Exam results time. The papers are full of teenagers leaping happily whilst waving pieces of paper or looking concerned as they gather around notice boards. Stories of hardship, of overcoming the odds to achieve good grades abound; whilst experts analyse and reanalyse the results, seeking to draw some conclusion on the fairness or otherwise of the examination system.
However much the emphasis today is on grades, when these teenagers move into the workforce they will find that results are only part of the story. Aptitude and ability and approach can count for as much, or more, than simple qualifications. Yes having the grades helps, but employers are generally looking for people who understand what the boxes mean and can apply their learning in the real world rather than simple box tickers.
Employers are also looking for someone who will add value to the company proposition. Increasingly, that means hiring for cultural fit rather than for pure qualifications. Make no mistake, hiring for cultural fit is not the same as hiring clones. Cultural fit, in fact, means taking on people who are not only in tune with the aims and values of the organisation but who can also bring something special which will add to the overall offering
It’s not surprising really. As the importance of organisational culture as a differentiator becomes increasingly recognised, and as cultures of innovation require a strong emphasis on teamwork and collaboration, the way in which individuals interact can make a significant difference to outcomes.
To put it simply, if you hire someone who is extremely qualified but whose attitude is such that they sow discontent around them, then the organisation is in for a tough ride. On the other hand, an individual who is open to working with others, who is happy to contribute to the development of innovative solutions and who actively works to boost the skills and attitudes of those around them can prove to be a very valuable addition to the business.
So for those teenagers looking to leave academia and enter the world of work what would be our top tips? Well, you won’t go far wrong if you look to embrace the five practices of exemplary leaders. Let’s start with modelling the way. You may think that as a new entrant you have little influence on the direction of the organisation, but if you bring a great attitude and an open mind set you can help to positively influence those around you.
This leads naturally on to inspiring a shared vision. Naturally you may not want to go against the overall vision of the organisation, particularly if it is a strong and positive one; but if you bring a personal vision of carrying out tasks to the best of your ability, delivering great customer service, or a willingness to learn and improve then you can inspire others to do the same.
Challenging the process can be a tricky task for a new entrant but if you approach the task with diplomacy and a willingness to learn then your challenge cannot only boost your own knowledge and abilities, it can also result in innovative service and procedural improvements. When ‘do as I say’ or ‘we’ve always done it like this’ can be replaced by ‘is there any way we can do better’ then you are on your way to making a lasting and positive contribution.
And then we have enabling others to act and encouraging the heart. Quite simply, these come from being open-minded and collaborative, from creating the conditions around you which help others to believe and to journey along their own development pathway.
As the exam results come out we would like to congratulate everyone on their hard work and effort. But we will congratulate you far more if your journey takes you into the world of work with an open and positive attitude; helping to enhance the culture of your chosen organisation, to deliver great customer service and to make the working lives of those around you a positive and rewarding experience.