Jahin Tanvir explores the ways in which workplaces can adapt and manage for young employees and create a safe and sustainable working culture.
Chris Bombolas: G'day everyone, I'm Chris Bombolas, your MC for today. On behalf of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, I'd like to welcome you to another of our Work Well presentations.
I'd like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet today and pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging. I'd like to extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples watching today.
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Today's presentation includes references to mental health at work. If you or someone you know is struggling, please remember there is support available. A number of support contacts are on the screen and we'll also pop them into the chat.
Remember, you can call Lifeline at any time on 13 11 14. To get help and support in an emergency, please call 000 or go to your local hospital. Lifeline, as I said, is also available anytime on 13 11 14.
You can call the Workers' Psychological Support Service on 1800 370 732. For further contacts, visit www.qmhc.qld.gov/emergency-contacts.
It's now time to introduce you to today's speaker, Jahin Tanvir. Jahin is the CEO of the Australian School of Entrepreneurship, an award winning keynote and three time TEDx speaker. Jahin was named as one of the top 40 under 40 most influential Asian Australians in 2022 at the ripe old age of 21. Today Jahin will delve into how employers can better change young people or better engage young people I should say, and ensure their wellbeing and health is at the forefront of discussions.
If you have any questions for Jahin today, please type them into the Q&A chat box on the right of your screen and we will have a Q&A session at the end of his presentation. On that note, let's head down to Sydney and welcome in Jahin.
Jahin Tanvir: Fantastic, thank you so much for that introduction and hello everyone, good afternoon and happy Monday. My name is Jahin Tanvir, as mentioned, I'm the Chief Executive Officer at the Australian School of Entrepreneurship and I have the absolute pleasure today of talking about something that I'm truly, truly passionate about and I'll get into why I'm so passionate about it later on but for anybody who's heard me speak before, you will notice my voice is a little different from normalcy, fun fact, I flew down from New York this morning, my flight was delayed so I landed at seven A.M. this morning. So the jet lag is setting in a little bit but the excitement of talking about young employees, workplace safety will never keep me down.
So how I'm gonna structure today's presentation, again I've got about 40 to 45 minutes with everyone here today and then we'll definitely open up to my favourite part about any presentation, the questions and Q&A part. How I'm gonna structure it is the first couple of minutes I want to introduce myself and allow you to actually deep dive into my brain because whenever I hear guest speakers or somebody talking about a subject matter, my initial question is always, why are you talking? Why should I care? What gives you the right to talk about X subject matter? So I wanna give you a bit more information on why I care about young employees and workplace safety so much and then the second half of the presentation will be all about actionable steps.
It's great for me to talk to you about workplace safety in a very theoretical way but that's not practical, that's not actionable. So what I wanna leave you after this presentation is three actionable ways in which you, for your workplace, for your company, for your team, for the young people, the young employees in your life, how can you actually make their experiences in work, in the future of work, as pleasant and as safe as possible?
And so when we're talking about workplace safety, we're gonna focus a lot on the environment, we're gonna be talking about the culture and the safety and welfare of our young employees which in many cases the UN mentions under 35s. I know everybody is young at heart, I truly believe that but for the context of today's presentation, I'll be talking about mainly Gen Z and Millennials and the under 35 age bracket.
So again, there are questions at the end so feel free to ask me any questions that you want, I am a little jet lagged, so don't grill me but I will do my best to answer as many questions as I possibly can.
So to get started, before I get into the actionable steps on how do we promote workplace safety for our young employees, for our young people in our lives, our young workers, I wanna give you the background of who I am and where I came to be with this role as CEO.
So academically, fun fact, my background is in healthcare, so my background academically is in optometry, I know it's completely different, why did I choose optometry? My mother is South Asian and she was just like, this is a very safe degree, you should do it and I can marry you off very easily. That was literally my intention as to why I did optometry. I got into it a couple of years, did not enjoy it as much as I thought I would and so I sort of ventured into business, I really like innovation, I really liked working with people of different backgrounds of all ages.
Last year I started my own company, which after six months that company got acquired, I sold that company, that company got acquired with the ASE group and then they appointed me as a new CEO of the Australian School of Entrepreneurship and fun fact, a couple months ago, we received an investment from an ex-Shark Tank judge here in Australia for us to scale and do more of what we love doing about careers and working with young people.
What does the ASE do? Basically we're Australia's largest soft skills training provider, so we work with young people all the way from three years old, so literal toddlers, all the way to about 35 years old. We work with schools, universities, corporates, we work with the government, all around upskilling young people with soft skills, life skills, human skills, so things like public speaking, financial literacy, how to start your own business.
The reason I mention that is because we've got a national team, we've got about I think, 46 staff members currently all across Australia in every state and territory and we work with over 180,000 young Australians every single year.
Also another reason that I love talking about young employees and young workers is because I just turned 23 years old. And so anything I share with you today in terms of my experiences working with young people, why workplace safety is so important, the strategies that you can implement to work with young people, all of this doesn't come from a random survey I found online or ChatGPT as we like to always go on and find research and surveys.
