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The Importance of Coaching Professionalism in Junior Employees

When Jenny graduated and entered the workforce, she felt lost trying to navigate the professional expectations that managers and leaders wanted from her. Just like Jenny, so many employees feel this way when they first begin either in their careers or at a new company. It is an expected attitude in new employees to uphold a high level of professionalism, but many don’t understand what it is and how to demonstrate it. To establish an environment where shared professionalism is acknowledged and trained from an early stage.

The six key areas of professionalism that managers and leaders need to coach and instil in their

junior team members include:

  1. how to articulate one’s point of view clearly and concisely

  2. integrating critical thinking into discussions and their work

  3. taking initiative with reporting and meeting personal and team objectives

  4. understanding how to communicate more effectively to improve or diffuse an interaction

  5. impeccable presentation style

  6. standards of behaviour

By developing professional behaviours earlier on in someone’s career or when a new employee

starts will prevent future low engagement levels. For some time, engagement levels have been

devastatingly low as outlined by Doctor Kay Hug in a recent Gallup study. The study found that

within Australia only 14% of employees are engaged at work. Now is the time to kick-start

change by giving junior team members the resources and tools they need to display high levels of professionalism which will not only increase engagement but will also reinforce a culture that promotes growth and development.

Articulating a Clear and Concise Point Of View

Junior staff fresh out of university, college or school don’t possess the confidence and experience to clearly and concisely communicate their point of view when it comes to weighing in on a project, updating where they’re at on a project or providing insights into a better way of doing something.

They also find it challenging to organise their thoughts and control their speech to make a

point. To overcome these issues, allocate on a weekly basis a task where they put together a

presentation and then present it to the team. This will not only improve their confidence, they

will also learn to clearly articulate their point of view on a related subject matter.

It is essential that leaders and managers teach their junior employees persuasive communication skills to effectively convey and make their point in a professional manner. Another useful tool are interactive workshops where employees will learn and practise how to better manage their thoughts and speech processes.

Integration Of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue to form a judgement which

many junior team members struggle to incorporate into their daily work tasks. Critical thinking

is needed now more than ever as it allows businesses to look at problems and challenges from different perspectives to understand the best move forward. But when a new graduate enters the workforce it is difficult for them to comprehend the idea of critical thinking, let alone how to integrate it into their work. Knowing this skill deficiency, managers and leaders need to support junior team members by finding tasks that build upon their critical thinking.

Critical thinking is important because it:

  • improves decision making

  • enhances problem-solving abilities

  • refines research skills

  • polishes creativity

  • stimulates curiosity

By instilling the importance of the above points, managers and leaders will be able to improve

their critical thinking skills which will serve them throughout their career.

An interesting observation is that some companies embrace critical thinking which gives their

employees greater autonomy and self-leadership opportunities, while others are more

centralised, and compliance focused which removes the ability to utilise critical thinking. This

however is totally dependent on the mindset of the leadership team. Some companies say they

value critical thinking, but when employees attempt to take initiative or present a different

point of view the idea is shut down because it does not align with the overall company attitude.

These types of environments destroy a person’s initiative, sense of recognition, morale and

ultimately engagement. To avoid enabling the growth of such a toxic environment managers

and leaders could conduct a fortnightly brainstorming session where teams compete to solve a current business challenge. This encourages creativity, enhances their problem-solving abilities and builds up each team’s spirit.

Taking Initiative with Reporting and Meeting Personal and Team Objectives

Adjusting to a new workplace environment, new graduates and employees can find it

challenging to identify how to take initiative. One thing that junior employees must be aware of

is that those that show initiative will be viewed more favourably than those who don't.

American businesswoman Mary Kay Ash outlines that there are three types of people in this

world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder

what happened. This is what managers and leaders need to teach junior employees when

demonstrating the importance of initiative and being ahead of the game in order to increase

engagement in the workplace.

Taking initiative is shown when:

  • someone does things without being told

  • when a person finds out what information they need to know

  • someone’s persistence to keep going when things get tough

  • when a person can spot and take advantage of opportunities that others pass by

  • when a person acts, instead of reacting, at work

  • a person who reports their progress to show what has been done

  • someone who asks questions and sets goals in order to meet personal and team objectives

If managers and leaders don’t establish an environment where taking initiative is encouraged,

employees can become too comfortable, disengaged and lack a sense of purpose and focus.

