Managing Work Experience – How to transform a mediocre work placement into a meaningful one
Summer term and summer holiday times are often the times when organisations get asked to offer work experience opportunities. Managing work experience is always a challenge for organisations, helping the young person adjust to a work place environment rather than school and giving them meaningful experiences given their lack of knowledge and experience. Frequently, the people managing work experience students are supervisors and sometimes it’s their very first time managing work experience. The result of this can be a lot of unmet expectations on both sides.
We recommend every person managing work experience students make an appointment with the young person half way through the placement and ask one question – “What did you expect to do or learn in this work experience placement that hasn’t happened?”
This question can open up a conversation that can be invaluable. Your work experience student may have grand expectations of being a project lead or presenting to the board and be frustrated that so far they have just sat in on meetings. On the other hand, he or she may have had very reasonable expectations but has been stuck doing low skilled routine work because these are easiest to give to someone with limited experience and when the person supervising them is busy too. Either way, you’ll find out!!
Unmet or unreasonable expectations can be clarified, with reasonable ones being set for the remainder of the work experience. Why is that important? Well, for a couple of reasons. One is a perfectly selfish one; just as any former employee can be negative about your organisation and make recruiting more difficult, or even drive customers away, a disgruntled work experience student can do the same. It is a fact that most work experience students lack the maturity and experience to know what is normal and what is not, that is why they do work experience! It’s never too late to make changes to help fit your work experience student’s skills, knowledge and career goals.
Another reason is the purpose of the work experience, your organisation is essentially doing community service, helping train people for the workforce. Good managers offer feedback and set clear expectations. Managing work experience expectations and helping a work experience student understand changing expectations is not necessarily bad, it is a fact of working life.
Taking the time to do a mid-work experience placement checkup, and making sure you understand and correct expectations, can change a mediocre work experience placement into a highly successful one.
Metis HR is a professional HR Consultancy based in the North West of England supporting clients across the country. We specialise in providing outsourced HR services to small and medium-sized businesses. Call us now on 01706 565332 to discuss how we may help you.