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The Times Teaches Interns Basic Work Behavior

September 1, 1993
Related Topics: Behavioral Training, Career Development, Employee Career Development, Featured Article
To help prepare interns for future employment in any corporation, the Los Angeles Times offers classroom training as part of its Youth Jobs Training Program. For half a day, one day a week, the interns attend workshops in small groups to discuss real-life issues.

When developing the classes, the staff at the Times dealt with the big issues-such as diversity and career planning-head-on. The classes on these topics were successful. However, to the surprise of the Times' training staff, there were smaller issues that were just as important.

Bill Bradley, senior HR development consultant to the Times, says that one of the most valuable classes offered in 1992 was the first session on work ethics. Bradley says that when they planned it, the trainers had wanted the interns to leave the first class understanding basic work expectations and feeling comfortable about joining the Times for the summer. Once they held the session, the trainers realized that the basic work expectations that they needed to teach were more basic than they anticipated.

Because this was most of the interns' first time in the work force, they had no idea what their supervisors expected of them. The Times had to start from the beginning. Bradley says that in the first training session, the Times taught the interns three important work-related lessons.

  1. Come to work on time.
    Many of the interns needed to use public transportation to get to work. Some even needed to make transfers. This added a considerable amount of commute time, and many of the interns were arriving late on a regular basis. The trainers explained the importance of being punctual and helped the interns understand the public-transportation schedules.
  2. Use appropriate language.
    The interns weren't used to being in a professional atmosphere, and many of them used the vulgar slang of the streets. "As we kiddingly said, we encouraged them not to use any word that started with F or S. They got that message," Bradley says.
  3. Dress appropriately for a work environment.
    Some of the interns came to work on the first day in T-shirts that had obscene messages. The trainers told the students to look at how others in their departments dressed. They encouraged them to dress in a similar manner. The results were positive. "We had kids who started work in vulgar T-shirts, who by the end of the seventh or eighth week were coming to work in white shirts and ties," Bradley says. "The tie might have been 20 years out-of-date, but, by golly, it was a tie."

Knowing what to expect from the interns has helped the Times prepare for the program's future participants. Bradley says that the trainers have fine-tuned some of the classes and now are paying more attention to smaller issues. "They are the most simple things in the world," he says, "yet we need to teach them."

Personnel Journal, September 1993, Vol. 72, No.9, p. 123.

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