Bridging the generation gap: training and retaining international officers

Bridging the generation gap: training and retaining international officers

A recent study conducted by Bamboo HR found that one-third of employees quit their jobs just six months after starting. If this sounds uncomfortably familiar, don’t despair. This blog post uses Bath Spa University’s International Relations Office (IRO) as a case study. With the rise in international student numbers, the IRO has expanded from three to 12 employees – and many lesson were learned. Accompanying the release of Forum magazine on ‘The new international officer’, this blog post looks at bridging the gap between old and new staff.

New members of staff can put too much pressure on themselves, feeling as though they are not getting up-to-speed quickly enough. Paired with an unwillingness to disturb more experienced members of staff with ‘silly questions’, the situation can quickly escalate, leading a committed but inexperienced employee to doubt whether they are right for the role.
While a commitment to work hard is important on the part of the new employee, managing expectations is essential. Ask yourself these questions before they start:

  • What do you expect of your new employee?
  • Can you communicate your expectations in clear, measurable targets?
  • How will you communicate these targets?
  • How will you check up on their progress?

Training and support ‘on the go’

Because of the way an international office operates, face-to-face contact and regular catch-up meetings are not always possible. Where this is the case, it’s important to ensure that a new employee feels supported in some other way. Handover period can include electronic notes, Skype sessions or bitty formats when more experienced staff members need to be away”, says the International Recruitment and Marketing Manager at Bath Spa University. A check-up email or a quick phone call can make all the difference to someone who is just starting out, even if it comes from the other end of the world.

Pine for ideas

A new employee brings a new perspective to your institution and can revive any stagnant operations with a fresh dose of enthusiasm. And while it may take a while for a new employee to develop competence, good ideas should never be ignored, no matter how early on in the training these are presented.
“If a new member has a different way of doing something which experienced member is not used to, this may cause differing opinions”, says the International Relations Officer at Bath Spa University. “But this is not necessarily a bad thing!”

Let them get their hands dirty

Newbies are only too happy to sink their teeth into a ‘meaty project’ as a way to showcase their skills, so give them a chance to show off. If you’ve been thinking about re-branding your website, coming up with a better way to manage your data than your current CRM, but haven’t quite had the time to get round to these projects, offer them up to your new trooper. There’s little risk on your side as you’re not obliged to implement their ideas. And it will free up some of your time.
But there’s a fine line between offering a challenge and over-burdening someone who’s just starting out. Elena Bajic, the founder and CEO of Ivy Exec, believes that it’s important to “expect and demand good work”. In an article for Forbes, she explains that this requires setting clear goals and metrics for a new employee that would hold them accountable. When they hit a project deadline, you can discuss where things went well, and work out how to improve areas that didn’t go so well. Either way, this is sure to make them feel like a full-fledged member of the team early on.

Praise, reward and recognition

While it’s important to offer the newbie a challenge, it’s imperative to notice when the environment is starting to turn toxic. If a new member of staff is working just as hard as a long-time employee without reaping the same benefits in terms of status, recognition, and pay, they can start to feel resentful towards you and your institution. While it’s not always possible to offer a raise, it’s important to offer an alternative reward, such as training opportunities, more autonomy in making decisions, helping them to manage their workload, and offering tasks that match their interests and career aspirations. Something as simple as praise can go a long way, too.
Ieva previously worked in the International Relations Office at Bath Spa University, UK and now works as a freelance writer.
The latest issue of the EAIE’s member magazine Forum, on ‘The new international officer’ is hot off the press. EAIE members can access the magazine in full from the Resources corner. Non-members can download the Editor’s pick for free. Become an EAIE member to gain access to quality international education resources like Forum.