Ask Ashley: How can I teach young new employees basic soft skills?

What resources do you have to help teach young new employees some basic soft skills?

Ask Ashley: How can I teach young new employees basic soft skills?
Photo by M L on Unsplash

Welcome to the Ask Ashley advice column! On the second Wednesday of every month, I answer a question from my subscribers, consulting clients, or social media followers on their biggest productivity challenges.

Have a question you want to submit for another edition of Ask Ashley? Shoot me an email. Questions will be anonymized and may be edited for clarity.

Dear Ashley,

My company hires employees that are generally young, new to the workforce, and/or have never had an office job. I am always a bit shocked at how little they know about office etiquette and what I would consider basic organizational skills. I love their energy and eagerness to learn, but I don’t even know where to start. What resources do you have to help teach young new employees some basic soft skills?

—  Reluctant Den Mother

Dear Reluctant Den Mother,

This sounds like a case of lack of experience and your new employees not knowing what they don’t know. As a leader in your organization, this is a great opportunity to work with these new employees and teach them skills that will help them throughout their careers.

Here are some places to start:

Resources for you as a leader

An important part of teaching new skills to a new employee is to be able to walk the talk and be a good role model for them:

Set availability boundaries

7 Ways to Set Availability Boundaries and Reduce Interruptions

It might seem counterintuitive but you do not need to be available to your team at all times. In fact, I would argue that it’s better for both you and your team if you are not available to them all the time. In this article, I explain why and provide specific strategies to set boundaries around your availability that will benefit you and your employees.

Model self-care

4 Ways to Make Self-Care a Competitive Advantage

Your employees will often mimic how you behave. If you work all the time, don’t take breaks or time off, and talk about sacrificing diet, sleep and exercise for work, you set an expectation for your employees that they need to do the same. This will impact your office culture and can create anxiety among your employees.

Beyond that, these behaviours impact everyone’s performance and overall happiness. If you want you AND your team at peak performance, you all need to take breaks, take time off, get enough sleep, eat well, exercise and spend time with your friends and family.

This article explains why self-care is a competitive advantage for your business, which you can then model for your team.

Prevent employee burnout

How Can A Leader Prevent Employee Burnout?

Along the same lines as modelling self-care, you have a lot of power as a leader to prevent employee burnout, which is rampant in so many organizations these days. This article, which is a guest post I wrote for Ask A Business Expert, goes deeper into some of the ways you can protect your team from burnout, beyond general self-care.

Resources for your employees

These are some resources you can send your new employees to start the conversation around being more intentional with how they spend their time, energy, and attention.

Focus and attention management

I am sure I could make a joke here about millennials and Gen Z’s having short attention spans…but honestly, it’s a problem for everyone.

  1. How to Use Ritual to Support Deep Work and Stay Focussed

This article is about how to set yourself up to do deep, focused work by making intentional choices about your time, space, and distractions.

2. How to Keep Your Team in the Zone

This article is about communication tactics that your new employees can learn to reduce interruptions, and keep everyone focussed, on task, and in the zone.

Task management and prioritization

If you have never learned them, task management and prioritization are really hard! When there are so many competing items on a to-do list, it can be overwhelming, especially if you are new to an organization.

  1. Why Multitasking Is Unproductive and What To Do Instead

Many of your new hires might have included “good at multi-tasking” as one of their desirable skills. In an office environment, multitasking is actually bad for productivity. This article explains why, and some strategies for getting through your to-do list.

2. Time-Blocking and Imagining Your Ideal Week

When you are a new employee, it is easy to feel like you don’t have any control over your days. A way to empower them to take some control of their time is to get them to learn how to time block their tasks in their calendars and be intentional about how they plan their daily and weekly tasks. This article explains how!

Email management

Email management is always a doozy. Though some of your new team members were probably born with email addresses, they have probably not learned good etiquette, boundaries, and how to keep their inboxes from exploding.

1. 7 Ways to Set Email Boundaries and Lift the Curse of Immediacy

This article focuses on being thoughtful about how to approach email so that it doesn't eat up so much time and energy.

2. Get Your Gmail Inbox Under Control Using Multiple Inboxes and Stars

For the Gmail users out there, this article is an inbox setup that helps reduce email clutter and keep your inbox under control.

3. 8 Email Response Rhythms for More Efficient Email

This article is all about email etiquette. It provides tactics to make emails easy to send and find and prevent email from becoming a black hole for things to get lost.

Meeting boundaries

Last, but not least, you can send your new employees some resources on how to keep their calendars under control from dreaded meetings and also set their meetings up to be a good use of time (and not dreaded!).  

  1. 8 Ways to Set Boundaries Around When You Schedule and Accept Meetings

Different employees will have different levels of control over which meetings they have to attend, but this article provides different strategies to be intentional about the when and how of meetings as they move throughout their careers.

2.  Optimize Your Meetings with Meeting Rhythms and Agendas

Learning how to prepare for and run a good meeting is an undervalued skill. This article outlines how to make meetings useful, productive, and not time-wasting energy vortexes.

There is a lot of content here but these resources are a great place to start to get your new employees up to speed on office etiquette and help them cultivate strong organizational skills. They might even be a good refresher for you and more experienced team members! Good luck!

Book a free consultation with me if you have any questions about any of these resources!