What does “professional work environment” mean?

November 8th, 2011

Over the last two weeks, I’ve spent a little time with some new trainees at an accountancy firm. I have met many trainees during my working life – most are graduates, some will have worked for a time, or taken a gap year; fewer are 18 year old school leavers and, just occasionally, there’s a “mature” trainee who has changed careers. Most of them have little experience of working in a “professional” office and, as well as learning all the technical things they need to know for their new job, they have to adjust from school/college life to professional working life. It’s a big adjustment for many new staff and I’m not sure the experienced staff and managers always take account of this.

Look at the senior staff in many technical / professional businesses and they have been through a similar training route to the new trainees. Yet, they often cry “it was different in my day” … and they are right but that’s not an excuse to not help the new staff to settle into working life. Yes, the world of work has changed, chiefly through the huge growth in technology over the last 10-15 years. Most professional qualifications have also changed – not just in the growth of technology-based studies, but the content, the timing, the exam structures and the constantly growing regulations and legal requirements.

The trainees have “grown up” with the technology many of us had to learn on the way and their work expectations are different. For them to succeed at work, we need to help them understand how to work in today’s environment. In addition, the senior staff need to adapt and change and respond to today’s staff needs and expectations and not constantly push staff to fit into a mould which is 20-30 years old. I know what I think needs to happen and what issues are about leadership and management and which are about hand-holding, educating and training the new staff to understand “work”; what do you think is needed in a modern, 21st century work environment?

If you’d like to contact me directly, please do so sue@suecohen.co.uk

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As always, your comments are welcome

3 Responses to “What does “professional work environment” mean?”

  1. Hi Sue

    You are spot on about older people needing to adapt to technology. I used to be a partner in a medium sized accountancy firm; I was extremely committed to delivering a good service to clients and encouraged that in my staff. I recall one occasion when there was a power-cut; the staff basically “downed tools” saying they couldn’t work. At the time I was furious as there was pen and paper that they could work with (instead of computers) and I thought they were taking the Mickey. It was only afterwards that I realised that they had grown up working with computers and the idea of doing any significant work with pen and paper was an anathema to them.

    A few years later and having embraced social media myself, things have moved on again. If bosses appreciate this and are prepared to learn from their younger staff, this will benefit firms both in terms of technological efficiency and having a committed work force.

  2. David Lewis (@CamroseDavid) on November 10th, 2011 at 4:03 pm
  3. Hi David – thanks for the comments. I recall a discussion with a young social media and marketing consultant who understood that one of his challenges was getting the “older generation” to listen to his expertise.

  4. suecohen on November 11th, 2011 at 8:20 am
  5. Interesting view.

    I have been working with capability and emotional significance.

    My view is that we take this newer generation and think we know their expectation. I don’t think we get it right enough.

    To ‘train’ them into your organisation is the old way. Today they slot in and adapt to the surroundings on their own in the ‘social’ environment. If we try to deliver some pre concept we (often of the last generation) have then we often mis-deliver on the expectation. In turn this fails to hit the emotional significance the intervention should have for the new employee. They in turn balk at what we are delivering and we read this as bad or antisocial behaviour. It’s just a behaviour and one we do not expect.

    You probably saw the same between you and your parents when you were growing up. They called it frustration!

    So to meet this head on we need to advance their capability by providing tools and environments that match their expectation. Create positive emotional significance to them and they will slot in very well. Bad behaviour? No just one we were not expecting.

    More important. Can they do the job? Are they fully capable?

    Love your thought patterns as always.


  6. Neil Lasher on November 17th, 2011 at 7:22 am

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