a promotion or two ourselves. Could be that we figure it takes time to fully comprehend and master the job we now do. Quite often how a job is performed in January isn’t how the job is done in December of the same year. It can take time in our opinion to really master all the fine points of the position and have that expertise.

Some however see things different. Yes, unlike you or I, they might have only taken a job as a stepping stone to the next one or the one after that. So mastering a job isn’t something they have any real investment in. No, they might only want a general knowledge of one job and be able to do it satisfactorily or maybe even well before they can move on. Their goal and your goal might be decidedly different. What’s important to note is that this is okay.

Now on the other end of the spectrum is the co-worker who has been at their job for decades with apparently no interest or motivation to move up or even laterally into another position. In some organizations this is frowned on. These organizations might indeed hope to leverage all that knowledge and ability by moving it around and bringing that person into regular contact with others where they can mentor or share what they’ve mastered. The companies that do this might even be concerned that they don’t want a person to grow listless and bored and then want to leave and take all their performance expertise with them.

You and I could look at them and just shake our heads and wonder at such people, wondering how on earth they could come in and do the same thing day after day, month after month, year after year for what seems like forever without new stimulation and new responsibilities. Yet again, we’re all different and motivated in different ways – and that’s a good thing.

I believe however that it’s impossible to know with certainty how you’ll actually feel 5, 10, 15 years down the road and what you’ll want to do – whether it’s to take on a new role or stay with what you’ve got. Of importance is putting yourself in a place to take advantage of future opportunities should they arise if we choose to do so; and this often means seizing training and stretching yourself to learn new things. After all, stay in a job for a length of time and you’ll likely know it very well. If you continue to love it and do it well then good for you. However if you decide at some point you need a change and you’ve not taken advantage of learning new things, you might find your position is the ceiling; you’re stuck and can’t move because they need the skills you lack. This is when you might experience regret over your decisions of the past.

As we have seen and continue to see these days, new jobs crop up all the time. Sometimes its existing jobs with obscure, fancy new titles. Sometimes however, the job is indeed new and could hold real excitement. Good for us if we’re in a position to go for it!

How Do You React To Training Initiatives?

If you’re fortunate, you may work for an organization that invests dollars and time in the employees that make up its workforce through training initiatives. Progressive organizations realize that by providing their employees with training on an ongoing basis, the organization itself remains relevant, its people use best practices and the result is a better product or service experienced by the customers or clients that organization serves.

Observation reveals however, that while all the employees working in a company may receive the same training, not all will use it. There will be those who readily embrace the training and look for immediate ways to incorporate the news skills they have learned. These are the ones who make the change readily, who have both the ability to use what they’ve learned and the willingness to make adjustments to what they’ve done before. Whether they do so because they personally see the benefits to the end product or service they provide or because it’s a directive of Management that they use what they’ve learned, they implement what’s new.

Yet, there will be others who have the same opportunity provided to them, attend the same training events as their counterparts, but for whom the new information they’ve received doesn’t result in changes once back in their jobs. For some, they simply resist the information and are closed to learning. These people have a mentality that they already know enough to do the work they are paid to do. Perhaps they’ve been employed in the industry and for the organization so long that they’ve seen similar things come and go in and out of fashion before and they figure the new training initiatives will be short-lived. So why change? Next month, in two month’s or three, a memo will come out advising them to go back to how they do things at the present. So why bother?

Not all who fail to implement new training initiatives have this mentality though. No, some people want to implement what they’ve learned, but somewhere between the delivery of the information and the receiving of the information, they’ve missed some critical pieces. Hence, they try in good faith to use what they’ve had shared with them, but they lack the skills to do so effectively. If they understand their not performing as they should nor getting the results they should, they may ask for more guidance and instruction to make the changes the company brass want. However, if they believe what they are now doing has been implemented correctly and fully, they may go on blissfully unaware that the way they have used that new training and knowledge isn’t hitting the mark.

Those in Management are typically tasked with ensuring that those employees they are responsible for use company-paid training on the job. It falls to them to give the training, then offer the environment that supports the people as they carry out whatever is expected of them.

