Those entering the workforce lack the skills necessary to find lasting success. The solution to the problem begins at home.
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Consider a day in the life of a typical young employee: He wakes up, showers, gets dressed, scrounges around the kitchen to make himself breakfast, commutes to work, and arrives at the office or factory floor to begin his shift.
Will he successfully handle the day’s challenges, setbacks, obstacles and responsibilities that come with his job?
The answer to this question may vary depending on who you ask. The young man in our example, as with many workers fresh out of college, would probably answer affirmatively, feeling he could handle whatever the job requires. Yet for an increasing number of employers dealing with today’s new workforce, the response is not so optimistic.
“When it comes to the types of skills and knowledge that employers feel are most important to workplace success, large majorities of employers do NOT feel that recent college graduates are well prepared,” concluded the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) after surveying employers about their new employees’ career preparedness. College students were asked the same questions and mostly disagreed with this assessment.
Employers said that recent hires struggle with “applying knowledge and skills in real-world settings, critical thinking skills, and written and oral communication skills.” AACU determined that “even in the areas of ethical decision-making and working with others in teams, many employers do not give graduates high marks.”
Much of the blame for this lack of readiness is justifiably placed on colleges and universities—specifically the way they prepare future workforce participants.
“This is a generation that has been ‘syllabused’ through their lives,” Marie Artim, vice president of talent acquisition at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, told The Washington Post. Her point was that even the overview of the course given to students at the beginning of a college course has a stifling effect on their post-college career.
“Decisions were made for them,” she continued, “so we’re less likely to find someone who can pull the trigger and make a decision.”
Xerox company’s head of global learning John Leutner agreed: “People know how to take a course. But they need to learn how to learn” (ibid.).
The recognition that higher education has dropped the ball on readying Millennials, and now Generation Z, for today’s workforce is not new, however. Articles abound on the subject.
The problem is not that we fail to see post-secondary education’s inability to fully prepare tomorrow’s workforce—it is that everyone seems reluctant to turn back the clock even further. Articles focusing on the role of parents in preparing the next generation of workers are few and far between. This is surprising considering that virtually all parents want their kids to grow up and be successful at work and successful overall in life.
Whether they know it or not, parents (as well as aunts, uncles, grandparents and even close family friends) have the unique opportunity to mold and shape young minds into effective, productive employees. If you are one of these influencers, ask yourself, “Am I up to the task?”
If so, then consider five simple lessons to teach youth so that they become valuable employees in tomorrow’s workplace.
Showing up to work on time is a vital part of job success. It is also one of the easiest to accomplish.
Sadly, employee tardiness is becoming more and more prevalent, leaving employers at their wits end. A Business News Daily article titled “The Real Reasons Employees Are Late for Work” reported that a “study from CareerBuilder revealed that 29 percent of employees show up late to work at least once a month, up from 25 percent a year ago. Tardiness is more frequent for some workers, with 16 percent saying it is a weekly incident for them.
“Gridlock is the most common culprit for showing up late. Nearly half of those surveyed say traffic is the reason they can’t make it to work on time. Additionally, 32 percent blame their tardiness on oversleeping, with 26 percent saying it’s because of bad weather. Being too tired to get out of bed and procrastination were among the other most common reasons for employees being late to work.”
Punctuality speaks to a person’s character. By showing up to work on time, employees say to others that they are dependable. Further, they are demonstrating the ability to manage their lives by not allowing what happens outside of work to negatively interfere with job responsibilities.
Teach your children the habit of punctuality early on—well before they are of working age. As soon as they are old enough, help them understand the importance of doing things on time.
For instance, give youngsters a specific time to wake up and go to bed. From there, hold them to these times. If they are to be in bed by 8:00 p.m., preparing for bed at the top of the hour is too late. If you expect them to be home for dinner by 6:00 p.m. following an afternoon of playing outside, help them understand that arriving at 6:05 p.m. is too late.
Once they are old enough, encourage your children to get part-time jobs. Then do all you can to reinforce the importance of being punctual. Train young people to head off to work early and explain that they should prepare for the unexpected: severe weather conditions, traffic accidents, road detours, car issues (a flat tire, malfunctioning engine, etc.), or other problems that could impede their normal routes to work.
Help them see that employers appreciate workers who are punctual. Teach them that arriving early for their shifts enables them to be better prepared and shows they appreciate their jobs.
Teaching lessons of time management when children are young will make it less strange when employers expect the same. It will also separate them from the growing number of workers who no longer seem to care about being on time.
Keeping up with the latest styles or fashions is a priority for most young people—even if it runs counter to what is considered professional work attire.
According to a poll from the Center for Professional Excellence (CPE) at York College of Pennsylvania reported on by CNN, “‘appearance’ ranked second only to ‘communication skills’ when respondents named qualities most often associated with professionalism. ‘How an individual dresses for work can be a powerful extension of his personal brand,’ says Matthew Randall, executive director of the CPE. ‘Clothes, accessories and even the footwear an employee chooses to wear help to reinforce or diminish his skills and qualities in the eyes of his employer, co-workers and clients.’”
