Have you ever hopped into your car and started heading down the road only find yourself on the oh-so-familiar path to work …on your day off? Work is not where you were intending on going and yet your brain has gone immediately to that pathway or that set of neurons that, due to repetition are programmed to fire in a certain way because of the familiarity of the situation. It might be the routine as you leave your home, it might be the time of day or just that you’re distracted and don’t really give your brain a clear message for the neurons to fire on. In the book, “Why Do They Act That Way,” by David Walsh, Ph.D., he states, “Neurons that fire together wire together,” and every single person has millions of pathways throughout their brain caused by the constant firing and wiring of neurons through repetition and experience.
As adults we have the advantage of repetition. Years of experience give us an understanding of what to do next. Whether there will be consequences to our actions or most importantly, how to rectify a situation if we do choose the wrong path. Young people need the same kind of advantage. Repetition, multiple experiences and opportunities create healthy pathways in their brain for positive decision making and skill building.
It’s time to start thinking about the summer season and talking with the young people that are seeking out employment with you or returning to those summer jobs that provide so many wonderful experiences for them. Those experiences can also create a solid and reliable future employee so we must remember what our role is in the entire process. Based on cognitive neuroscience research, adolescent brain development lasts until approximately 24 years of age. During those different stages of development, important pathways are being created. Those pathways rely on positive support and multiple experiences. More than likely, members of your summertime and/or part-time staff fit into a younger age group and there are going to be those days that you ask yourself, why do they act that way? If you have the pleasure of working with young people, and in particular, young people up to the age of 24, take note that you can help create those positive pathways for success on the job by providing relevant, repeated opportunities for them to learn.
Here’s another way to think about it. When you learn a foreign language, how many different ways do you practice learning that language? You write it, speak it, read it and you hear it. Each of those experiences engages the brains neurons to fire and then wire together through various styles of repetition. If we want young people to understand a required task on the job such as knowing how to sign people up for classes or the way they should engage with customers, the opportunity to practice must come in many different forms and through many different experiences. Ideally from as many different individuals that are willing to remain calm and patient as this pathway is being created for that employee. According to Jason Wingard, a contributor to the Forbes online magazine, “Employers who take a broad view of training and development pathways will tap into this generation’s thirst for practical, hands-on, technology-driven education that will offer employers a valuable return on their investment.” This will be an important tool for today’s teens career progression.
It’s up to every manager or supervisor to provide that learning opportunity; the opportunity for those neurons to fire and wire together. I’m always surprised that some employers feel that just by putting on the uniform, a young person should understand the expectations of the job. If our goal is to develop a successful workforce and ultimately, a successful work environment, we must recognize our role as leaders to supervise in such a way that provides a clear understanding of those expectations. Instead of looking at the training process and think about the amount of time it takes, think of it as time well spent when observing the outcome and time you’ll save in the long run. Be willing to engage in a mentoring or shadowing process that allows your younger staff the opportunity to learn from your more experienced staff. All industries must remember that support in the workplace is vital for a happy and engaged workforce and this is where mentoring comes in. Mentoring helps to create those pathways of success for the job, for their future and for yours. Done well, setting goals in advance can turn goal progression into the necessary, positive pathways allows this generation to level-up and achieve amazing things.
Lori A. Hoffner is the president of Supporting CommUnity, Inc. As a speaker, trainer, and consultant, Lori’s mission is to encourage intentional, positive, everyday practices to create a confident and thriving environment for organizations and the communities they serve. She can be reached at Lori@SupportingCommUnity.com or call Jenn Garber, Director of Sales and Marketing to schedule a customized staff training at 720-315-5655.