We all have different personalities – some of us are more outgoing, others prefer to keep to themselves. Did you know that between a quarter and half of the population are in fact introverts? Sadly, in the workplace, these personality types and the strengths they bring to the job can often be overlooked. Young, shy employees at the beginning of their career may be particularly at risk of being undervalued.
What strengths do introverts bring to the table?
Introverts tend to have keen analytical and contemplative qualities that make them valuable team members. Whether their chosen career is in IT, accountancy or customer services, they value the ability to think through complex problems in peace and quiet before coming up with a solution.
While you’re unlikely to see them clamoring for recognition of a particularly successful sales pitch or project, or shining in front-of-house roles, they nevertheless contribute towards your business’ success just as much as their outwardly ambitious extrovert colleagues.
What challenges do young employees face?
Entering the workforce can be a daunting time for a young adult. The transition from college/university to the job market is full of new and often unclear expectations that can be stressful for the young employee. Whether you’re managing school leavers, apprentices, graduate trainees – or any millennial, for that matter – it’s important to understand their particular issues and ease the beginning of their career path.
Lack of confidence may be a big problem, especially for non-outgoing personality types. If you wish to actively encourage and value the contribution your young and introverted team members make to your company, it pays to play to their strengths and create the right conditions for them to perform to the best of their abilities.
Here are 5 strategies you can use to encourage a more inclusive and supportive team culture that works for everyone.
- Ongoing communication and feedback
Good communication is key for any work relationship, but even more so when you have a new entrant to the workforce with barely any experience, and especially when your new team member may be too shy to ask for help.
Clear company onboarding procedures, defined goal setting, and regular feedback sessions are all very helpful, but nothing beats the friendly face of a line manager who is happy to provide informal, daily guidance.
- Make time for one-to-one meetings
Introverts are often cast as shy and unwilling to share their views and feelings. This is not necessarily true; it depends on creating the right conditions for staff to feel comfortable opening up. Rather than feeling exposed in a group situation, a more private environment may be more conducive.
Setting up regular one-to-one meetings is a great way to get around the problem, giving your young employee the opportunity to share ideas and concerns with their manager in a confidential setting where there’s no competition from co-workers to have one’s voice heard.
- Keep surprises to a minimum
Last-minute meetings, next-to-no-notice changes to work patterns or being drafted onto a team in mid-project are anathema to an introverted employee who wants to do his best. Stress and feeling overwhelmed can play havoc with your career entrant’s performance levels, so bear this in mind when you’re planning and preparing your work schedule for the team. Upsetting the work-life balance causes havoc for most people, but can be more damaging in the long run if not properly addressed – so it’s important not to put staff, and furthermore introverts in the awkward position.
Schedule shifts, meetings and presentations with plenty of time to prepare. If possible, try to involve your introverts in the planning so that they can feel more in control of their deadlines.
- Respect their way of working
Introverted employees are happiest when they can work on their own terms. Capable youngsters may react in the same way, used to producing great results with the minimum of supervision. Once you’ve agreed on a task and a deadline, trust that you can leave them to it to get the job done. Unilaterally moving goal posts and suddenly demanding updates at short notice is unhelpful and stressful, whether you’re dealing with a young employee just out of college, or an introvert who finds it difficult to make quick mental adjustments.
Instead, build in milestones and interim update reports or meetings into your project plan from the beginning, so that everyone has the opportunity to prepare accordingly.
- Play to their strengths
There are many studies to show that introverted workers are particularly good at solving detailed problems and devising strategies, so why not make the most of their analytical abilities? Provided you agree on a clear brief, time frame and adequate support, you can be confident in the delivery of excellent results.
Of course, not all team members are the same, which is why it is crucial to keep the dialogue going. Part of the challenge of employing an apprentice or recent graduate is to find out how they tick. Treat every staff member as an individual and find out how they prefer to work, so you can devise operational strategies that play to their strengths. With all your employees feeling equally motivated at work, the company as a whole will benefit.
This is a guest post from Dakota Murphey.