“We have a shared passion for cars and getting involved in the way they work, collectively we want to see our industry do well.”

Several interrelated issues have been identified by the automotive industry as the most important regarding communication between apprentices and supervisors. Outstanding in our industry is the shared passion for cars and getting involved in the way they work. This intense interest is the key to creating good communication between apprentices and supervisors.
Many businesses have developed their own understandings and strategies to assist with positive communication between apprentices and supervisors. Some have developed special programs and inductions for their apprentices and give their supervisors training and mentoring to better understand today’s apprentices.

Effective communication requires self-awareness

We know that explaining in the same way to over and over will mostly result in the same outcome.
To be effective in communicating we need to be aware of ourselves and others.

  • Begin by understanding your own biases and assumptions – what are they and how they drive you
  • Then take a look from the other person’s perspective. Find the best way to communicate.

Understand your expectations – they are your habits

  • Expectations create habits. It is underlying subliminal values and beliefs that impact on everything we feel, think, say and do.
  • We look for and align to others who share our expectations or habits, and reject those who don’t. Generational habits are powerful, potent and exclusive by default
  • When under pressure, tolerance of others’ habits is reduced, acceptance of anything different is reduced because it takes effort to see the other person’s perspective.

A powerful tool is to create a set of guidelines about “the way we do things around here”. This is much more impacting and less daunting than always falling back on formal performance expectations such as KPIs.

The power of misaligned expectations

  • Where communication breaks down and there is no movement on either side, a gridlock occurs
  • A common gridlock for our industry are the beliefs that today’s apprentices are “different” and that many supervisors are “old school” in their mindset
  • In reality, it is the environment that has changed.

It is much easier to tolerate differences when they are not directed to a person as it removes the emotion. Communication between young apprentices and supervisors requires acceptance of differences.

Apprentices today are not different – they need guidance

Apprentices of today may be chronologically older than those from the past, however, they are still green in life and in work expectations. Most only understand the school environment. They still need to be taught how to behave at work and trade school.

New apprentices are looking to their supervisor for direction on how things are done at work and trade school.

They learn by watching. In the absence of communication provided directly from their supervisor/trainer, they are likely to shut down and not communicate.

Be very clear about what is expected – and check and re-check that the information is understood. Ask the apprentice to explain what you require in their own words. If they can’t, do this, then say it in a different way or show them what you want until they understand.

Time trap: keeps problems as problems and makes them bigger

Assumptions, expectations and habits, when combined with busyness and pressure at work, are a toxic combination for communication generally. With an apprentice this becomes much more problematic. Supervisor tolerance and patience becomes reduced, resulting in apprentices failing to learn properly in an atmosphere of uncertainty and insecurity.
This makes the apprentice even less likely to ask for help, dramatically reducing their confidence in their ability to do their job.
At the end of the day keeping at it and maintaining a positive outlook is the quickest path to developing a happy and productive team member.

Distraction and its impact on attention and focus

Young apprentices today have been born into the technology age. They process differently and communicate differently as a result. An impact of this is that they have a much narrower attention span, hence will frequently not hear and lose focus.
Communication-overload and the resulting distraction is part of life in the modern world. The risk of distraction in the workplace is greatly increased if an apprentice has their phone with them. The consequences are the potential loss of life if a mistake is made which impacts the safe operation of a vehicle.

Phones can be helpful in a workshop, as a torch or for accessing technical information. Some businesses choose to place trust in the employees in exchange for them not abusing the phone policy.

Other workshops prefer to keep distractions to a minimum and keep the distinction between work and private lives. If this is the case in your business, make it clear that the business has a land line for emergency contact, if you decide to ban phones on the workshop floor.