Everything that I'll share with you, every strategy, every actionable thing that I've learned have come from literal real life case studies. Things that I've failed with, things that I've learned as a young CEO, things that have worked for our team, things that we've worked with different corporates across Australia that has worked for them. All of these findings are real case studies. And so I want you to have that sort of trust in me and that credibility to be like, it's not a random survey that I'm gonna showcase and research from here on out. It will be real life examples of how workplace environments, so workplace safety for young employees can be strengthened, can be amplified and can be promoted.
So hopefully that gives you a bit of an insight on why I'm so passionate about this, why I've got so much energy around young employees, Gen Z employees, Millennial employees and how we can really create an environment and culture for them to go to work and be like, I get to do this. I don't have to do this, I'm not forced to do this, I get to do this. That's sort of the mentality we wanna create.
So jumping right into it, obviously mindful of time, in terms of how do you promote workplace safety for young employees? And when I talk about workplace safety, I talk about it in a very holistic point of view. So for young employees, for our early career professionals, our grads, our interns, our young people who are obviously trying to make it up and create a career for themselves, how do we create a culture and environment where they can come to work, whether it's in person, whether it's remote, whether it's hybrid, whatever it looks like for them, they can come in and actually feel welcomed, actually feel invited and actually stay retained.
We've seen a lot of articles recently where young employees, especially in Australia, are changing jobs left, right and centre. Their low retention rates have been going, have been becoming a big issue for a lot of companies. How do we create a culture where young people want to stay, want to learn and want to grow with your organisation, and your team?
So the way I've been able to come up with this is I've broken it down to three really easy sort of simplified strategies. Three strategies in which you can implement for your team or your organisation for your young employees that if done right, and if done consistently, and consistently is the key word, you can make sure that your young employees, your young workers, your young team members can feel like they truly belong, part of the workplace and truly feel like they're contributing and feeling valued.
So number one, without any, without beating around the bush, promoting workplace safety for young employees starts with the number one, which I would like to call the number one most valuable skill you can ever learn in your career. The number one most valuable skill they can learn, but also the number one most frightening skill out there to practice, and that is communication. Communication. To build workplace safety for your employees, especially your young employees, you need to communicate with them in a way that's never been done before.
Let me explain. So traditionally, if we were to, for example, talk about a new initiative we're having in our team or organisation, it would be on an agenda item where you have to cover this agenda item and say, “Hey, hello everyone. Today, we'll be talking about this new initiative we've created in the company. It's available every Friday. You can go access it. It's really good that you access it. If you want more information, speak to our manager over there. Next agenda item.”
That's a very traditional way of introducing a new initiative or a new culture in an organisation, right? When you work with young employees, that doesn't cut it. If a young employee hears that, they'll just be like, “Okay, cool, it's a new initiative. Why should I care? Why should I be engaged? You don't sound excited at all.”
So how do you approach that? You get more excited. You make sure your communication is more about how you say it. So your communication is based on how you say something rather than what you're saying. How you're saying something rather than what you're saying.
For example, the initiative. “Hi, everyone. So we're going to talk about a new initiative that's come in to the company that you can utilise every single Friday. And it is something that I've used personally as a young CEO. I've utilised it for the last couple of weeks and it's really brought a huge change to my life. And so I really suggest you talk to our manager over there. They've got all the details. There's four weekly available for you to utilise this initiative. And I think you'll really enjoy it.”
There's a difference between me introducing this initiative for workplace safety and culture from the first way to now. And that way is how I'm communicating it. One of the best philosophies that I've heard when you work with young people is if you get excited about something yourself, someone else will get excited as well.
How to show excitement? Your body language. How you see that form of communication. Instead of just saying it's an agenda item where we're creating a culture, we're doing something for young people, you should do it in the organisation. No, how are you saying it? What is your tone of voice? What is your body language? How do your arms look?
A lot of the times we talk about this in person. Right, in person you can look at your body language, but even in Zoom, even virtually, a lot of the meetings that we have are very much remote. They're with this laptop. A lot of people have microphones. A lot of people have these conversations. You can utilise body language here as well.
There's a huge difference in me sitting like this with a bobbing head and being like, “Today we're gonna talk about promoting workplace culture and how important it is. I hope you listen.” Compared to, “Hi everyone, happy Monday. So what I'm gonna introduce to you today is how you can actually utilise this initiative on Fridays.”
It's a very small difference of my communication. And I promise you, as we all know, Gen Z in particular, are a generation of feelers. As a Gen Z myself, we like to feel that we belong, that we want to be part of an organisation or a workplace.
How do you make them feel? You make your communication more engaging. Again, your body language, your tone of voice. One of the best examples that I always use is for presentations, for example. At the end of every presentation, the most typical response is, “Does anybody have any questions for me? Does anybody have any questions?”
But if you change your engagement of how you communicate with people and say, “What questions do you have for me?” Not, “Does anybody have any questions for me?” To, okay, we're done with today's meeting, “What questions do you have for me?” Changing from that tone of voice, from being very close-ended to be open-ended.
I promise you, your young employees will very much appreciate that. They'll feel welcome and invited. So that's the internal communication. How do you communicate with your young employees internally?
