Teaching Work Ethics To The Younger Generations

At times we notice a general lack of work ethics in the younger generation, and we wonder where does that work ethic get taught in the first place.

Many of us are familiar with the “younger generation,” which means a lot of us are middle-aged! At times we notice a general lack of work ethics in this generation, and we wonder where does that work ethic get taught in the first place…home? School? Once you’re literally “on the job”?  I know one way the even younger generation is learning, at least as seventh graders in my daughter’s middle school.

She’s in a Wisconsin charter school, with a focus on technology and fine arts. She attends a class on technology and engineering, which we hope will serve her well as she continues to learn and focus her studies on what she may want to be someday. But there’s an added plus to her being in this particular classroom, one that surprised me and warmed the cockles of my little human-resources heart: The students had to sign an employee contract! Check it out, here’s what it says at the top of this contract:

Perparing younger generations for the workforce

“Behaviors and attitudes developed in school are a key indicator of work ethics that will be repeated on the job later in life. Ask any employer what they look for in an employee and they will typically respond: the ability to be at work each day; a good work ethic; the ability to work on a team; and the willingness to keep learning.”

Wow, it sounds to me that whoever wrote this contract was sitting in the back of the room when I lectured on human resources and working those “soft skills” into the job description and other HR processes! On this document, the soft skills included leadership and responsibility, social and cross-cultural skills, flexibility and adaptability, initiative and self-direction, and finally productivity and accountability.

This contract even goes further in expressing just what those qualities mean, or look like, when they are being achieved. For example, responsibility is being prepared for class and making it on time to class. Social skills means positively contributing to the group, flexibility is adjusting to differing expectations, self-direction is demonstrate by staying on task and challenging own abilities, and finally accountability is completing work in a timely manner. Do any of these skills resemble what you either want in the team you manage, or the coworkers you want to work beside? Probably so.

This contract concept is taken one step further, and provides a form for the student herself/himself to evaluate their progress and set goals. This is similar to the Montessori experience with our daughter, where conference time also consisted of the student completing a self-evaluation and reviewing with their parents. For this seventh grade contract, the students have the choice of selecting one of these rankings for their progress:

• I need to improve
• Could do better
• Doing well
• Doing Awesome!

Wow, don’t we ALL want to be Awesome?  Keep an eye on those soft skills, those reflections of work ethics, and you can be awesome, too!

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