Students understand business world

Dear Joan:
I enjoy reading your column and sometimes use it in my classes. I'm a high school business education teacher.

One of my classes involves a simulation of a "real world" office, where students work at different entry-level jobs in order to learn how workflow, attitudes, and work habits affect each others' jobs.

Many times I'll find students doing homework from other classes or they'll complain that their work is "messed up" if I have someone fill in for absentees. Do you have any comments about this?

What advice would you have for high school graduates starting their first job in the business world? Is there anything you recommend for their teachers to do?

Bravo for helping students learn about the work world! I had to smile when you described their frustration when a stand-in took over for an absent student. You might mention that this frustration is exactly what happens when an employee doesn't show up for work. Things get messed up, work slows down, fellow employees feel the burden and if it's an ongoing problem, co-workers really resent it.

Students may be doing homework in class because the workplace seems abstract and far away. They may not be able to relate to the subject because they haven't had much personal experience with it. Some of them may think that they aren't going to work in an office, so the simulation may feel academic. (I like the idea of a simulation, however.)

Perhaps you could capture their attention with real world examples of things that have happened to them or people close to them. For example, you might ask them to pretend they are writing a letter to me about some problem they have experienced at their own part-time jobs (real job or family chore). They could then pick someone else's problem out of a hat and write a response to the person, which could be discussed in small groups or with the whole class. Another homework assignment might be to interview parents about common problems at work and how they're handled.

Another idea might be to focus on some group activity they are already doing at school and examine it as though it were a job situation. For instance, the yearbook staff, cheerleaders, student senate and swim team could all be thought of as working groups toward a common purpose.

Perhaps they could discuss the workflow involved in organizing a fund raiser, pep rally or the prom. There are many comparisons to real work that would be great discussion topics: what should a good "supervisor" (teacher/advisor) do, what are the best ways to delegate, what's the most effective workflow, how do others' work habits affect the project, what role do attitudes play, if you were to give each person a performance review, what criteria would you use, etc.

These activities may open their eyes to the fact that workflow and teamwork are all around them and that they are "working" in the "real world" every day. They may even decide to turn the simulation idea into a real business that produces something. It could be a simple product that others might buy or it may be a community service project. The class can then operate on two levels-while they're running a "business" they can also be analyzing the process behind it.

These experiences will be the best teacher when you ask about advice for their first jobs in the business world. They will quickly learn that things such as, cooperation, follow-through, attention to detail, self-initiative and a good attitude are not vague theories for other people and other times but something they are "working" at every day.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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