10 Unthinkable Lessons For Your Employees


The Top Ten Things You Never Thought You’d Need To Teach Your Employees

In a collaborative investigation into workforce readiness, HR executives reported that new workers are entering the labor pool lacking overall professionalism, written communication skills, analytical skills, and business knowledge.

While we have the best-educated workforce in our country’s history, many employees have not learned the basic skills they need to succeed at work – and as a result, their employers have to teach them those lessons.

Here, then, are the top ten things you never thought you’d need to teach your employees:

10. What “quality” means.

QualityWhile it’s likely that most employees know the dictionary definition of quality, they might not know how to recognize it at work. Why?

Quality is a personal thing, dependent on our training, upbringing, and life experiences.

Therefore, what’s just okay for you might be excellent in an employee’s eyes. You need to educate workers about your company’s standards, or else they’ll defer to their own acceptable levels of quality.

9. Workplace citizenship.

CitizenWhat undesirable workplace behaviors frustrate you most? Employees showing up late? People texting their friends while working on the production line? Workers “calling in sick” without actually calling?

Certainly, employees know these actions are wrong; don’t they? Maybe not.

Workplace citizenship is not taught in schools today. Consequently, you’ll need to instill the group norms that you desire, or your employees will establish their own.

8. Right from wrong.

Right and WrongPeople differ in their opinions of right and wrong. Some think all actions are categorically right or wrong, regardless of the circumstances.

Lying is wrong, period!

Others believe that the consequences of their actions determine what’s right or wrong. Hurting someone’s feelings by telling the truth is worse than telling a lie to protect that person’s feelings.

Ethically mature people have reached the point where they carefully consider the consequences of – and take responsibility for – their decisions. So in addition to enforcing the rules, you need to show employees how to recognize the consequences of their behavior and, in the process, pull them toward ethical maturity.

7. How to play together.

Playing NiceConflicts arise when employees disagree, especially when those involved perceive a threat to their needs, interests, or happiness.

When you put people together in the workplace, conflict is likely to occur.

Our tendency as managers is to treat employee conflict as a problem that we must solve, rather than taking time to teach workers how to resolve their own differences. With conflict inevitable, unless you show employees how to work together, you’ll be spending a lot of time refereeing their battles.

6. How to be productive.

ProductivityStriving for improvement, most of us do the same thing: we take our strengths for granted, and concentrate all our efforts on overcoming our weaknesses. Not surprisingly, many organizations appear to believe that the best way for individuals to grow is to eliminate their weaknesses.

A Gallup survey revealed that employees who get to do what they do best at work are 38 percent more likely to work in business units with higher productivity. If we put too much focus on what people do poorly, we’ll miss opportunities for them to contribute what they do best.

5. How to work in spurts.

Taking a BreakThe average length of time that employees work on a task before being interrupted is just over eleven minutes. Then it takes them more than twenty-five minutes to resume what they were doing before the interruption.

Multi-tasking is not innate; you must teach it.

By the way, managers experience 50 percent more external interruptions than their employees do.

4. What to do next.

Next StepAs managers, we often assume that our employees know, or ought to know, that we want them to take initiative. Therefore, when they finish a task, we expect them to find something else to do.

Unfortunately, a generation of “helicopter parents” scheduled their children’s lives for them, and today’s young workers need to be taught how to work without constant instruction.

3. Spelling and grammar.

In today’s increasingly remote workplace, many employees spend more time communicating via emails and text messages than they do Spell Checkin person. Inevitably, our growing reliance on written communication highlights our workers’ poor spelling and bad grammar.

The fact is, if you’re cringing when you read your employees’ writing, so are your customers. It’s too bad their teachers didn’t teach them spelling and grammar, because now you’ll have to.

2. How to fail.

How To FailIn our society, the word failure has a bad connotation – there’s a sense that failure is an indication of personal incompetence. So, after a few setbacks, most employees avoid taking initiative because, feeling incompetent, they expect to fail again.

But people who have tried, failed, and returned to try again, are better qualified to know what – and what not – to try next. Therefore, teach your employees that it’s okay to try and fail by celebrating their efforts – successful and otherwise – to take initiative.

1. How to see the big picture.

See Big PictureHere’s an old story: Two stonemasons are working side by side when someone asks them what they are doing. The first mason replies, “I’m cutting stone.” The second one responds, “I’m building a great cathedral.” The latter sees the big picture and, as a result, understands how cutting stone contributes to the final goal.

Good leaders understand the big picture; great leaders help employees understand it, too.

You can do what most leaders do, and complain about how unprepared today’s newest workers are for entering the professional world. Or you can accept the fact that it’s your job as a leader to teach workers of all ages how to be successful.

So get started. School is in session.

George Brymer is the creator of The Leading from the Heart Workshop®
He delivers Leadership Workshops that help leaders at all levels evolve

Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Skype: allsquareinc | (419) 265-3467

Image Sources: nanophase.com, contemporaryworks.net, angelfire.com, employeeincentiverewards.com

4 responses to “10 Unthinkable Lessons For Your Employees

  1. Hi, George – great list.

    This is perhaps the most comprehensive and yet clear list of the things we all run into in the workplace that keep us up at night.

    I believe that a number of these seem to relate to critical thinking skills – strategies, techniques, and mind sets that help us think intelligently about what we do and experience.

    Much work to do here:)


  2. Having majored in English in college, I’ll vouch for number 3. Oh, if people would just learn to use (or not use) apostrophes correctly, I would be greatly relieved.

    My addition to your list would be punctuality. I’d give timeliness its own item. People are astonished that I actually believe in being on time whenever possible. Early, even. It seems respect for other people’s time (see numbers 9 and 6) has sunk to a new low.

    After being a procrastinator who always arrived at the last minute for the first two decades of my life, I trained myself to be a few minutes early. Alas, I’m often alone…

    The final blow came when I was criticized for always coming to work early and allowing my life to be ruled by the clock. Unfortunately this criticism came from my boss. (Needless to say, I left that job a long time ago.)

  3. GREAT list and I applaud your directive to teach new hires to become independent and self-directed. Managers can’t possibly, and shouldn’t, take up where ‘helicopter parents’ left off. New hires, especially recent college grads, need a fast course on how to get onboard and up to speed quickly in their jobs.

    Technology must play an key role in educating new hires in required skills and knowledge. Millenials like to learn what they need to know by surfing the web, listening to podcasts, watching videos, etc. Providing a structured path and resources, for example http://www.onboardyourself.com, can save managers hundreds of hours (and frustration) by allowing new hires to teach themselves what’s expected. This also puts responsibility on the employee to improve their performance without the manager acting like a parent.

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