There's another thing I want to touch upon, and that's external communication. One thing that if you looked at social media recently, a lot of interns, a lot of grads, a lot of young employees, what they love doing is every single company or organisation they ever want to work with, we and they are obsessed with looking at the About Us page of that organisation. They're obsessed at stalking that organisation's LinkedIn, their online presence. What do the values look like? How is that organisation that they potentially want to join or grow in, what does that look like to the outside world?
And so when you want to create a workplace culture, when you want to create workplace safety, when you want to create the welfare of your staff members, especially your young staff members, you have to understand that positioning through internal communication, obviously talking with one another, but also externally.
Now let me give an example of that. One example that I love giving is Lavinia, who's our program manager at the ASE. She takes care of all our phone calls. So if anybody calls our organisation, she's the first point of contact. Now when somebody calls an organisation, what's the most typical communication somebody says? “Hi, this is Lavinia, how can I help you?” Right, how can I help you? A very common environment that's created in any organisation.
What she does, every single phone call and every single employee in the office hears this, “Hi, this is Lavinia, how can I make your day amazing?” How can I make your day amazing? Now, this is the response of Lavinia, who picks up the phone call. Every single phone call that she says starts with that. Every single person in the company, every single person that is sitting in the office or around the chairs hears that.
So the way you're communicating makes a huge difference, not only internally, how you speak in meetings to one another, but also how your young employees see the interactions of the company culture externally. How are they positioned to somebody who's completely random, who's never even experienced the culture of the community before. Somebody who's a customer basically coming into it. That makes a huge difference because that makes young employees feel safe. They understand the values.
And as we know, Gen Z, for example, and Millennials care a lot about social impact. They're a very big, again, feeler generation. They want to feel welcomed. Work isn't just work for them. Work is purpose. Work is a drive. Work is ambition to make the world a better place. And researchers back that. So how do you make them feel part of the process, part of this greater good? You showcase communication internally. Absolutely. Everybody knows this.
Also externally, how do you communicate and position your organisational team outwardly? That's the workplace culture you create. That's how you create safety, that sense of belonging for young employees especially. So that's number one, communication. The most important and vital skill.
Number two, how do you promote workplace safety for your young employees? And it comes to this word that in many cases causes a lot of dread for a lot of people, but also in many cases causes a lot of liberation for a lot of people. And that's the word feedback. Getting feedback. Constructive feedback, normal feedback, any form of feedback.
Now similar to the other point, I want to break this down into two areas. Feedback on how do you receive feedback as a manager, as somebody who's working with young people, and how do you give feedback? So receiving feedback is very common. I think it's similar to communication internally, we talk about it a lot, but giving feedback is something we don't talk about.
So I want to cover both points. Number one, how do you receive feedback? As we all know, young people love communication. Young people love talking. Young people love having high agency and being part of decision-making processes. As a manager, as somebody who's working with young employees, how do you ask for feedback? The best way is to ask consistently.
So as an example, as a young CEO, I know there's a lot I have to learn. I know there's a lot of people in my company who are much older than me, have phenomenal wisdom and a lot of experience. So every Friday, and now this is every single Friday, I ask my managers three questions. My managers age from different age groups, different experiences, different industries. I ask them three questions to ensure that I create a culture for my young employees, that I'm learning, that I'm also taking feedback.
Three questions. Number one, what am I doing well? This week, what did I do well? Have you observed from me as a leader, as a manager? Number two, what should I do more of? So if you've observed something that I've done this week that you like, that you think I should do more of. And number three, what should I change? Number one, asking for feedback in a way where it's like, what did I do well? What can I do more of? What should I change? Three questions asked every single Friday.
So you create a culture where, in a sense, it's communicating open door policy, where it doesn't matter if you're a manager older than me, a manager younger than me, a leadership role, that's more experienced than me or less experienced than me. We are keeping a communication where we're asking for feedback, right? Making sure that we realise that failing is okay.
And when you have that culture, when you have an environment where it's okay for us to make mistakes and learn from it, in my opinion, that is the most high performing environment ever, especially for young people who have a huge growth mindset, and that's something we'll touch upon in my third point, but allowing them to feel that if our leader, somebody who's guiding us is open to feedback, why am I not? If they're open to learn, even though they've done all of this, why am I not?
And young employees, young people really love that because two things young people love, that's social impact and high agency. If you can give them both in the sense that they're creating impact through their work, but also they're changing the culture and contributing to the culture through feedback, that gives them a really big sort of cutting edge in being like, I wanna stay here, I wanna learn more.
So that's feedback, receiving feedback. Again, it's something I feel like a lot of us have learned before and heard before, but how do you give feedback? Especially for young employees, this is something that hasn't been spoken about enough at all. And as a young CEO myself, when I work with a lot of young people, when a lot of facilitators that we hire and train to deliver our workshops and programs, how do we give feedback?
Now, as I mentioned at the beginning, feedback is one of those things that's incredibly frightening. To create a culture in the workplace where people are openly giving feedback is not an easy thing. Feedback fundamentally is a frightening thing. To tell someone that what you did is wrong or it could be better or that was a poor outcome, it's demoralising for a lot of people, especially young people.
So how do you give feedback? Before you give any form of feedback, and this is something that I've exercised myself to do over and over again, before you give any form of feedback to your young employees, ask them, how do you best prefer to receive feedback? That one question, how do you best prefer to receive feedback? Now, why is that question important?