The article continued naming what it called the “10 commandments for dressing for work.”
The first so-called commandment: “Modesty is a virtue. Get noticed for your great work, not your tight pants, overdone makeup, short skirt or cleavage-revealing shirt.
“‘Nothing undermines how you are perceived in business as leaving nothing to the imagination,’ says Chris Hauri, founder of Mirror Image, a Chicago-based image and identity consultancy.”
A tip for proper dress while at work: “Err on the side of caution.” This means to avoid outfits considered too casual or too bright in color.
Another “commandment”: “Thou shalt wear the right shoes. Your feet should look prepared for work.” Workers should avoid wearing flip-flops and open-toe shoes. In an office environment, ladies should not wear stiletto heels and men should make sure their dress shoes are shined and well-maintained.
Lessons regarding dressing professionally and appropriately for any occasion should begin early. There is nothing wrong with a young person dressing casually, however, mix in opportunities for children to dress more formally such as going out for a nice dinner or a family outing. Help them understand the importance of wearing proper attire in certain settings.
Be sure their wardrobes include business casual attire. Avoid allowing them to have full control of their clothing choices, especially younger children. When in public, discreetly point out fashion apparel that teenagers wear—both examples of what to avoid and what to emulate—and how each piece of clothing affects how they are perceived.
Explain that, contrary to what some may say, a book is often judged by its cover. In other words, what a person wears says a lot about him or her. Keep in mind that lessons of proper dress are more easily conveyed if you are setting the correct example yourself.
Being polite is not an outdated concept. It helps make a good impression on others, builds relationships, and diffuses conflict.
Rudeness, on the other hand, especially at work, can make life extremely difficult. “Incivility at work—including sarcasm, put-downs, and other rude behaviors—begets more incivility, according to a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology,” Boston Globe reported.
“We all have a finite amount of resources available for controlling our behaviors at work, and this study suggests when you experience incivility from others, it draws down those resources and you’re unable to inhibit your own actions going forward,” the study’s coauthor Christopher Rosen, a professor of management at the University of Arkansas, told the newspaper.
“In other words, it’s hard not to snap at a co-worker when you’ve already used up your energy dealing with someone snapping at you.”
The lack of manners at work leads to decreased productivity, low morale, and an increase in mistakes.
One’s mindset can make all the difference. Who would you rather work with—someone who is teachable, approachable and ready to serve, or someone who is closed-minded, hostile, stubborn and easily offended?
Success magazine stated: “One of the challenges facing management and co-workers today is dealing with difficult people—those who have negative attitudes. It is important to note that a person with a negative attitude has the same power to influence others as a person with a positive attitude. The difference appears in the results.”
Negative attitudes and rudeness “dismantle teamwork, increase stress and cripple productivity,” the magazine continued. “In the workplace, the big difference between the winners and the losers is often attitude. The salesperson who sells more, the manager who inspires her people, the manufacturing supervisor who sets the tone for everybody around them, are all good examples of what attitude does for you and everybody around you.”
The right attitude and a general positive outlook on life can turn a day of dull, monotonous labor into pure joy. It is all a matter of maintaining the right perspective.
Tell your child that no one enjoys working around someone who perpetually hangs onto a nasty attitude—or someone who is rude, easily offended, or makes people feel as though they must walk on eggshells.
If you want to adequately prepare your children for the workforce, require them to be polite and use manners, even when they may be frustrated or annoyed. Help them understand the importance of being patient and forgiving others when they make mistakes.
Concepts such as patience and forgiveness are often thought of as having no place in the ultra-competitive world of career advancement. Yet human resource departments are discovering a connection between a wholesome, balanced workplace and positive, stress-free workers. Employees in such environments are typically more engaged, positive, stress-free, and, to the benefit of their employers, productive.
Impart the following time-tested standard to your children: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This principle was adopted from words of Jesus Christ in the Bible.
Make sure your kids apply this basic premise and respect those around them such as younger siblings. Require them to say “please” and “thank you” not only at home but also in public settings. Show them how to give and accept compliments from others as well as demonstrate gratitude when others are kind to them.
Of course, your personal example of politeness and considering the needs of others—which is another biblical guideline found in Philippians 2:3-4—will help your children to follow and experience success in the workplace.
Many entrants into today’s workforce possess a vast amount of knowledge in the form of facts and information. This should come as no surprise as most have grown up in the Information Age. With the advent of Google and other internet-based information systems, more book knowledge is available and easier than ever to attain.
The challenge for employers, however, is not employees who lack knowledge, but employees who lack the ability to put it to proper use. It is as though they are incapable of making the right decisions in a given situation.
