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:
how to articulate one’s point of view clearly and concisely
integrating critical thinking into discussions and their work
taking initiative with reporting and meeting personal and team objectives
understanding how to communicate more effectively to improve or diffuse an interaction
impeccable presentation style
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
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:
Developing a career plan with your employees
Building up their self-confidence
Identifying how to spot opportunities and potential improvements to solutions and problems
Listening and acknowledging their ideas
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.
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
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:
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.