Number one, if I was to just go up to you in the office or set up a one hour Zoom call and give you feedback just like that, most people, especially young people, would find that incredibly anxiety-inducing. They would not enjoy it at all. They would feel attacked. They would feel very uncomfortable. Because again, feedback in human psychology is a frightening thing. Being told what you did wasn't good enough, this is how you should improve, it's not a naturally easy thing to stomach. Some people like that form of feedback. I'd say most people don't. So how do you best prefer to receive feedback? Asking that question allows your young employees to be like, you know what, I much rather prefer you write this feedback down in email form so I can actually go home, I can actually reflect, recharge, actually stomach everything you're saying in a very digestible way. Rather than me feeling anxious and uncomfortable, write it down for me, that would be fantastic.
Number three, a lot of people prefer feedback over a coffee in a friendlier setting. So if you've got a lot of offices, for example, have a cafe underneath, saying, “Hey, we need to have a chat, there'll be some feedback given, wanna go grab coffee for 30 minutes?” It's a much friendlier setting, young people prefer that because again, it takes away that anxiety-inducing sort of setting there. So asking how do you prefer to get feedback not only helps retain, engage and improve your young employees, but also creates that workplace culture where they feel safe.
They don't feel like the next Zoom invite on their calendar will be absolutely frightening or ruin their week, they're texting their friends and being like, “My boss just asked for a calendar invite, and meeting, I don't know what's happening, I'm scared, what's gonna happen?” They'll rather feel like this is an opportunity for us to have a conversation, to learn, to upskill. And that change is one question, asking your young employees, how do you best prefer to receive feedback? Now that feedback might change, they might love email and then over time prefer that cafe setting, that's okay. And that's the growth mindset, that's development.
But giving them the option and agency is absolutely fundamental. Then coming back to the final point in terms of how do you promote workplace safety for young employees in terms of their welfare, in terms of the environment they're in, and just for them to feel like they, again, get to work there, they're not forced to, they get to work there, right?
As we know, when it comes to young employees especially, and I don't say this in any condescending way, I'm a 23 year old myself, I know exactly the lived experience of what it feels like to work at a place that you love, also what it feels like to work at a place that suffocates you, to make you feel like, “I don't wanna work here.” So I say this in a way where, how do we make the most of a young person's, a young employee's experience in a company?
The third fundamental core strategy that I'm incredibly passionate about, and if you've followed my work, you'll know I'm borderline obsessed with this, it's upskilling, making sure that every young employee, whether they're an intern, a student from work placement, an early career grad, they just got their full-time job, making sure that they've got continuous improvement, that they've got personal development, that they've got communication, that they've got any form to make sure that they aren't remaining stagnant in any role or any period of their time in a workplace, that they're continuously at this upward trajectory, that they've got this growth mindset that, “I'm working here, I've got this role, but I'm also learning skills here and there. I'm kind of becoming a generalist, I'm learning more skills in public speaking, I'm also learning things that I never thought I'd need to learn, but I'm learning it.”
That whole growth mindset, that's incredibly attractive for young employees. As I mentioned at the beginning, as somebody who's Gen Z as well, we are the generation of feelers, we want to feel valued, we want to feel like we are actually part of an organisation or team and we're actively contributing. We want to feel that our sense of high urgency, sorry, our sense of high agency is being accommodated for. And how do you do that? You allow continuous improvement, continuous development, you make sure that upskilling is part of every young employee's journey. And how do you upskill?
Number one, the easiest ones are workshops and training, making sure your organisation, your team takes part in training, organises training on a consistent basis.
Number two, and this is something I absolutely love, mentorship, right? Usually when I had different roles, they'd call it the buddy up system, where the moment a young employee joins, they're buddied up with someone who's much more experienced, has been in the company longer, which is fantastic. Great system. But in most cases, from the experience that we've had, if people are not clear what this buddy up system means or this mentorship means, and there's no real outcomes to be measured, nothing comes out of it.
What you find is they become a nominal name where they're just like, yeah, when I joined, Jason became my buddy, yeah, we had coffee once and then nothing really happened after that. I didn't really speak to him. He's now like a Facebook friend. That's it, right? That's very counterproductive. That doesn't improve anyone. So making sure that mentorship is fundamental to every young employee's career.
That even through the induction process, the moment they have to be inducted and learn about the culture and learn about how the company is run, that mentorship becomes fundamental to that, where you measure how a mentor and a mentee are interacting. How often are they meeting? What are their conversations like? Are the mentor and mentee both fulfilled through this interaction, through this relationship? Again, what doesn't get measured never gets improved.
So that's been a big sort of, both a hurdle and also an opportunity for me where I've realised being a young CEO, I've got a lot of mentors from the business world, from leadership lens, from high performance lens, but how do I make this accessible for my employees, my team, my younger facilitators who just left high school and now are, casual facilitators, for example, at ASE.