To overcome this there are six ways managers and leaders can develop initiative in their junior

team members which include:

  1. Developing a career plan with your employees

  2. Building up their self-confidence

  3. Identifying how to spot opportunities and potential improvements to solutions and problems

  4. Listening and acknowledging their ideas

  5. Developing persistence

  6. Recognising when it's appropriate to take initiative

Encouraging this in junior staff will increase workplace productivity, morale and create a culture where employees feel valued and appreciated to take initiative.

Understanding How to Communicate More Effectively to Improve or Diffuse An Interaction

Communication is a two-way process between people where they exchange information, ideas,

feelings and share meaning. This can be demonstrated through various ways such as speech, written language, gestures or visual aids which can be interpreted in different ways by people depending on how they absorb information. It can be so hard for junior employees to grasp this difference when they first enter the workforce and need to differentiate how language and speech can be utilised in a professional manner.

When junior employees don’t know how to interact and communicate with clients and colleagues miscommunication and misunderstanding will arise. To communicate more effectively managers and leaders should help junior employees identify weaknesses in the following areas:

  • Practising how to speak fluently, effortlessly and professionallyional (words such as like, um, beautiful, amazing, but)

  • Slowing down a person’s thinking so that they are in control of what they say

  • Practising how to speak fluently, effortlessly and professionally

  • Listening to other presenters who are great communicators and have a strong command over their voice

  • Thinking before one speaks

  • Understanding that it’s okay to take a minute or two before you say something rather than using fill in words such as like and um

  • Emotional intelligence - understanding other people’s feelings in a conversation in order to use language in a constructive way that can improve or diffuse an interaction

Learning how to become better at communication through the above points can shift junior

employees from good to great, making them a valuable asset to the company.

Self Presentation

Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov revealed that it only takes

a tenth of a second for an individual to determine whether they relate to someone positively or

negatively. While it is difficult to control whether someone likes a person or not, what is within

one’s control is their presentation style. Mastering self-presentation is an important factor in

achieving professional success.

Presentation is a broad area and involves:

  • How the voice is used

  • Body language

  • How a person dresses and grooms themselves

  • How someone delivers a talk or presentation

  • How a person uses speech to influence

  • A person’s mindset and attitude

For junior staff these skills will take time to nurture. They would not even know where to start

and as a manager or leader it is important to guide them. For example, the late Steve Jobs knew

how to capture a room with words, stage presence and visual aids. Managers and leaders draw

conclusions about how someone looks and dresses. By bringing this to the attention of the

junior employee earlier on in their careers, they can constructively work on making a positive

first impression. Whether it is with a client or other team members, it is crucial to evaluate the

way they communicate, their appearance and body language.

Remembering first impressions is important because it affects not only the reputation of the

individual and also the business.

Standards Of Behaviour

Professionalism in the workplace refers to the way in which an employee carries themselves,

the attitude they convey, and the way they communicate with their clients and co-workers.

Because higher education institutions don’t teach professionalism, when new graduates and

employees enter the workplace, they don’t factor in the importance of working on their

standard of behaviour as they are worried about surviving their probation period. This is where

managers and leaders can step in and encourage junior employees to elevate professional

standards and to work on them on a daily basis.

Standards of behaviour in professionalism is a set of actions that encompasses five main

elements which include:

  1. Integrity

  2. Accountability

  3. Transparency

  4. Ethics

  5. Respect

If these five key areas are not upheld by all levels of the organisation especially at the leadership level, employees will become disengaged and unfulfilled. To avoid this type of workplace, junior employees can be trained to self-reflect on a weekly basis where they would analyse and discuss how they have applied one of the five elements in their work or through an interaction.

A high professional standard is fundamental to an organisation's success and contributes to a

well-functioning culture. The six key areas of professionalism explored in this paper are highly

recommended for businesses to integrate at the onboarding stage and must be adopted by

everyone in the company. For graduates like Jenny, this would empower her to perform more

confidently in a fast-paced work environment because she now knows what standards are

expected of her and how to carry herself in a professional manner.


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