Professional Development

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Instilling a Work Ethic in the Emergent Afterschool Workforce

Friday, 23 August 2013 06:08

Have you ever been asked to write a letter of recommendation for an employee or co-worker yet privately had reservations? You think they should know the right things to do, but they fail to do them adequately. Even though they possess some admirable skills, they lack the core values of a positive work ethic that every employer hopes to find when interviewing and hiring.

If you've been in that situation, or if you feel that, in general, your staff's work ethic needs improvement, it is advisable to take time to talk about, teach, and clarify the specifics of what you expect from every employee. Use this leadership lesson as guide for developing "teaching conversations" about work ethic values.


Professionalism implies that you look your best. Afterschool professionals value fashion and proper appearance, including attire, hair styling, hygiene, and use of makeup. Knowing how to dress for success is just as important to be demonstrated by those in hourly, frontline staff positions as it is by the boss. Professionals display manners, courtesy, and use language appropriately. Clarity and adherance to the program's dress code is crucial to development of professionalism.


It's simple. Those with a good work ethic smile and play nice. They show gratitude. They're polite. They say "please" and "thank you." An attitude is an outward display of internal views. It's where perceptions become realities. Those with a positive attitude should mentor new hires. Positive attitudes can be contagious. Develop a checklist of observable positive attitude attributes. Teach them to your staff.


It's hard to write a recommendation for tardy, unreliable employees. Nothing is more basic or foundational to a good work ethic than reliability. Yet, too many people have become accustomed to making excuses. For too many people, reliability is becoming a "yeah but" value. Program leaders shouldn't wait for infractions to occur. Teach your expectations of punctuality, dependability, and self-responsibility. Those who master the value of reliability will always be in high demand!


Initiative requires ambition. Strive to do your best and accomplish more than is expected. Model this value and others will emulate it. If you can specifically write about how an employee exhibited pride and passion in every work task, it will catch the eye of potential employers. Those with initiative don't settle for minimum standards. They soar beyond.


To gain respect, play by the rules and teach employees to do the same. Respect implies being able to show obedience, acceptance, and conformity. Workers must respect their peers, managers, students, parents, and the parameters of their contract. The development of mentoring partnerships can greatly impact efforts to instill
respect into an organization.


Employers seek workers that are honest and speak the truth. Integrity must be the foundation of every afterschool program and part of every code of conduct. There is no place for dysfunctional or antisocial individuals in the afterschool workforce.


Every job requires a specified level of requisite knowledge and competence. Those who willingly read and engage in professional development because they want to learn and continuously improve gain the highest levels of recognition. Those individuals who demonstrate the habits and ideals of a positive work ethic need never worry about a performance review. Nor will they need worry about what a supervisor will write in a recommendation. The description of their work ethic will say enough!