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In this series of articles, my colleague Bart-Jan van der Linde (Principal Consultant) and I explore three new behaviours and beliefs; relationship focus, going the extra mile and love of learning. We look at how these work in practice when applying them to, what our colleagues in City & Guilds Group believe to be, the three key “employment phases”:

  1. Getting into your first job
  2. Being successful and fulfilled on the job
  3. Progressing on to the next job.

In our last article, we explored how employees and employers can adapt to the changing employment market for when “getting into your first job”. After already having looked at the three new behaviours and why they’re important, we now delve into the second employment phase; being successful and fulfilled on the job.

Part Two: Being successful and fulfilled on the job

What does this mean for employees?

Relationship focus:

Once you are in your new role (employed or self-employed), you have a new landscape within which to broaden and deepen your network. A question you must ask yourself is what can help you to develop your internal and external network and relationships? Your mind may conjure up images of ‘networking events’ filled with strangers and awkward conversation but instead start with making the most of the connections you interact with on a daily basis. It might seem daunting at first, but even if you’re shy or lacking confidence, it is useful to have the following conversational tools at your disposal for when trying to improve your existing relationships.

We’ve found that strong relationships are built through quality conversations. Establish a trusting relationship by saying something like “let’s discuss how we can build an effective working relationship”. This immediately propels the discussion into an open, honest conversation. Questions such as “what are the reasons for your success?” will unlock valuable insights from people around you, giving you a large amount of knowledge in a short amount of time. Showing genuine appreciation for people’s time with a simple “thank you for your time – I really appreciate it” will help solidify these relationships you’re building. These skills are something you can take with you through your whole career.

Going the extra mile:

Once you land your first job, the extra effort you’ve been putting in shouldn’t stop. Continue to volunteer to go the extra mile with colleagues and customers. This might end in a promotion or it might not; the reasons you should be volunteering are for your own progression and fulfilment at work. We’re not saying that you will definitely get a promotion if you go the extra mile, but we are saying you probably won’t get one if you don’t!

Love of learning:

It is important to actively build your own ongoing learning journey, rather than experiencing a series of ad-hoc learning events. The 70:20:10 principle applies here; the majority of your learning should be on the job. Just like you can’t learn to drive in a classroom, you must practice things in real time. You must expose yourself to challenges and, more importantly, be prepared to make mistakes.

Making mistakes is inevitable, and at this stage mistakes provide valuable learning opportunities. Be confident enough to allow your ego to be bruised – this is the price one pays for acquiring new knowledge. Not only will you learn transferable skills during this period but you will also learn things you didn’t know about yourself. Take one quadrant of the Johari Window; the blind spot. These qualities or traits ‘not known to self’ will become apparent when you put yourself in new situations. You will find out where your strengths and weaknesses lie and your self-awareness and self-confidence will grow.

What does this mean for employers?

Redefine ‘going the extra mile’:

What usually springs to mind when people hear ‘going the extra mile’ is working late, at weekends, on holidays, etc. However, employers need to realise this behaviour will lead to burn out and dissatisfaction. Going the extra mile is not asking employees to work like crazy but to encourage people to contribute where they can add most value. This might include volunteering, offering support, collaborating with other departments or being proactive.

How should employers champion this? They need to be explicit about the fact that they value collaboration and those being proactive. Celebrating instances like these, sending emails congratulating certain actions are helpful in motivating employees however employees respond best to more subtle nudges. According to our communications grid, informal and unconscious communications have a far more significant impact on employees – up to 80%. This means behaviours are far more crucial in engaging employees; your body language, who you value and how your time is spent. It is critical for these behaviours to stem from your leaders, ranging from your CEO to your first-line managers.

Reconsider how you measure engagement:

Traditional employee engagement surveys, where individuals are asked 40 to 50 questions once a year, should be re-evaluated. How relevant are these in an era where companies increasingly rely on part-time and self-employed resources? Think about what other ways you can monitor engagement in real time. Shorter surveys more often or having avenues continually open for feedback will help managers respond to problems a lot sooner than annual surveys. This is so important because, once again, your first-line managers are responsible for employee engagement, not the corporate centre. These new ways of measuring engagement are particularly important for those not just in full-time roles. Asking for and acting on regular feedback is a sure-fire way of improving these relationships.

For employees – take these new behaviours and beliefs throughout your whole career. Applying relationship focus, going the extra mile and love of learning will enable you to make the most of your working life and thrive in this ever-changing working environment.

For employers – recognise the fact that employees want to develop and progress in their jobs. They want to feel motivated and engaged – and are willing to go elsewhere if they are not getting what they want.

In the next and final article in this series, we talk about part three: progressing on to the next job.