Work Experience - Who will experience more?
Would your business benefit from a fresh pair of eyes and honest feedback?
When my 15 year old daughter, Holly, returned home from school one day last year, with a letter about having to find a compulsory work experience placement, I must admit, I wasn't thrilled at the prospect of the task ahead.
We sent many requests to various companies, but that proved unsuccessful and then, just when we thought we'd secured her an ideal placement, it fell through. With time running out, I took the ‘easy option’ and decided to take my daughter on with my own company for a week's work experience - I didn’t realise at the time that this would prove to be one of my better decisions.
It so happened that a training request for a software solution fell into my in-box for the week that Holly was going to be working with me. I explained the situation to the client and I asked if they would be happy for Holly to accompany me to the site, observe and help out during the training. I was relieved and happy when they told me that they would love her to join me and that they were looking forward to meeting her.
So, Holly’s fate was sealed and she was going to spend three out of the five days on site with me, followed by a day in my office catching up with everything related to post training and then a day in the office of the company that my training was associated to. Holly was not enamoured with the itinerary or the thought of the work as the week approached.
What unfolded during the week took us both by surprise…..
After the three days system training, we headed back to the office and our first task was to review the training, handing any client specific requests and updates to the rest of the team. Once this was done, Holly and I sat down to review her thoughts on the training I had given and the system that was used - This is where the ‘honest feedback’ I mentioned earlier came from.
Holly shared with me her thoughts on the training – everything from how the room was set up, my delivery and pace, to the system functionality and style. There was an enthusiasm and raw quality to her feedback that was a complete eye opener. She really thrived on being given the opportunity to share her thoughts and after a tentative start, was soon in full flow and she happily shared her views with no preconceived ideas of how she should do this, with no corporate jargon or cynicism. She went on to well and truly embrace the opportunity to talk through the system with me and share her ideas on enhancement based on her expectations and experience with software. Holly gave me some great feedback and ideas. She also admitted that it had really surprised her how much she enjoyed the week, even though she found it tiring. She said things that made perfect sense and she also simplified some things that over the years we grown-ups have over complicated. It was a real eye opener and very refreshing. I have, already, implemented changes to the training based on Holly's feedback and I have ideas for product development based on Holly's intuitive approach to software.
If I hadn’t taken Holly on for her work experience, I would be none the wiser – I found the whole experience enjoyable and stimulating, if not a little unexpected. If you are tempted to get some great ‘free’ advice for your business, I would strongly recommend taking on a work experience student. Yes, you will need to find them things to do and yes, you may not get as much of your own ‘normal’ work completed during that week, but you will gain so much, while at the same time helping to introduce the next generation to the workplace. Please don’t wait for them to email or write to you, approach your local secondary schools with offers of placements, think back to when you were 14 or 15 and the difficulties you may have faced in the same situation as students do today. I truly believe that it is a win-win situation for everyone involved and also provides you with an opportunity to help tomorrow's workers get a glimpse of the workplace outside the school gates.