It Takes a Village
I often wonder how it can possibly benefit any professional organization when teams that should be working together end up placing blame instead. More often than not, we focus on what’s broken and point fingers instead of coming together to find a solution that would mutually benefit all involved. The problem is that those affected the most are the employees and the customers they serve. It’s about time that Training and management took ego out of the equation and worked in tandem.
I would assume we all have the same end goal when it comes to employee training. However, the way trainers think about those goals often is different from the way a management team would look at them. As Learning and Development (L&D) professionals, we take into consideration the ongoing support needed to ensure employees feel comfortable while learning the fundamentals of their role. Management, on the other hand, is looking toward performance results. Here’s a trainer inside secret: We care about performance results, too! If employees don’t perform well, Training usually is held accountable. However, there is a bigger picture here, and it starts with hiring.
From the Beginning
We need to look at the hiring standards of a company. Are we really hiring the best of the best? If they are not the best yet, do they possess the potential to be coached into being the best? If you are trying to build a brand, you must deeply examine who you want representing your brand. Were any red flags raised during the interview process? Has your candidate changed jobs often? If so, why? Are we sticking to a stuffy STAR (situation, task, action, result) interview process without taking the time to get to know the person’s character?
Once the candidates have successfully made it through an arduous interview process, we need to take a look at onboarding. Are clear expectations being set? Do representatives understand the Business Code of Conduct? Are benefits the company offers fully understood? Is the Credo reinforced? Do employees understand the attendance policy? Have they been introduced to the Performance Agreement expectations? These are all things that if not addressed during onboarding come up during training. Often, trainers are not equipped to answer all of these questions. Human Resources should own this piece and ensure the onboarding experience is thorough and seamless.
When the time comes for newly hired employees to start their training, it is the trainer’s responsibility to set the tone for the time spent in the classroom. This starts with classroom expectations, and a structured outline of what is to be expected from the learner in the classroom. Trainers also are faced with a new challenge: trying to navigate a new generation. I’m not talking about Millennials, I’m talking about Generation Z. This new breed of potential employees was born between the years 1995 and 2010. 1995 was the year I started working for my company, and I was 23 years old. We’ve had new employees as young as 19 enter into the workforce.
A recent article written by Forbes magazine noted there are some vast differences between Millennials and Generation Z to be aware of within the workplace. Here were a few we all need to be mindful of:
- Gen Zers want independence. They generally like to work alone rather than in an open, collaborative workspace. They do not want to depend on other people to get their work done. Many of them are skipping higher education and moving directly into the workforce.
- Gen Z will multitask more than Millennials. Since they have always lived in a connected world, they are used to switching between different tasks and paying simultaneous attention to a wide range of stimuli.
- Gen Z wants to communicate face to face. Some 53 percent of Generation Zers said they prefer in-person discussion over instant messaging or e-mail.
- Gen Zers are true digital natives whereas Millennials grew up in a world that was still full of landlines and dial-up Internet. Gen Zers easily zip between platforms and technologies and pick up new software quickly.
- Gen Zers want to be catered to. They expect the workplace to conform to their needs. They are similar to Millennials in this way and are fairly similar to Baby Boomers, as well.
CNBC reported that although Gen Z is savvy with technology, they lack soft skills. Since they grew up in a world filled with communications via text, emojis, and video, many of them are unprepared for a field such as customer service. This means training for this generation will differ, as well. They will need to learn the soft skills that generations past are much more in tune with. In addition, the relationship between management and employee will differ. Managing Generation Z will require being socially connected. Gen Zers want feedback regularly, and if they don’t get that daily interaction from their boss, they often feel like they have done something wrong.
APPrise Mobile, a mobile communications platform conducted a survey of workplace managers and found that almost one-third of Millennial respondents say it will be more difficult to manage employees from Gen Z compared to older generations, and 28 percent say it will be more difficult to train Gen Z employees.
This is all the more reason management and Training need to work together. As new generations begin to penetrate the workforce, it’s only going to get tougher. We need to strategize together to ensure we churn out a top-notch workforce to service our customers while aligning with the company brand we have worked hard to build. In the words of a wise Millennial who would have accomplished great things if he had not died at the age of 13:
“Unity is strength…when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” —Mattie Stepanek
Alaine Carrello is a senior trainer in Learning and Development at Verizon. She has been with Verizon Wireless for more than 20 years and has been in the Learning and Development organization since 2010. Carrello is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of Bellevue University with a Bachelor’s degree in Adult Education. Creative writing is her passion and she recently published her first book.