As you may recall from your own days in elementary school classrooms, not all learn the same way. Some people need only be told something to grasp what’s being expected of them. Tell them and they learn. Others require being both told and shown how to do something. Then there are those who learn best by being told, shown and then having the opportunity to do things for themselves under the watchful and helpful observation of a trainer. Tell me, show me, let me, and/or all three.

Organizations invest in training for a number of reasons. First and foremost they figure that providing their workforce with training is profitable. Whether it’s using some new machinery or technology to do the job faster, more accurately, with less waste of by-product, or it creates a better experience for customers, there’s money to be made and/or saved by implementing new ways. They reason that new procedures can’t be implemented without training their staff, so they go ahead and schedule training, bring in consultants or trainers, and tell their workers training is mandatory and they’ll be expected to merge what they’ve learned.

A second reason organizations train is they reason quite correctly that training their existing people is far more efficient than replacing them with outsiders who have the desired new training already. If they didn’t hold this view, they’d simply fire and replace their workforce with others where doing so is within their prerogative and jurisdiction.

When you as an employee receive notice that you’re scheduled for some training, what’s your first inclination? Do you roll your eyes, get exasperated and mumble, “Please! Just let me do my job!” Or do you go into the new training with interest, an open attitude or even dare I say it, showing some enthusiasm?

Some see training as just time away from their regular job…a mini vacation from the desk or the plant floor. Even sitting in a room listening to a health and safety training presentation might be a mental break from the job at hand. Others go back and as soon as they can, add the name of the training event to their resumes so they are ready when needed to look for other opportunities.

You can place yourself as a positive contributor in the workplace if you look at training with a positive attitude and have a willingness to do your best to use what’s been shared with you.

Think on it.

Experience Alone Won’t Get The Job

Are you looking for work and counting on your extensive experience to tip the scales in your favour over other applicants who have formal education but less experience? Do you think it’s unfair that you’re being rejected time and time again because you haven’t got a Certificate, Diploma or Degree? There are good reasons behind those decisions organizations are making to go with other candidates and best you should not only understand them but accept them. Better still though is turn your frustration, resentment or bitterness into action and go get the training to complement your experience.

How long has it been anyhow? You know, since you’ve been applying unsuccessfully for jobs and getting passed over because you don’t have the required academic requirements. What’s kept you from heading back to a classroom and coming out the other end with that document? Pride? Financial investment? Fear? Stubbornness? A lack of appreciation for the training or the process? Whatever the reason, it says much about your attitude and apparently you’re spinning your wheels and going nowhere without it. How does it possibly make sense to keep trying to get a job you really want when you don’t meet the key educational requirement and are doing nothing to change the situation?

If experience alone was enough to qualify people to excel in their professions of choice then consider this: every Addictions Counsellor would be a former addict, all Divorce Lawyers would have failed marriages, every person Prison Guard would be a former inmate. Does this seem logical or even preferable? Certainly not to me.

Experience is a tremendous asset and I acknowledge that unreservedly. However experience alone I’m happy to say doesn’t qualify you and that’s a good thing. Many people with experience are poor communicators for example, and so just because they’ve  got extensive first-hand experience, (such as a victim of abuse), there’s no guarantee that’s going to translate into making them a brilliant personal Counsellor or Speaker.

In fact, in many cases a person having experienced trauma first-hand is a poor choice as an employee. Without any training in place, they themselves could be incapacitated and unable to help others if in the course of their work they find working with other victims triggers their own memories. They could also think it helpful to share their own stories instead of validating the individual experience of the person there for the help who wants and needs to be heard telling their own.

Oh yes, there’s tremendous value in getting back into a classroom and learning techniques, theories, best practices, communication styles, giving value to differing perspectives and emerging with an altered and improved appreciation for higher learning. I can think of quite a few people over the years I’ve personally known who adamantly refused to see any real value in returning to a classroom until they actually did. Those same people only later admitted that they were glad they did because once there, they understood what I and others had been saying. In short, they came to value the EXPERIENCE of formal education in their field. How’s that for irony?