Making sure mentorship is fundamental, making sure they've got support, they've got a crutch to lean on to be like, I'm struggling here, I've got the liberation, the culture to fail, fantastic, but sometimes I just need somebody to put their arms around me and say, this is exactly how you do it, right? And that comes with mentorship. Making sure mentorship and the induction process is fantastic there, but also coming back to the whole topic of upskilling. One of my absolute favourite quotes when it comes to career and skills and the future of work comes from Richard Branson.
And the exact phrasing of the quote, I feel like I'm just gonna butcher, I blame it on a jet lag, but the quote is, upskill your employees so much that they can leave, treat them with so much kindness that they stay. Now I might've completely butchered that, but you understand the gist of it. Train, I think it was, instead of upskilling, it was training. Train your employees so much that they can leave, but treat them so well that they stay, right?
Making sure that their development, especially as young people, again, we are the generation of feelers, we love feeling, we love social impact, we love being able to meaningfully contribute to the environment that we're in. Upskill them so much that they feel like, I know exactly how to contribute, I know exactly the skills to communicate this, but also treat them in a way. And how do you treat them? What does it mean to treat them? You create the culture of feedback. You create a feedback-centric culture where they can give feedback and they can also receive feedback. You communicate with them in a way that's so engaging.
Again, it's so easy for us to have remote meetings, for example, over Zoom, but it's so easy for us to fall into this. So good morning, everyone, we've got an agenda item of five dot points. I hope you're having a lovely weekend compared to, “Hey, everyone, so welcome, happy Monday. We've got about five items on our agenda. We're very excited to talk about this week.”
Very, very small difference. As soon as I put my five fingers up, every single person saw the five fingers pop up on my screen, right? Compared to the normal typical, yeah, we're gonna go through our agenda items, you're flicking through something, your paper. Very small changes on how you engage. And that comes down to how you communicate. That's your responsibility as a leader, that's your responsibility as a communicator, but it's fundamental. So the three points, and then obviously, we'd love to take your questions.
Number one is how you communicate. I think it's very fundamental in both internal and external. Again, we'd love talking about the internal side of things. It's how you communicate as a person, but also external. Like I said, one of, and if you're on Twitter, sorry, it's not Twitter anymore, it's called X now. If you're on any X, for example, there's a huge culture of building in public.
There's a huge culture of start-ups, innovation, tech. And one of the biggest things where they talk about is, how is that company, that organisation, positioned to the outside world? People focus a lot of money on branding, on values, on strategy.
Why do they do this? Why do they spend so much money on this? It's because young employees, the future workforce, they don't just want to have a job for the sake of the job. They don't just want to have a title for the sake of the title. They want to actually be going to work every single day and being like, yes, I'm getting paid for this. Yes, I have a job, but I'm also contributing to something greater than myself. I'm also contributing to something that I truly care about. And I feel like I can actually bring change to this. So understanding the way you communicate will not only allow you to attract top talent, top young talent, but also retain them.
There's no point in, again, there is a point, but you'd love to bring people together and upskill them and then keep them. You don't just want them to be upskilled so much and they're just like absolute superstars and they go to someone else. You want them to actually be part of your story, your company, your team, and just build with one another. So young employees love both internal and external side. Feedback, again, feedback is incredibly important. Both give feedback and receive feedback.
It took me a while to continuously receive feedback and ask those three questions of what am I doing well? What can I do more of? What should I change? It's frightening, right? It's a frightening thing to every single Friday going to your managers and saying, hey, I want feedback. But not only has that allowed us to have a feedback-centric culture now where we openly give feedback in a very normal and lack of fear way, but also it's allowed me to grow where I'm just like, okay, last week they asked me to do this more. I'm going to do this more now.
And that allowed me to grow my leadership and actually be vulnerable and actually be like, this is the direction we're headed. This is what I'm changing. You can see the change, what gets measured, gets improved. You're part of something bigger than myself and yourself. So that's helped a lot from a holistic macro level as well. And finally, the one that I'm truly, truly obsessed with, upskilling, you know, the growth mindset is an absolute phenomenal thing when it comes to understanding that you can grow, you can learn, and young employees, they want to be in a culture, they want to be in an environment where they feel like this is not the end.
They feel like this is just the beginning of something greater. This is the beginning of something so impactful, so purposeful that they want to contribute and learn and grow. And how do you do that? You make sure that growth is consistent. Growth comes in, as we mentioned, mentorship form, having somebody there to guide them, to provide them with support, that comes within the form of training, workshops, that comes in the form of making sure the induction is taken seriously and not just, here's an induction, there are five modules on our website, do it and let me know and then we'll jump on board. No, it's actually taking it seriously and having that conversation around upskilling. And finally, another fact that came to mind, I was reading a recent article where one of the most, obviously, when it comes to mental wellbeing, when it comes to mental, emotional safety, one of the things that we love doing is obviously, R U OK? Day.
Which I'm a huge fan of, I love talking about mental health and being vulnerable. But there was a research that came out that 71% of young employees can see the tokenism in a lot of initiatives. They can see right through it. That was the exact phrasing. And R U OK? Day recently, obviously, has come under fire a little bit where they're just like, okay, a lot of organisations acknowledge it, but they acknowledge it in the form of a cookie with the R U OK? Day logo.
