Helping young people become productive employees

Our Skills Director, Michelle Rainbow, introduces our latest guest blog from Mark Blayney. Mark, is the author of Your First Job – How to make a success of starting work and ensure your first year is the launch of a successful career, an essential guide to entering the world of work for the first time. You can read more about this book here.

As well as creating more jobs for the North East,  our Strategic Economic Plan is also committed to helping to create ‘better’ jobs. To do that we need to make sure that young people have the best possible start to their career, enabling them to hit the ground running and progress well.

Mark’s focus on training young people not only in the skills for the job, but also in how to work – and how to behave in a workplace, is central to this. Our aim is to ensure that each and every young person in our region has the opportunity, through our Enterprise Adviser network and other channels, to experience the world of work and Marks work is complementary to our approach…Enjoy

The ROI of Employability Training

Recruiting is expensive. Businesses make a huge investment of often quite senior management time as well as money in attracting, screening, interviewing and hiring bright new starters, whether school leavers, apprentices or graduate trainees.

And businesses don’t make this investment for the fun of it, they do it because they have work which needs to be done.

So to get the best value from all this hard work and investment businesses will want to:

  • Maximise their return by looking to get the best out of their new starters as soon as possible, and
  • Minimise the risk of losing them unnecessarily and having to start the whole process all over again.

But are businesses really giving these new starters all the skills they need to become the productive employees they need to be, as quickly as possible?

For businesses taking on new workers, the secret to maximising return on this investment lies in developing their general employability skills as quick as possible.

In other words, don’t just train them to work, train them how to work.

Employability skills and readiness for work

Entering the workforce for the first time involves the challenge of adapting to an entirely new and unfamiliar environment. It’s not surprising that employers often comment on new starters’ unpreparedness for the world of work – but given it is a such new world to a new school leaver or graduate, perhaps employers really shouldn’t be so surprised?

After all, how well can a school or university be expected to prepare a student for the work role they will have and provide them with the necessary employability skills?

Of course employers do look to train their new starters. In a business of any size there will be an induction course, health and safety briefings, as well as technical training on the specific skills the employee will need, the processes and procedures to be followed, and so on. There is an obvious payback in providing the technical skills and ability of how to do the job.

But how often does this approach extend to the soft skills anew worker needs to successfully integrate into the workplace and to become an effective employee?

In entering your workplace for the first time, your new starters will quickly need to learn how to manage:

  • themselves
  • their time and work
  • their co-workers, their boss, and working in a team
  • communications (and how to say no when needed)
  • their career
  • people and emotions, and even

If a new employee isn’t well equipped to manage these elements, how effectively are they going to be able to apply all those technical and works skills you have trained them in?

And crucially for a return on your investment, how long is it going to take them to become a productive employee? And what is the risk of them becoming discouraged and deciding to leave?

Of course training can be costly. So there has to be a clear business case for it and a return on the investment.

And the business case for actively training new starters in employability skills can be both quantitative and qualitative.

The quantitative business case 

Employers have always recognised that a trainee tends to be a drain on productivity while they are brought up to speed, and the length of that drain can vary widely depending on the nature of the job.

Obviously therefore, the quicker this process is completed, the sooner the new employee becomes a productive asset for the business, and some research has shown that this process can be completed up to 30% quicker where the employee receives a structured skills development together with a mentoring programme.

Other quantifiable advantages of an acceleration of the process can be seen in other metrics and KPIs which the business may be tracking such as reduced levels of accidents or defects, or improved changeover times or production times.

A significant metric in this regard is likely to be improved retention rates where helping staff to become productive and confident can help avoid them becoming disillusioned, disheartened, and eventually disaffected leavers, thereby avoiding the costs and disruption caused by an unplanned leaver.

The qualitative business case

The qualitative elements are much harder to put a definitive value on, but are of real business importance.

In developing these types of employability skills, businesses are developing staff with greater communication and teamwork skills, confidence, and ability to learn; which in turn should help deliver better business relationships and performance.

Creating a business with a reputation for strong employability skills training can also help in other ways including in raising staff satisfaction levels and aiding to attract the best young talent who will be looking for the best support in developing their careers.

And this approach is a win-win one as the employees benefit through developing their self-confidence, communication skills, and ability to work with people, each of which will be vital in helping them to develop their careers, management abilities and prospects.

The business case for a joined up training approach

Investing in training your new recruits to work, how to do their specific tasks, makes obvious business sense.

But their job isn’t just the specific tasks they have to carry out. It’s a wider interaction with the workplace, their colleagues, and even your customers, which they need to be equally skilled at to be successful employees.

To get the best results both in terms of accelerating your return from the individuals recruited and in maximising retention, you therefore need to adopt a holistic approach to training by covering both the hard skills they need to do the task, as well as in the soft skills they will need to operate successfully in the working environment.

So don’t just train them to work.

Train them how to work, how to manage themselves and the people around them, so they can become productive employees for you, as quickly as possible.

And by training them to be useful and productive employees as quickly as possible you’ll get the best return for your business, and the best levels of retention of engaged and committed employees.

Find out more about Mark Blayney and ‘Your First Job’