Difficult Conversations – Your Training Starts Now
Over the past two decades as an Employer, I have given a similar speech to all my employees. I have never written it down before writing this article. The current version goes something like this.
Welcome to our company. You are here, because we believe that can become better at this job than we can. Our job is to help you to do that. Your job is to do your best – while we help you.
ACADEMIC AND PROFESSIONAL.
This is a professional environment. The only environment that you have known, from primary school to university, is the academic environment. In the academic environment, 70% may be a good exam mark, 80% may be very good, and 90% may be excellent. Here, 99% is a fail.
In the professional environment, your work must consistently be 100% accurate. If an engineer’s calculations are 99% correct, the building may collapse. If an accountant’s calculations are 99% correct, the client may go bankrupt. If a nurse’s or anesthetist’s calculations are 99% correct, the patient may die from being given an over-dose.
We will train you to consistently achieve 100% within four years. You will learn to achieve 100% accuracy, by repeatedly correcting your work. Your job is to do the work assigned to you, whether calculations, drawings, reports, or letters. You will then bring your work to us. We will review it, and give you our comments. Then you will do it again, and again, until you get it right.
You may have to redo your work seven times, before it is ready to be given to our Clients. Please do not get emotionally attached to your best efforts. Otherwise, you may feel discouraged when your initial best efforts consistently require corrections.
Our hope is that you will come to appreciate, that we respect our Clients too much to give them substandard work. We do not get paid until your work is given to our Clients. We can easily do the work more efficiently by doing it ourselves, but we prefer to invest in your improvement. So, value your training.
NEVER FAKE IT.
We started our professional careers in a similar way that you are now starting yours. We know that there are things that you are unlikely to know now, for the simple reason that such things are normally learnt through experience. Therefore, never be afraid to admit that you do not know. Ask questions – so that we may train you better.
This method of training takes intentional humility on your part. Graduating from university with a bachelor, master, or doctorate degree, means that you have met the academic grade. However, you are years away from meeting the professional grade. So, you should willingly embrace, rather than resentfully resign to the training.
You will likely communicate with your fellow university graduates, who found employment with other companies, or the public service. Do not be dismayed if you learn that they have been rapidly promoted to management and regulatory positions, while you are still being trained.
There are many companies and government agencies, that do not seem to understand the wide difference between academic and professional grades. You will interact with their employees throughout your professional career.
When persons with academic qualifications are prematurely given professional responsibilities, there can only be sustained frustration for everyone with whom they interact and influence. Do not get frustrated during such professional interactions. This is an inefficient cost of doing business, that you must learn to accept.
You are not perfect; therefore, we expect you to make mistakes. A mistake is to inadvertently send something to one of our Clients, that is not to a professional standard. Whether that mistake is minor or major, you have one responsibility, and that it to admit your mistake to us – as soon as it is known to you. It is our responsibility to get mistakes corrected.
There are no consequences to you for admitting your mistakes, regardless of whether they have minor or major consequences. You will not be sanctioned for admitting a mistake – because we all make mistakes. Instead, you will be trusted more. You may be tempted to hide your mistakes, and hope that they will never be found. They are always found.
There is only one on-the-spot fireable offence in this company, and that is hiding mistakes. Doing so puts the Company at an unnecessary and unacceptable risk of harm.
So, welcome to the company. As you persist with your training, you will build a stable foundation on which to support a successful professional career. Your training starts now.