Still there are many who place their own experience high and above anything they could ever learn by graduating with a Certificate, Diploma or Degree. They don’t have a full appreciation for time spent there; certainly not at any rate when weighed against life experience. Here’s something though; your experience as real and valid as it is, without education could cost a company a lot of money, their reputation and possibly destroy them utterly.

Suppose for example a childcare centre hired all their front-line providers who had babysitting experience alone; no Early Childhood Education Diploma’s, no membership in organizations that ensure standardized practices and adherence to legislation and pertinent acts. Now let’s further suppose that this centre was YOUR centre, where YOUR child attends and something tragic goes wrong because their extensive babysitting experience didn’t prepare them. Are you likely to sue the organization for hiring incompetent staff? Are you going to hold the Board responsible as well as the Director who hired that employee? You sure are. Yes, you’re suddenly going to want to ensure that every employee there has both experience AND formal training with something as precious as the care for your child in the discussion.

Same thing goes with the people who build the houses or apartments and condo’s we live in. We hope and trust that not only do they have experience but, we also trust they’ve been taught a thing or two, that they have safety certificates, that the tradespeople have their tickets qualifying them to do the work. We don’t want to find out later on that the Gas Fitter has zero education but has been, ‘doing it’ for years.  Oh well then, that’s okay then when you come home to find an explosion has leveled your abode because they didn’t do the work properly.

Look, if you have extensive experience I think that should be recognized, and it is by employers. However, you’d be well-advised to admit – even if grudgingly – that there is also value in formal education. One isn’t better than the other but together they improve your chances of being a successful job applicant. You will gain an understanding and appreciation for your field of choice and most importantly learn more than you’d expect.

Education; something perhaps to reconsider.



Embrace Moments Of Learning

I’d hope that you agree with me that a school classroom is only one environment in which learning takes place. Isn’t it true that we can learn from looking around us on a bus, sitting in a theatre or on a park bench and just about any other setting in which you find yourself.

And I also assert that learning isn’t limited to those who make up the audience in any formal teaching situation; for those who stand in front and impart knowledge themselves learn a great deal. When we learn, we grow; when we stop learning, we stagnate.

It’s indeed fortunate that our brains are capable of taking in, processing and retaining vast amounts of information. Everything we accumulate helps us to perform better in future situations, avoid what we experience as negative experiences and to increase what we perceive as positive moments. We tend to remember and then be guided by our past actions and if we wish, we can make adjustments to our behaviour based on how well or poorly things have gone before.

The classroom we were in as children and then later as teenagers tend to impart knowledge in a standard method requiring us to sit and receive information, then have our ability to internalize and use that information in the form of tests. These tests check our abilities to internalize, remember and apply that learning when called upon. For some however, this environment and the way in which the information is presented to them is less than effective in imparting that knowledge.

Not everyone learns the same volume of information, but more importantly, not everyone grasps information in the same way. There are those who learn by reading best, for some it’s listening while for others still it’s having opportunities to be shown and then try things themselves.

Teachers in classrooms of 25 – 30 children for example are in trying positions. They have to impart a large amount of educational information that is dictated by the Boards of Education for whom they work, and they have to do so within fixed timetables. The bigger issue however is that among all those children, there are bound to be a mixture of children who learn best in different ways. Auditory, visual and experiential learners make up just about any audience.

It’s for this reason that many of the best facilitators, lecturers and teachers use a variety of learning methods to reach most if not all of the people in the group. Hence you’ll find video’s, Prezi’s and PowerPoint presentations, role-playing, reading, music, reading, individual and group work in most formal learning environments.

But what of you? Do you know how you learn best? Are you aware of the exact opposite; what is for you the least effective way for you to receive, process and retain information? Knowing what works and doesn’t work for you personally is extremely useful well beyond the classroom and into work environments.

For example, you can minimize your learning curve and acquire information faster, making you more productive to an employer in the process if you relay to your supervisor the method you have found that works best for you when it comes to learning. Telling your boss that you learn best when you’re shown first how to do something and then be given a chance to do it yourself under guidance before being left alone to do it may help you in the workplace. This could contrast with how the boss has typically instructed employees in the past when he or she has just told them what to do and expected them to do it.

