Skills development is a crucial part of work readiness, but employees need to be able to effectively translate the skills they've learned into the working environment. Here are some essential elements to ensure that these skills result in work readiness.
According to Gizelle McIntyre, Director at The Institute of People Development, work readiness programmes need to be well designed and implemented within a proper framework within an organisation. This could include a curriculum that is made up of various programmes to encourage engagement, develop value based mind-sets and provide additional skills to employees.
These programmes should focus on the following aspects:
- Fit for purpose - for example mastery of a skill or functioning knowledge required for the workplace
- Field specific knowledge - for example mastery of the body of knowledge linked to their job role
- Attitudes, behaviours and values - for example assimilation of norms and values to allow the graduate to work professionally within the organisation's culture
Relevant skills programmes could include anything from increasing gratitude, to building self-esteem and assertiveness skills, business etiquette, emotional intelligence in the workplace, business writing, communication and relationship building strategies, public speaking, presentation skills, basic administrative skills, time management, understanding performance, writing reports and proposals, budgeting, how to manage conflict, legislation, business ethics, diversity training, safety in the workplace, and all the relevant internal programmes of the organisation.
So how is work readiness achieved? According to McIntyre, “Simply put, work readiness is built into organisational strategy by providing the tools, methods, and processes to attract, select and support the new entrant through this transition. However, organisations in South Africa have to consider the local context. They need to take into account the vast unskilled labour pool, including the unemployed youth.”
South Africa has the third highest unemployed youth figure in the world. This demographic comprises of youth that do not have access to networks that connect people to workplaces. They often live in communities with high unemployment rates, which makes the transition into the workplace more difficult, due to a lack of knowledge of work culture. As a result, they face poor economic growth prospects and are confused by the nature of work changing rapidly.
They often go through a poor schooling system, and will often leave a job if it is not meeting their particular needs, even if they have a bursary. This results in a waste of bursary funds, with figures indicating that only 30 percent of bursary learners/employees are retained.
Good work readiness programmes benefit an organisation through instant productivity and engagement, the reduction of churn at all levels, more effective induction and orientation periods, and a better match between selected candidates and line expectations.
A benefit not often seen is the access to a large, untapped, disadvantaged talent pool which doesn’t have the networks to get work - but is potentially more committed, often more motivated, and more socially responsible. Providing internships, hosting learnerships, or offering other structured integration processes for bursary holders allows the organisation access to tax incentives, PIVOTAL and other skills development grants. This can also allow the organisation to brand itself as a socially responsible and engaged employer, or as an organisation that supports long-term sustainability of the organisation within its community.
Requirements for workplace readiness programmes:
- They should have a supportive learning culture
- Support individual integration and productivity
- Reflect the level of maturity of the organisation in terms of learning and development culture
- They should create instant feedback systems
- Build new recruits' confidence
“Progressive organisations are recognising that they can no longer operate as if they were a separate system,” concludes McIntyre. “They realise that they form part of the broader social and economic system. Their survival depends on them reading current tendencies and trends. Adapting their process is not just about being socially responsible; it is also being able to thrive in the new economy by bringing in staff that can support a new generation of strategies, products and services - which will create a sustainable future and, at the same time, a workforce that thrives. It is not about being reactive, but being proactive in the face of a constantly changing world.”