Or they acknowledge it in the form of an hour speaker that comes in and then just disappears. Making it an ongoing commitment. Young employees, again, we are the feeler generation. We want to feel welcomed. We want to feel acknowledged. We want to feel valued. So how do you do that? You make it meaningful. You make the workplace, the actions, initiatives that you actually bring in meaningful, consistent, actually asking them for feedback instead of, again, bringing a speaker down for 30 minutes for R U OK? Day, and then leaving, actually saying, “Here's the speaker. There'll be time for conversations. You can ask them questions about mental wellbeing and then every question that you've asked, let's implement it into the culture. Let's have a strategy day all around mental wellbeing. Let's talk about how do we actually improve our mental health.”
Making it an ongoing commitment. Because again, 71% was the number of young employees that can see right through tokenism. So that's something to think about as well. I'm going to wrap it there because I want to take more questions because for me, Q&A at the end of any presentation is the most enjoyable and engaging part. So if anybody has any questions, I am more than happy to answer.
But yeah, that's sort of my take in terms of real life case studies, in terms of my failures, my lessons, and how to promote workplace safety for your young employees.
Chris Bombolas: Thank you, Jahin. Appreciate the presentation. Yes, we have a number of questions. So there's been good engagement. And I'll just reiterate your three important factors or major factors to encourage workplace safety for young employees: clear, concise, meaningful communication, feedback, receiving and giving. So it's a two-way street and upskilling. The three major factors. So let's keep that in mind as we go to questions.
I ask you, those who are viewing, that if you do have a question, don't forget to use the Q&A chat box.
And we'll get to as many of these that we can as possible. First up from Rosalind. She would like to know, how can you empower young workers to speak up when they see something that is dangerous at work? And Kris, on the same subject, noted that young workers and those who are inexperienced can be intimidated to speak up, especially when it's their first job.
Jahin Tanvir: Absolutely. Fantastic question there. How do you encourage young employees to speak up? That was obviously the first part of the question. And obviously the second part, when it's your first job, do you really have the confidence, the courage to speak up? It's something I faced when I first had, you know, my first few internships, but also then, you know, running a company the size of ASE.
Number one, to answer the first part of the questions, how do you encourage them to speak up? It comes from, in many cases, in my heart, it comes from the top. So if you want your young employees, you know, your early career grads, your Gen Z employees to speak up, you need to obviously create a culture that speaking up is acceptable. That speaking up will not be forced with consequences. It will not be forced with, you know, people saying, “No, no, no, you can't talk about this.” Creating a culture where they're allowed to speak up.
And one example that I love using is, as a CEO, as a young CEO, I love open door policy. So in every single strategy session, we have about, you know, four strategy sessions every single year, I love to ask, if you had, I love to ask two questions. Number one, if you had my job, what would you change? And number two, going around and saying, what is something that happens at work that we just don't talk about enough? Number one, if you had my job, what would you change? Giving them full autonomy and transparency to say anything that they want. And number two, what is something about our workplace that we just don't talk about enough?
And I ask these questions every single time in our strategy sessions, four times a year. And it doesn't matter, for our managers or our young employees or our interns, but it puts us in a room where we can actually have a conversation and say, “Okay, if our leader is asking us this and this is the direction we're going at, I can openly have a conversation.” So as a leader, as a CEO, as a manager, you have to give the autonomy, the liberation for your employees, especially young employees, to be like, this is a culture we accept. It's not a culture that will give you consequences for you saying this isn't done right.
I am encouraging you to tell me what's wrong so that we can improve. Not to dwell on it and be like, oh, this is something we can't do at all. It's to actually identify what can you improve. So that's number one, I hopefully answered your question there.
Number two, the question was, if it's your first job, you obviously feel a little insecure. You don't wanna get fired and feel like if you say something wrong, if you speak up, what's going to happen to you? Again, it comes back to the first part of the question as well in the sense that really making the most of the induction, so if the young employees are coming in, it's their first job, making sure that in that induction where they go through the company values and what the company looks like, what their work looks like, actually drilling in the most respectable and comfortable way possible that, again, something like if you see something wrong, if you see something unsafe, call it out. Really emphasising on that.
Somebody who's been through many inductions through my own internships and being young employee myself all the way to working with some of Australia and the world's largest corporates and developing their grad programs and their entry level programs. A lot of the times the main sort of thread that I see is that induction is just done for the sake of it. It's done with, hey, do five modules. This is what the company looks like. There's that history. You'll be working on this person. Do it by Friday, COB Friday. But instead of that, actually having a meaningful conversation and being like, again, going through all of that, absolutely, but saying, here are a few things that we do differently.
Number one, I ask you a question on what you should do differently. Number two, if you see something wrong, call it out. And here's a case study of somebody who saw something wrong, something unsafe, they called it out. They're still here. They're still in a leadership role. They're doing fantastic. They're an incredible leader. We value them, right? And again, it comes from the top. Young people, your employees, your new employees, they rely on the experienced people to actually be like, what's the culture here? Can I say this? Can I not say this?
So again, it comes from your managers, really building that culture with your managers, with making sure the CEO, the board, all the way from the top, that trickles down below. So hopefully that answers your question. I think a lot of young people love that transparency. They love the ability to see their leaders, the people that they're learning from, actually have a conversation that is beyond the standard calendar invite, oh, and I'm actually not your supervising manager. You should speak to someone else, not me, and I don't have time, deviating away from that to actually being like, if you had my job, what would you change?