Good instructors – great instructors – know this to be true and will check with those they are mentoring or teaching and make adjustments to their teaching methods in order to best respond to their audience. On the job it can be problematic if those teaching and instructing fail to understand this. Can you recall a situation in your past for example where the boss told 10 people the same instructions but only 8 of the 10 employees received the message the way the boss intended it? The other 2 may have heard the exact information but not been able to do the work as told not because they are less intelligent but simply because they don’t process the information received in the same way; they learn differently.

The easy thing for us to do sometimes is put the blame on those who don’t perform as we expect and reprimand them or question their intelligence or ability to follow directions. Most often it’s not that the people are rebellious, incapable of performing as they are expected to, or just belligerent; they just didn’t receive the information the way it was intended because they learn differently.

Knowing your own learning preferences can be something you choose to share in a job interview too. Any question about a time you make a mistake could be an opportunity for you to demonstrate how you corrected a problem by requesting your training be presented in the way you learn best. This information could help the new employer understand how best to train you and show them that you know yourself well.

If you are currently working, this may also help you reassess how your personal learning style fits or doesn’t with how training is presented in your workplace; and small adjustments could make a huge impact in training sessions and those teachable moments.

The New Hire And The Trainer

Congratulations on your new job! So you’ve had a few days on the job, and you’re working under the guidance of a co-worker who has been asked to take you under their wing and essentially teach you both how to do the job and more importantly how to do the job the way the company expects you to. How’s it going?

If it’s going great and you’re learning all the things you should, no doubt much of the credit for your positive experience goes to the person training you. If you are fortunate, that person is not only good at their job, but they are also skilled at sharing the necessary skills and information to you in such a way that you’re picking things up. This has required two things; you as a motivated and invested learner and of course the aforementioned good trainer.

However, what about those situations where you are placed under the guidance of a trainer who is either too busy to properly train you or the person moves at too rapid a pace for you to fully grasp all the information you are being given? I know of a few people who are pretty intelligent in their jobs but who are not the best trainers when it comes to relaying what they know to others. They are excellent people with friendly smiles and fantastic attitudes too. The problem really is just that when they are explaining concepts, techniques, and processes, they have an expectation that those learning from them absorb the knowledge just as quickly as they share it, and that they learn it as they themselves would understand it if they were on the receiving end.

There are many trainers who make the critical mistake of improperly reading those they are training. It’s not that they are poorly suited to train others, it’s just that they go so quickly, they fail to ensure that those they are training imbed each piece of information they are being given so they can then build on what they’ve just learned and learn more. They may indeed check with the new employee to see what they’ve learned, but they do so using suggestive language such as, “You’re getting all this right?” This kind of question suggests the answer the trainer expects; in this case you’re understanding everything I’m telling you and if you aren’t it’s somehow your problem. Not many people new on the job are going to have the confidence to reply with anything but an, “Absolutely.”

People don’t all learn at the same pace, nor do people all learn the same way. Trainers don’t usually start off by even asking the person they are working with their preference for learning styles. And yet, there it is in a nutshell. Some people learn best by being given a manual to read on their own, others prefer to be shown what to do and some like to be told, shown and then given the opportunity to try on their own under the watchful gaze of the trainer who can check on their learning just a few examples.

I’ve heard some people who are chosen to train others say things like, “Oh it’s so frustrating teaching so-and-so. She’s so slow! I show her something and she just doesn’t get it!” Being on the listening end, it could in fact be that the new employee is indeed overwhelmed and not a good fit for the job. It equally could be the case however that the new employee is not the problem at all, but that the trainer has failed to adapt their training style to match the learning style of the person being trained.

Many people who are excellent workers and highly skilled are just not cut out to be trainers for new learners. What makes things difficult of course is that Management probably sees the person they’ve asked to train the new employee as a superior choice. They do their job very well and are friendly, intelligent etc. so they will make a great trainer. That’s an assumption that just isn’t translating in reality however all the time.

