By Cheryl McKown, Bupa’s Apprenticeship’s Manager
A tumultuous 24 months has led many people to think carefully about their careers and explore ways of developing workplace skills. Apprenticeships are attractive to many groups, including school leavers, graduates and those looking to change careers or upskill, as they offer the opportunity to learn on the job, develop skills in a real-life setting and earn a wage.
Apprenticeships also benefit businesses, as they bring fresh perspectives and up to date industry insights, and successful placements can lead to productive, long-term working relationships. So how can businesses ensure that they are fully supporting their apprentices to stay happy, healthy and motivated?
Helping your apprentice to grow into your team starts with getting to know them. It’s important to embrace what makes them different and in doing this, you’ll create an environment where everyone is encouraged to be themselves.
Think about ways you can help apprentices bond and collaborate with others at their level – for example, you could create a buddy or mentor system, connecting new starters with those who have a little more experience, as well as providing access to dedicated online forums and channels.
Employees who feel that their organisation takes an active interest in their wellbeing are more likely to stay motivated, engaged and loyal. Think about arranging informal get-togethers, either virtually or in person to help them to feel part of the team from the off.
Particularly at first, some apprentices may find juggling a new role, studying and commuting challenging.
Instil good time management skills by working together with your apprentice to plan how they’ll manage their time between learning and on-the-job tasks. In getting to know your apprentice, you’ll get an idea of what their home situation is like, and what a good work-life balance looks like for them.
It’s important to refer to the ‘20% off-the-job-learning’ rule (a legal requirement of apprenticeships) in gaining this balance and being flexible where needed to adjust the plan to make it achievable. Your apprenticeship provider should be able to support you with this.
Work-life balance is really important in protecting against things like burn out, anxiety and stress, so make sure your apprentices are also building in time let off steam and recharge.
Some people love yoga, others prefer to hit the gym and some might find cooking or crafts help them relax. Getting enough sleep is also crucial.
As well as celebrating individualism, embracing those from different demographics and with different cognitive styles helps to open the floor to ideas from all employees at all levels. This can harness insightful views from a range of backgrounds, leading to a wider understanding of what your business offers and can provide, from a diverse mindset.
If your new apprentice is from a background that’s not yet well represented across the rest of your organisation, think about how you can specifically support them so that they feel comfortable and included.
At Bupa Global & UK, we launched the ‘Be You at Bupa’ commitment to reiterate that everyone in our business – from all backgrounds – can feel comfortable bringing their whole self to work every day. By celebrating and supporting people’s differences, we aim to promote collaboration, encouraging everyone to feel comfortable working here.
Taking the time to check in with your new apprentice can go a long way to helping them feel listened to and appreciated, which can foster better wellbeing and company loyalty. Additionally, an open-door approach can help apprentices to feel psychologically safe approaching you with any queries or concerns about their learning.
A simple ‘thank you’ or ‘well done’ goes a long way to boosting an apprentice’s feeling of worth. Feeling properly rewarded for workplace efforts helps to boost mental wellbeing and decrease stress.
Regular appraisals or one-to-one sessions give you and your apprentice the chance to speak freely, helping you to gauge what your apprentice is enjoying about the scheme and make any adjustments to help them enjoy their scheme more. As well as listening to them, these check-ins provide the chance to provide any constructive feedback, too.
If you introduce your apprentice to a workplace culture that places value on the benefits of being honest and open about both mental and physical help, they’re more likely to follow suit and feel confident to put their health first if they ever need to.
Promoting a positive culture like this will encourage your apprentice – as well as the rest of your team – to bring their full self to work. Finding out what makes your apprentice tick can help you to understand them better, spot any signs that they need further support, and generate an inclusive team spirit with increased productivity.
You can help to further support your apprentice by ensuring that they’ve got access to employee wellbeing services, like Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), GP appointments or health assessments.