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In my last article, I talked about how employees should be accountable for their own engagement at work and how this can be achieved by incorporating three new behaviours and beliefs into their day-to-day life. These new behaviours and beliefs are relationship focus, going the extra mile and love of learning. In this next series of articles, my colleague Bart-Jan van der Linde (Principal Consultant) and I explore these three key behaviours and beliefs in, 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.

We will be talking about how these new beliefs and behaviours apply to both employees and employers. But first, let’s talk about why these three things are so important in today’s world of employment.

Relationship focus

This is something that rarely gets talked about. Some people are inherently aware of how important this is but most aren’t – yet no one is telling you this matters. From time to time people managers recognise this as a valuable skill but this is essential for everybody. Research tells us that the main contributor to employee engagement is the quality of relationships you have at work, therefore it is imperative to have the skills to be able to build these.

Going the extra mile

The old mindset of employees clocking in and out on time, never volunteering for extra projects because work seems to be fundamentally unfulfilling is out-of-date. Employees want to feel empowered to be able to gain fulfilment, broaden their career and to develop themselves. Once you invest more into work, you will instantly get more out of it. This new mindset will allow you to thrive in the world of work.

Love of learning

Daniel Pink promotes the idea of continuous learning to reach ‘mastery’ in your chosen field. Constantly seeking out new opportunities to learn are imperative to both surviving and thriving in this ever-changing world of work. Take the job of taxi driver for example. Taking into account the rise of automation (self-driving cars, etc) this job will look completely different in the next 25 years. Drivers will need to continuously learn and gain more skills if they are to survive; this is the same for all employees.

Yes, these behaviours are essential for professional success, but how does this work in practice? We cover what this looks like in the first employment phase ‘getting into your first job’…

Part One: Getting into your first job

What does this mean for employees?

Whether you’re leaving school or university, it is important to recognise that your first job might not look like conventional employment (i.e. a full-time, permanent contract). It may be part-time, zero hours, sub-contracting, self-employed or setting up and working in your own business.

However, it is important to be selective and mindful of the first job you accept. There’s a fine balance between progressing through your educational career with no paid employment experience on your CV and taking a job just for the money.

But how do you start? By using the three behaviours already outlined, we provide our thoughts below on how to tackle the changing employment market.

N.B. Bear in mind these are extra insights you can benefit from to stand out and be successful. The fundamentals of job-hunting remain the same; have a good and concise CV; personalise each application; research the company you apply for.

Relationship focus:

Even though you may not realise it, you already have a rich network of people around you. Map out and draw this network of family members, family friends, ex-teachers or lecturers, Facebook contacts, etc. Be proactive in contacting and meeting every one of these people to seek their advice, ask them to open doors or make introductions for you and remain open to the wide range of possibilities for your first work role. As you gain opportunities/interviews, keep asking everyone in your network for any advice they can give you. This network is one of your most important, and often over-looked, assets.

Although it might be unlikely to receive a job offer from these contacts, it is extremely useful to broaden your horizons and experience a larger range of possibilities than you might do ordinarily. Surprisingly to most people, these contacts are usually more than happy to at least meet with you, so don’t be shy! It is uncommon for young people to know exactly what career path to take, and if there is no burning desire to follow a specific vocation, this is a great chance to see what sort of careers are out there. These contacts will understand your position.

Building these sorts of relationships are powerful in the short-term and long-term so be prepared to make an effort with every one of them.

Going the extra mile:

Whilst you are still looking for your first job, and this may sound obvious but, don’t sit around at home watching all that Netflix has to offer. Instead volunteer with local schools, charities or colleges. Not only will this look good on your CV, but it will keep you energised, engaged, and help to further broaden your network. When talking with potential employers, volunteer again; to work for a few weeks without pay or to do your first job at a discount, proving your value and commitment.

When you are in your first job, never “do the minimum” but again, volunteer to go the extra mile. This is not just about building a positive reputation within the organisation, but it’s also about feeling good about yourself and building your self-esteem and confidence in a professional environment.

Love of learning:

When you start to develop your ideas about the field of work you want to enter (whether as an employee or self-employed) seek out every opportunity to learn and develop the skills you’ll need to be successful. Learning can be formal in the form of courses during the day or evening at local colleges or informal through shadowing, observing or talking to people already doing the job. Try to absorb as much information as you can, reading around your subject of interest.

What does this mean for employers?

It is vital for employers to recognise that the people who are critical to delivering services on their behalf are almost certainly not in conventional, full-time ‘9-5’ roles. I remember managers at a transportation company describing outsourced contractors as ‘just here for the money.’ This illustrates how simple it is for old notions to get in the way of genuine engagement. This belief negatively affected the way in which business was conducted, but this doesn’t have to be the case.

For example, at The Oxford Group, there are roughly 60 ‘full-time’ employees. To say we are a company of 60 people would be extremely misleading. We have nearly 200 self-employed consultants and flexible resources working all over the world. We need to engage all employees to continue to deliver such world-class solutions to our clients.

This also means being proactive in finding the right person for each role. We make sure we invest the same amount of time and energy in recruiting our self-employed consultants as we do our full-time office based staff. Finding people with the right values and passion in what we do is essential for consistent success. Use these three principles below to determine how you can appeal to potential employees.

Examine your employment model

Set out, and critically examine the alternative employment models needed to deliver your business strategy. Look at conventional full time employment, sub-contracting, zero hours, out-sourcing and off-shoring. Recognise that whatever model you choose, all the individuals within your sphere of influence need to be fully engaged to deliver great results for your customers.

Build an Employee Value Proposition

The value proposition for potential employees is not just the terms and conditions of your contract; your pay, benefits and working hours, etc. People are looking for much more. In this high skilled economy where unemployment is low1, potential employees are looking for opportunities to develop, something more than just being sent on training courses. They are looking for new experiences, to be challenged, to receive constructive feedback and even move from department to department.

It is important to build an Employee Value Proposition (EVP) that appeals to new joiners within your employment model and to promote it effectively. Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” approach. Work out what you can offer employees and find a way to communicate this. For example, we understand the EVP The Oxford Group offer to the self-employed consultants. We give them the chance to work within teams, on large projects and to work with people who share the same values as they do. They might not be able to do all of these by themselves.

Instant engagement

Onboarding must be more impactful. The need to build “instant engagement” by doing everything possible to facilitate relationship focus, going the extra mile and love of learning is essential now more than ever. It is especially crucial for Millennials who have high expectations of their employer. They will move on quickly (to join a competitor or set up their own company) if it’s not clear what’s in it for them. As most literature and experience indicates, it is your first-line managers who have a key role to play here – they’re the only ones who can deliver this. Make sure they understand what is needed.

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 article in this series, we will talk about part two: being successful and fulfilled on the job.