If you are ever put into a position where you are asked to train others and you yourself haven’t been formally trained on how to train others, you should seek out some personal development opportunities on how to become a trainer. Maybe your employer has such classes available at no charge. Train-The-Trainer courses are good places to start so if you have the opportunity make sure you invest in it.

When you are in an interview for a job, one of the questions you might want to pose is to ask about the training you’ll receive when hired, and further how long you’ll be given until you’re expected to be up and running productively on your own. Knowing this timeline can ease your stress level or at the very minimum prepare you for the company’s expectations if they differ significantly from what you would have expected.

It can be a stressful time when you start up with a new company. Their expectations coupled with your own can heap a lot of pressure on you that you’ll have to deal with. Stay positive, don’t expect to learn it all immediately nor work free of errors in the early going. Unless that IS the company’s expectations! AHHHHH!








New Employee Orientations

Whether you are a relatively new hire or have many years of experience working for your current employer, you probably have a pretty good idea of what new employees go through in your organization as part of their orientation.

In some companies it’s a quick tour, multiple introductions to people you will work with, and it’s over when the tour ends at your work area. Now depending on your specific job and the level at which you are brought on board, you could contrast that experience with being shown not just other employees in your immediate area, but perhaps your orientation includes flights to other cities, perhaps countries, where your organization has other operations.

Almost a zero chance of flights to other operations if your job is Forklift Operator in the back warehouse. However, there are some positions higher up in organizations that do require new employees to introduce themselves to other people and other departments world-wide.

For you specifically though, what does your company orientation look like? Unfortunately, it sometimes depends on who is providing the orientation. If your organization is very small, it’s likely that the same person does the orientation; perhaps the business owner. A business owner will undoubtedly share what is of vital importance to him or her, and while they know you will likely never have the same level of passion for the company that they do, they do hope to impart some of that enthusiasm so that you impact their customers in a similar way that they themselves would.

Larger organizations might sit you down with a thick manual to read. Policies, procedures, initializing each one as you read it as proof later on that they imparted this knowledge to you in the event it is ever questioned. It could be that there is some kind of designated protocol that all employees go through too. Some in-house training on computer software, practices and safety awareness training. While some organizations insist all employees go through this training before they ever start the actual work, there are some that put their employees to work right away, only having the mandatory training once there are a sufficient number of new hires to make the training a group experience.

Much depends on when you enter an organization too. If the company is undergoing a change in leadership at senior levels., it could be that the change impacts on front-line orientations. Those senior people exiting or entering new positions may be the ones responsible for new orientations. If you are coming on board as these changes occur, your experience may differ significantly than that of others hired prior to you or sometime later. Your orientation might be left to your immediate Supervisor, and that might not be their area of expertise or experience.

Let’s be honest and acknowledge that in many organizations there is no orientation at all. No, sometimes a person is hired, arrives at the office and is shown their desk, the pile of files on it, and is told to get at it. Aside from being introduced to a co-worker who explains where the washrooms are and how breaks and lunch work, orientation is over. The tour, (if there was one) would be your work area and the office of the person in charge. You may scoff at this, but I know of several situations from my clients first-hand where this was their experience.

What an orientation could be however, is an opportunity to integrate new employees into the organization’s culture, vision, mission or philosophy and how all of that translates into the client or customer experience. Good orientations ensure that new hires get consistent supportive training, levels of initial responsibility that don’t put clients or the organization itself at high levels of risk. There are safeguards in place, like supervisory monitoring of all decisions and paperwork that are designed to protect the organization, the client or customer and the new hire themselves.

Now it may be that an organization has the relative luxury of off-site, secured training areas. These spaces ensure that the new hires don’t negatively impact on the day-to-day operations of the company and allow new staff to learn in simulation what they will need shortly when on the job. There are many companies that don’t have this luxury. Much of the time new staff job shadow a seasoned worker, learning things on the fly, being shown how to do the job.

A company has to decide on what is the best way to educate their new staff, getting maximum production value quickly in a cost-effective manner. While it might be nice to have two month’s paid training in a simulated environment, that just isn’t practical in much of the real world. Employers know that new hires can’t be as productive and therefore as valuable as someone who has been in the job for a year or more. New staff on the other hand, hope to be paid their full salary on day 1 even though they are just learning.