Or what is something we don't talk about enough? What you've observed. Very open, honest conversations that in many cases, people feel the sentiment of, oh, they'll lose respect, or how dare they say that to me?
Instead of thinking of that way, actually being like, I value this person. They've been hired for a reason. They're incredible in the team, or their potential is incredible. How do I get them into the culture as quickly as possible? I'd be open, direct, and honest with them. And I think in most cases, they'll appreciate that more than beating around the bush and the more tokenistic things, which 71%, from the research has shown, can see right through. So hopefully that answers both those questions.
Chris Bombolas: Jahin, Danielle agrees that open and engaging communication to and from employees is super important, but she'd like to know, how do you actually get young workers to engage with WHS? How do you get them to take it seriously and actually see it for the risk that is present?
Jahin Tanvir: Yeah, absolutely. I think, again, I always go back to what does your young employee see the first, what is the importance that they see the first instance that they answer a company or an organisation? And that comes through the induction. That comes from what the initial manager trains them up or showcases to them or puts importance on. And if we want to take WHS seriously and workplace safety and culture environment seriously, you have to emphasise it during the induction.
And again, I say this from a lot of experience, from my own journey, but also speaking, working with over 180,000 young Australians. This is not a conversation we have openly. It's not a conversation we have regularly. It's not a topic that is put in, and it's not a topic that importance is put on as much as it should be. The importance in many cases is put on things like, these are the days you work, this is the team culture, this is how much you're getting paid. Those are the values that we're put on.
But in reality, as you mentioned, workplace health and safety, it's not a conversation we have regularly. And I think that needs to change. And that comes from not only the culture in the future of work in general, but also what is your young employee seeing the moment they enter? What does the induction tell them? What do their managers tell them? How much did they emphasise on this topic?
Because again, from experience, not much. And that needs to change. So again, I keep coming back to this because I feel like it's fundamentally important. Making sure the induction, the moment that young employee or that professional is joining your team, the first point of reference that they see about working at your institution or organisation or company or team emphasises and puts importance on this.
And that will create a benchmark, a standard for how they interact with their team members, externally if they see something wrong, how did they interact with that? Actually putting importance there. Rather than a tick of the box, actually emphasising it.
Again, it doesn't hurt using case studies, for example. Like I said, we love using case studies of, oh, our manager over there saw something wrong in the past. They called it out. We changed it. How fantastic of a leadership and taking initiative and being proactive is that. So utilising positive case studies rather than saying, these are things that can go wrong. We'll deal with it. We'll cross the bridge when we get there. No, actually being proactive and saying, here are the good things that can happen. Let's actually implement it from day one instead of expecting you to come up with it, whenever it arises. So I think placing importance from the induction, I keep coming back to that.
Chris Bombolas: Some feedback from Louisa. She says, great stuff, Jahin. Any specific tips for young shift workers to thrive?
Jahin Tanvir: Yeah, absolutely. Young shift workers, obviously, it's a completely different sort of workplace environment from somebody who's working full-time compared to somebody who's got a roster system. In that sense, it's obviously a little more difficult in terms of getting regular mentorship or support. The best way I would say in that lens is, trying to talk to your leaders, your managers as much as possible.
Again, to come back to that point of communication, I very much emphasise on that, making the most of communication that you can in that environment. So for example, if somebody is working in hospitality or in different shift-related roles, it's all about how can I communicate with my manager and say, hey, I'm struggling with this, or I'm trying to learn adaptive leadership here, or some of the skills here, how can I do it better? I know you don't see me often, or there's different supervisors, but from your experience, how can I do this better?
And I think in a regard that's also an advantage because they get to see different supervisors in many cases, different managers, and learning from that on a rotating basis, instead of maybe somebody who's working full-time and sees the same manager every single day. So I think making the most of that situation, and then again, having that open conversation, communication, but yeah, I think fundamentally communication is so important. It's something that we emphasise a lot on, but there's a lot that can be done, and a lot of solutions that come with open and honest communication, and just asking.
I did a keynote in America, which I came down from, and one of my points for that keynote was, closed mouths don't get fed. Closed mouths don't get fed. If you don't ask, you will never get. If you don't ask for help or support, you'll never know how to overcome that situation. So coming in that with mentality and that growth mindset can take you a long way. This is also down the lines of communication.
Chris Bombolas: A question from Trent. He wants to know, how do you train established, mature, experienced workers to change their communication style to adapt to young workers?
Jahin Tanvir: Yeah, I mean, Trent, this is a question that I ask myself every single day. I cannot tell you how many of Australia's largest corporate organisations email us, and they're just like, “Hey, we've got a lot of Gen Z employees and graduates coming through. We don't know how to engage with them, their behaviours. Can you do something? Can you train them? Can you upskill them? Can you do workshops?”
This is sort of, again, it's a work in progress. I genuinely cannot give you a straight answer in terms of how do we get mature, experienced managers to change their communication styles, because in many cases, there's a lot of preconceived ways of working that needs to be changed. There's a lot of ego involved in many cases that I've experienced where managers are like, “We've done this for 20, 30 years. Why do we have to change now? What is the point?”
