I seriously think that the word, 'trainees' should be changed to 'young directors'. Because that is the attitude they come with nowadays -- aiming high, asking where they can be in the next five years and all that.
The journey from a trainee to a full-time employee is, ideally, the most important professional journey for anybody. However, when a trainee walks in today, he or she is already thinking of sitting on a senior seat and soon. They are impatient for success and growth, and look at ways to secure quick learning, followed by quicker acquisition of responsibilities. The confidence levels are very high, irrespective of whether they learn anything or not.
During the 80s and 90s, trainees were ready to do anything and everything. They just wanted to be closer to the gods, hear them speak and win their attention and affection, by doing sheer hard labour. This was with the hope that some day, the trainee would get a golden chance for all the current suffering. It was also an unwritten norm that as a trainee, you are expected to do all the menial jobs, before even qualifying to be looked at as a future employee.
Today, however, trainees do a reference check on the organisation before entering it; list down the names of people whom they want to work with; are clear about what they want to learn in the period allotted to them; know their rights and use it, by escalating issues to HR if they are not being trained. They also send feedback to the management, if they are not getting value out of the training.
As the trainees' expectations have changed with the years, so have expectations from them.
Trainees were earlier looked upon as merely additional hands; but over the years, companies have realized the importance of developing talent and have started investing a lot on trainee development programmes, to reduce the overall learning curve.
For organisations, it's a great opportunity to have a bunch of trainees, because they get the opportunity to build a team from scratch, especially in the current scenario where getting the right talent itself is difficult.
However, many organisations still make the mistake of using trainees for traffic jobs or for running errands. In these organisations, expectedly, the attrition rates at the trainee level are high.
On the other hand, for organisations that are serious about grooming and building talent, it is important to first identify what the trainee expects out of the internship and then set the training agenda. The organisation should explain its expectations to the trainee as well.
An ideal trainee should have a clear set of goals before the start of his/her training. Having a mentor during the training period is also a necessity. All trainees should ask for one and share their goals with the mentor.
The fun is not in being trained. The trainee should be inquisitive about knowing more than what is being taught, and exhibit the desire to get the maximum from the trainer in the limited period of the training.
Trainees should be open to all kinds of learning assignments and get involved in understanding how the other functional areas in the organization operate.
Trainees should follow the office decorum and organisation policies as applicable to them. They should behave like employees from day one; and understand that they are in the organisation to learn, and not merely to observe.
Trainees should show a sense of belonging and exhibit their commitment to the training. They should show interest in the organisation itself and get noticed for that.
Today, companies want to create a talent pool, which becomes the future of the company. Hence, the expectations from trainees also change. In many organisations, trainees are expected to conduct themselves as full-time employees from day one and value-add in their own small way to the business.
Trainees nowadays are even given opportunities to meet clients as part of the training. Hence, they are expected to know about the business.
The expectations on both sides have grown; but with scarcity of talent, expectations from trainees have grown much larger and faster.
(The author is executive director - organisation development, Mudra Group.)