Orientations are exciting, stressful, packed with learning opportunities and the pressure to absorb the information being taught. It’s also a time to find out how the new employee impacts on the chemistry of the workplace and the workplace chemistry on the new employee.

Make the most of workplace orientation whether you are the new hire or the organization.



Sharing Skills With Your Co-Workers

I sent an email out to my co-workers just yesterday, asking if they’d be interested in a lunch and learn session next week on the subject of social media and LinkedIn specifically. Lunch and learn for those of you that don’t already know is literally where you bring your lunch and eat while someone is making a presentation.

It is known to me that at least some of my co-workers are skeptical of social media, a little gun-shy about putting their personal information out there, and others who do get it might still have reservations about what it can do for our clientele; many of whom are not technologically savvy.

This kind of volunteerism, sharing a skill you have with your co-workers so that they personally and ultimately their clients can benefit has a huge upside. For starters, if you are trying to get noticed in your organization, standing up in front of your peers and facilitating a session gives others a chance to see you in what could be a new role. Speak well, answer questions with intelligence and provide a safe room for questions and you may get a few folks thinking of you in ways they didn’t before.

Another benefit is that in sharing your skills, you upgrade the knowledge and ultimately skills of others. With a shared understanding of the subject matter, you’ll be undermined less. Undermined? Definitely. Suppose for example I was in this case extolling the virtues of social media for a job seeker and one of my peers chirped in by saying that they personally don’t think it’s all that necessary and just a fad for upper level business professionals. Now they haven’t ever done this just to be clear, but as an example it works. All of a sudden the job seeker might not want to put forth the effort required to take my advice, and I sure wouldn’t appreciate having my suggestions cut out from beneath me. Intentional or unintentional, that remark may come out of ignorance of social media itself and how to best exploit it.

Another benefit is that the employer need not incur the cost of bringing in some social media guru who in the end might not be as effective as you. After all, you know your business and if you know social media, you know best how to utilize it. Without knowing your business, clientele and their capabilities, no one from outside is as best positioned to maximize this tool as maybe you yourself.

Now think about your own business whatever that is. Surely there are people on your staffing body who have expertise and skills in certain areas which exceed those skills had by most others. Is there a person who is up on the latest trends, seems to be the go-to person when it comes to technology itself, or just knows how to use the advanced features on the photocopiers!

Instead of doing nothing at all which has the impact of keeping knowledge from being shared, or paying someone to come in and share knowledge but at a price, why not initiate your own lunch and learn activity? Now not everyone is going to jump at the chance to get up in front of their peers and lead a session. I get that. Some people would rather sign up for root canal.

Surely however, there are at least a few people who would be willing to speak with some of their co-workers (a voluntary participation over lunch, not mandatory) about something of interest to their co-workers on a topic they themselves know something about.

Take me now. In doing a short presentation on social media in general, and LinkedIn specifically, I’m hoping to demonstrate to my peers how best to help them help our clients. After all, if someone has heard of LinkedIn but doesn’t really understand it, they are not going to be able to sell it as an effective tool to be used in networking and job searching.

As the business my colleagues and I are in is helping others gain and sustain employment, we should be looking for tools to use that give them a competitive advantage. With social media being so prevalent and common these days, using it actually levels the playing field somewhat rather than giving them an advantage. The advantage is already being enjoyed by their competition!

Suppose however you are a clerk who knows how to add your digital signature to documents produced by the printer or the digital photocopiers. I would think that more people in your office would like to know how to do this too. Why not set aside 20 minutes of your lunch and gather those interested so you can walk them through how to do this. 20 minutes…no formal teaching role just standing at the photocopier…showing them what you know…that might be possible?

Again, think of your role in your present job. What do you know that others would benefit from knowing? If you are in Management why not float the idea of your talented workers sharing their knowledge with each other – say once every two weeks. Then step back and let it morph and grow on its own. Book the room, then sit at the table just as one of the gang and see what you can learn. You might be enthusiastically impressed. Skills on the front-line don’t always need to come from those at the top.