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Work readiness programmes could save millions
Wed, 26 Oct 2005 10:00
Skills lacking in today's graduates costs South African business dearly as there is frustration experienced by both the business as well as by the new employee. The person finds it difficult to fit into the work environment and thus is unable to perform in their new role.
Sarah Babb, Managing Director of The Skills Framework, one of South Africa's leading strategic skills development consultancies that has previously consulted to numerous Setas and to corporate leaders on the Skills Development Act says," One of the greatest challenges facing organisations today is the amount of personal development still required on graduates once they have finished studying.
And the only successful way to close this knowledge gap is through effective work readiness programmes because simple induction programmes just don't go far enough. They usually focus on an orientation to the environment an employee is entering and are predominantly procedural and geared towards company specific policies and the office layout."
Babb says the graduate knowledge gap is costing South African business hundreds of thousands of rands every year and is potentially damaging to fledgling careers if not managed properly.
"It also raises the debate as to exactly who is responsible for ensuring graduates have adequate 'soft skills' such as communication, business etiquette, presentation skills and conflict management skills as well as 'business' skills like research, IT know-how, business writing and self management. Both personal development and interpersonal skills are required.
"Some people feel it should be the responsibility of tertiary educational institutions, while others feel it should be the Seta's or the employer.
"The reality is that most secondary and tertiary institutions do not provide an environment where these skills can be developed which means new entrants into the workplace face the added pressure of delivering to their job expectations as well as having to develop critical skills that are required to successfully function within any workplace."
The upshot is that employers tend to expect graduates to be ready to run with their new jobs while graduates expect employers to show them the ropes which leads to an expectations gap which can clearly create work stress and tension. So ultimately, the duty of building workplace readiness falls on the employer."
Babb notes that some businesses believe the costs or time needed to run effective work readiness programmes is a deterrent but points out that the true costs are much less than the recruitment cost of hiring a new employee.
"If you pay a headhunter 14% to find an employee who earns R100 000, that is a cost of R14 000 plus the opportunity cost of lost time on the job. It soon adds up and underlines the need for and the financial sense of work readiness initiatives. It is also often possible too run these programmes though a Seta that is linked to a specific learnership programme which will be even more cost effective."
Babb says that the work readiness programmes can be run in conjunction with the orientation or induction programme. The workplace readiness programme would add value to the learnerships, internships, graduate development programmes or as part of Seta training initiatives in line with the NSDS targets.
"They are really flexible and can be tailored to suit the employer - we have run modular programs over days or weeks as well as longer programs of up to 35 days over three months.
"What is important is that they are initiated within the first three months in a new job because this is the time an employee will form the psychological contract with the company, which is critical for the retention of key talent. This is also the time that the new employee benefits from support in meeting performance expectations.
"Workplace readiness training will obviate the need for costly on the job learning and instil a greater sense of confidence in the workplace and help new recruits to garner a clearer understanding of the business environment.
"And there will be an immediate and mutual value-add for the employer and employee; the learner will take less time adjusting to the working environment and feel they are being properly trained, while the employer will benefit from a greater return on investment.
"With more demands being placed on employers, it's likely that more and more companies will initiate some form of work readiness programme, to facilitate the induction of a new graduate into the business with benefits of an increase in performance levels and retention rates. It is important however, to thoroughly check the credentials of those providing staff training as there is also a large gap in the quality of training skills providers out there."