“With globalization and the increased speed of business, employees at every level are facing an increasingly complex flow of information,” consulting firm Pearson Education stated on its website. “Work settings are changing rapidly, and employees are moving into new roles, often with limited direction. Employees can no longer rely on others to make key decisions. They often must make them on their own, and quickly. And the decisions have to be good ones. If they fall short, there may be no time to recover.
“Good decisions require focusing on the most relevant information, asking the right questions, and separating reliable facts from false assumptions—all elements of critical thinking. And yet too few employees possess these essential skills.”
OpenSesame, a job-training provider, lists several elements that make up critical thinking: logic, open-mindedness, curiosity, adaptation, and collaboration. These characteristics can be taught to children early on and shape their thinking.
For instance, help young children realize the importance of thinking logically. If they have a favorite book or television show, have them explain why they enjoy it more than other books or forms of entertainment. Another example could be having them explain why they think it is better for them to take a bath in the morning instead of before going to bed or vice versa. This may seem overly simplistic, but teaching children to think through scenarios and articulate their logic helps lay a proper foundation.
Emphasize the importance of being open-minded to the ideas of others. Show your children the importance of equally allowing a brother or sister to decide what game to play. Explain how taking a collaborative approach to washing dishes or other chores makes it easier for everyone involved.
Children are naturally curious and fairly adaptable to their environments. Help them maintain these vital traits while trying new things such as a family visit to the zoo, museum or local park. Watching educational documentaries with your children and taking them to the library ensures they are exposed to a wide variety of information.
Be sure to quiz them on what they learn to help develop and enhance their critical-thinking skills and lead them to make sound decisions.
As tech-savvy as younger generations are, they are often lost when it comes to basic life skills.
An article from Forbes hit on this point: “Millennials are unfamiliar with a broad range of life skills. They are less likely than older generations to know how to sew, make basic home repairs, or drive manual-transmission cars. With GPS always at their fingertips, many never really learned to use physical landmarks to guide them. Some can’t even imagine how people functioned before mobile IT. One Millennial wrote an article asking older people how they used to look up information, meet up with friends in public places, and handle getting lost without smartphones. A Boomer responded that he visited the library, scheduled meet-ups, and learned to read a road map.”
This lack of basic knowledge has made life difficult for the latest generation of workers. Practical skills such as cooking, reading maps, balancing a checkbook, and proper penmanship are seemingly lost arts. When things therefore go wrong outside of work, their entire lives seem to fall apart. They find it difficult to cope and often will break down. This lack of stability inevitably affects their jobs.
Help your children learn to function independently. Teach them to cook their favorite meals. Allow them to help with measuring ingredients and checking the temperature of the oven. Show them how to read an atlas and decipher the road signs on your next family trip. Give them the opportunity to help with simple home repairs, mowing the lawn, and pulling weeds from the garden. Allow them to sit and observe the next time you pay the household bills.
Not only will they develop basic life skills, they will strengthen their work ethic.
Vision is a mental picture of where you see yourself in the future. Most successful people attribute their successes to having a clear sense of where they are going and goals to help them get there.
Many find themselves unsatisfied and in dead-end jobs because they failed to give serious thought to their futures. Instead of taking focused and deliberate actions, they wandered through life aimlessly or allowed circumstances to dictate their direction. They never fully developed the ability to overcome the inevitable obstacles that come in life.
But overcoming, particularly in the face of overwhelming odds, brings great personal satisfaction. It also builds character, a subject rarely touched upon in classrooms today.
Teach your children to exercise vision. Show them how doing chores today connects with performing a job well in the future. Explain that though they may begin with an entry level job, such as flipping burgers, doing so will help develop the skills needed to expand their career options in the future.
King Solomon gave practical instructions regarding setting goals and exercising vision. In Proverbs 22:3, he wrote: “A prudent man sees danger and hides himself; but the simple go on, and suffer for it” (Revised Standard Version). If young people routinely think ahead, they can avoid difficulties later in life. Learning to think in terms of cause and effect (i.e., there is a cause for every effect) helps them recognize the impact of their actions (or inactions) on their future.
In the current economic climate, few employees are truly irreplaceable. With greater world connectivity, population growth, and more people being exposed to higher education, there is little indication this will change anytime soon.
Teaching children to be punctual, presentable and polite, as well as to think critically, use life skills, and develop vision, will help them achieve workplace success. Ultimately, it will help them to be successful in life.
God’s Word says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). God expects parents, as well as other influential adults, to train impressionable young minds early to prepare them for adulthood.
This is just one of the scores of priceless principles and nuggets of wisdom offered throughout Scripture. The Bible is foundational knowledge that never grows old. It serves as the Creator’s personal instruction manual that teaches human beings how to live and find lasting success.
For more tips on teaching specific skills your children will benefit from now and later in life, read our free book Train Your Children God’s Way. It starts with the basics and covers the challenges of raising children in the 21st century. In addition, it paints a clear picture of the vital role parents play in the development of their children.
Read this book today. Your children—and their future employers—will be glad you did.