It is worth questioning whether work-readiness training in its current form is sufficient to enable efficiencies within the organisation over the long term. Therefore, for work-readiness to be effective, we need to consider the graduate’s previous experience and whether the current workplace can be an enriched environment.
Work-readiness programmes in their current form assume that the skills learnt from, for example, a slide show presentation can be effectively implemented by graduates when they start work. However, the fact is that neuroscience has shown that adults learn best from previous experience within enriched environments.
‘Learning’ is defined as the direct result of experience combined with the storing of new information, and it has been suggested that enriched environments have a critical effect on plasticity. (‘Plasticity’ means that the connections made in the brain are adapted, elaborated and organised as new experiences strengthen or weaken existing synapses.)
Previous experience vs work readiness
It is often expected that once professional etiquette has been taught, graduates are sufficiently equipped for the world of work. However, this expectation does take into account that decades of life experiences cannot be unlearned within a week.
The work-readiness skills in question are human/soft skills. Every human being encounters human skills from home; this is where their foundation is formed. As a result, before professional etiquette is taught, there should be a deep appreciation of different cultures and the graduates’ unique experiences to effectively provide work-readiness development programmes that allow graduates to contribute to the organisation meaningfully.
To an African graduate, unlearning previous human skills might look like redefining the definition of confidence and appreciating the fact that talking back to an adult and maintaining eye contact has always been seen to be disrespectful … Yet, modern business practice perceives this as confidence.
I am challenging you to rethink whether your current work-readiness content has been drafted to accommodate graduates from differing backgrounds.
Enriched environments vs work-readiness
It is also expected that graduates will learn on the job. However, the type of lessons the graduate will be equipped with are greatly influenced by the type of supervisor/manager they are allocated, and the reality is that not all managers are ready to lead effectively to attain results, and employers often leave this to chance.
There is a huge difference between project management skills, mentorship skills and coaching skills, and the best-performing manager is not necessarily the manager with the best people skills. Therefore it is worth looking into the type of skills that are being incentivised by your organisation. Is the focus mainly on performance and achieving targets, or is the emphasis on managers empowering themselves with people skills that will lead to enriched environments?
To conclude, work-readiness can be sufficient if we plan around how an adult learns with an appreciation of their previous life experiences, and intentionally create a conducive environment to monitor this development over an extended period.
Considerations for work-readiness
- Create an avatar that represents the graduate you are hiring and review the contents of your work-readiness programme to ensure that it has been tailored to them.
- Re-assess the pairing of the graduate based on the capability of the managers to create an enriched environment.
This quip by Peter Baeklund, a leadership consultant, sums it up perfectly:
- CFO asks CEO: ‘What happens if we invest in developing our people and they leave?’
- CEO: ‘What if we don’t, and they stay?’
As noted by Peter, perhaps you should reconsider the timeframe dedicated to investing in your graduates to ensure that they are fit for their specific roles.