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How to Instil Leadership Skills Among your Young Entry-level Employees

Many people who are new to the job market, especially young talent, feel bewildered, not knowing what to expect. They are unsure of themselves, feel uncertain about all the skills that they will need and hesitant to perhaps take action or initiative. These employees are, however, very eager to learn and want to grow professionally especially at this stage of their careers.

Companies, who are serious in obtaining and keeping quality talent with growth potential, develop their entry-level employees’ and interns’ leadership skills early on in their careers. They invest in mentorship programs and establish entry-level job programs specifically structured to assist in building core critical leadership skills and easing them into the processes of the company.

10 Steps to take in developing entry-level employees’ leadership skills:

The very first step is to start with developing these young up-and-coming professionals’ leadership skills and to increase their level of responsibilities quicker.

1. Don’t underestimate the power of observation

Lead by example and give entry-level employees a chance to observe you. Every intern or entry-level employee seeks real-working-world experience. Allow your entry-level employees to ‘shadow’ you when going into meetings. Give them the opportunity to listen to you, for example, communicate over the phone or give constructive feedback to your team members. In turn, this will assist them with developing their own skills. Indirectly you teach them how things operate and function in the company. They get to observe the processes and policies of the company safely before they are expected to take on more responsibilities. It will also give them the confidence to make informed decisions and act accordingly in the future.

2. Build their confidence

Newbie employees have a problem with showing confidence in the beginning because everything is new, and they might feel they are treading on unchartered waters. Build their confidence by motivating them to step out of their comfort zones. Boost their confidence by focussing on their strengths and by positively improving their weaknesses over time. Another ideal way to get them focused on building their own confidence is by sending them on a Confidence course where they learn various tips and techniques to develop their own confidence.

3. Teach them critical thinking

The ‘new normal’ and the economic crisis South Africa faces, require leaders to think clearly and strategically about the full implications of their actions. Developing your newbie’s critical thinking skills helps entry-level employees understand the holistic impact their own decisions have on the business. Once mastered, it will align them with the company’s goals and hold them accountable for their results. Things need to be done differently and developing their mind-set early will prepare them for the future.

4. Instil problem solving skills

“You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created” said Albert Einstein. Employers find that a lot of young entry-level employees don’t know how to think on their feet and solve problems. Some are used to others sorting out their problems for them, but to be fair, problem solving in a corporate environment does differ. Previously mentioned skills like observational and critical thinking skills all contribute to solving problems effectively and efficiently. Upskilling your entry-level employees in key problem-solving skills will improve this skill set demonstrating that they are valuable assets to teams because they are strong problem solvers.

5. Develop their communication and listening skills

So many things can get ‘lost in translation’ and even many managers still make a lot of communication mistakes. There are still a lot of employees, employers and managers who still have not learned to listen and to pay attention to all the physical and emotional signals when others talk. Developing active listening skills and teaching young employees the importance of communicating in the right way, early on, will pave their career path to success. Training your new employees in positive verbal and non-verbal communication as well as how to clearly delegate tasks etc… can help them develop into the company’s future leaders and better management in the long term.

6. Build relationships and don’t burn bridges

If you build a network of allies you will always have someone to go to who is an expert in a certain field who can help you with various projects and future work. If you want to retain your young talent, you should teach your newbie employees about relationship building and its importance in getting future promotions. Explain to them that it is wise not to burn a bridge in your current position, because you never know when you might need to cross that bridge in the future, so to speak.

7. Develop the Emotional Intelligence

Tying in with point number 6, emotional intelligence is about relationship management, self-awareness, self-management and social awareness. Norman Rosenthal defines Emotional Intelligence in his article published on Psychology Today as “…is the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions – in oneself and others – and to use that information appropriately. For example, recognizing emotional intelligence in oneself can help you regulate and manage your emotions, while recognizing emotions in others can lead to empathy and success in your relationships, both personal and professional.” Most articles and surveys say that recruiters and HR personnel who handle the hiring are specifically looking for employees who have high emotional intelligence. To develop and continuously upskill your young employees in the art of emotional intelligence will not only help them tune in to their own emotions and make them more positive, but also aid them to lead with empathy.

8. Time and Stress Management

Young employees also stress, probably as a result of the unknown and uncertainties that come with having a new job. They probably don’t know how to manage deadlines and time constraints as the more experienced employees do. They need the support of their company and managers to help them learn techniques and strategies to manage their time and deadlines and cope with workplace stress. They need to be coached that a little stress can help with adrenaline-pumping; staying focussed and taking them out of their comfort zones, but too much is a health hazard and can lead to a variety of illnesses. Sending them on a Time and Stress Management course will equip them with the skills they need to cope in the workplace.

9. Learn to work as a team

Team work is inevitable. Give your interns or entry-level employee the chance to become an invaluable member of a team so that they can learn from an early stage in business how the diversity in teams can be used advantageous. It will teach them how different mind-sets work and how to learn from others’ experiences. By also becoming part of a team, newbies will feel included and more ‘at home’ within the business.

10. How to deal with criticism and turn it into positive constructive feedback

People work for more than a salary. Everyone wants to be noticed and praised for their work. However, to improve, we need positive criticism and constructive feedback in a polite and professional manner. Here, both the manager and the entry-level employee or intern needs some coaching. Managers need to become an encourager rather than breaking down the newbie. Give constructive feedback regularly, privately and include helpful ideas for improvement with new employees. In turn interns or entry-level employees need to remain emotionally strong, open-minded and not take the criticism personally. They should see it as something that helps push them to become better in their careers and not something that breaks them down or bad-mouths their abilities.

Teach your employees that leadership begins when they take responsibility for their own future. As much as businesses are expected to invest in the skills development of their staff, the success of their career is up to them. They need to take ownership for becoming the best version of themselves and by taking up their job responsibilities head on.

However, companies and specifically HR departments need to be a strong assistance in developing their skills. Analyse all the skills they need to execute their responsibilities and to really help them to excel. The Mindspa Institute offers help to HR Professionals and Departments. A variety of customisable blended courses can either be done on-site or via online platforms.