So there's a lot of factors involved there, but I think fundamentally, the way I see it, and again, I'm coming from a perspective of being a 23-year-old CEO, who's got a lot to learn, a lot to understand, but the way I've been able to deal with this sort of, this sort of difference and contrast in different ages and experiences is literally going in and saying, “Here's my communication style. Here's why I think it will work. Can you gamble with me on it?”
So the way I do it, for example, is a lot of people, like I mentioned, especially in Zoom calls, for example, online, I'm going to call it out. It's quite boring, right? It's like an agenda item one, two, three, let's do it together, right? That's the traditional mindset of, “ We've got five agenda items, let's go through it, and then we'll go do it during the day.” When I came in, for example, I was just like, “That's not going to cut it, mainly because people won't be engaged. We've got a lot of young people who, we know their attention spans are very, very tiny.”
And I say this as somebody who grew up in the digital era of Instagram and TikTok, that's made attention spans as less as possible. So how do we change that? How do we engage it more? And so I came in, for example, and I was just like, “Hey, instead of just doing five agenda items, let's do an icebreaker every single week. Let's do, before we end the meeting, let's do a wow factor.”
So we call it a wow factor where it's like, we ask, “What's one highlight that you had from this day that you think to share with the group?” Sometimes we bring different things into it. And the way I say it is, this is how I want to do it. These are the reasons I feel like this will be more engaging compared to the pre-existing communication styles that we might be used to. Can you gamble with me on it? Can you just give it a go for one to two weeks, and then let me know how that goes. Some people love it. Some people are like, “Oh, this is awesome. We've never done it before.” Some people don't like it. Some people are like, “Oh, I want to go back to the traditional way.” It's all about finding that compromise.
And I realised, even in a lot of traditional ways of communication, there's phenomenal things of engaging people, of keeping people's attention and captivating them. There's a lot to learn from both sides. So that's how I do it. That's sort of my approach. It can work, it cannot work for different contexts. But for me, I found that has worked, where I'm just like, “This is something I want to bring into the company through my leadership, how we communicate and engage. Can you just gamble with me on it for, let's say, one week?” Okay, maximum two weeks. And when people actually try it and they give it a shot, that's when you realise people are actually believing and buying into that identity and that sort of communication.
And so that's how I approach it. But again, it's a conversation I have with corporates, organisations, schools, universities, literally every single day, asking how do you work with young people? And that's sort of, that's my day job, basically. Making sure that it's accessible, career fulfillment, career acceleration, and just being able to make sure young employees feel as welcomed and upskilled as possible. So hopefully that answers your question through my approach. But again, it's a day-to-day thing that I'm working on as well.
Chris Bombolas: Jahin, Linda asked, peer pressure to fit in can sometimes lead to poor safety choices. What are some ideas to address this?
Jahin Tanvir: Yeah, absolutely. Peer pressure, the two words that, you know, in many ways can be a good thing, where it's like you are in an environment where you're in a pressure to do better, you're working together, but also in the other sense, it is, you know, that pressure of trying to fit in to have a sense of belonging. In the sense of how to actually approach it, my approach has always just been sort of the culture. What culture do we set to make sure that even if we get a whiff of somebody feeling pressured to do something, we actually go up to them and communicate and say, “Hey, do you actually wanna do this? Like, is this something you're comfortable with?”
And asking that, “Are you comfortable?” That consent question very, very often, and making that a very sort of standard, you know, phrase in our dictionary, in our lingo, “Are you comfortable? Are you okay with doing this?” Because in many settings, for example, especially young employees where, you know, you're trying to fit in, you've got the adrenaline, you've got the excitement, “Oh, I'll do this!” And then, as you mentioned, you end up doing some unsafe practices or, you know, do something that you don't want to. I think most people can identify when somebody's going to do that or are headed towards that direction.
And so, creating a culture where, whether it's your managers, whether it's, you know, the leadership group, or just your peers in general, or your staff members, they're matching our seat. Actually, I know you're excited, and everybody's excited, but are you actually comfortable doing this? You know, literally grabbing someone and saying, “Hey, are you okay? Like, do you really want to do this?” Making that as accessible as possible.
And that's one thing I've realised has worked for us in the sense of, you know, we have obviously a lot of events, a lot of, you know, sort of bringing people together, especially being a national organisation, and making that question, “Are you actually comfortable? Like, is this something you're okay with doing?”
And in some cases, people are like, “No, I just don't want to do it.” And that's when you're like, you step in and you're like, “Okay, you don't want to do this. Let's not do this. Let's diffuse the situation.” And I think, in most cases, ideally, people are mature enough to realise this person is not comfortable, let's change this dynamic or environment. But I think, are you comfortable? That consent question is very important, you know, making sure that's part of the culture.
Again, from induction, from making sure that these questions, these interactions are ingrained from day one. So I'd say that that's my take on it. But again, things have gone wrong for us in many cases as well, where, you know, situations that we have are out of our control, but it's just about how you react afterwards. Not being emotionally reactive, actually, you know, understanding that there are policies and procedures in place, making sure HR is very strong, and also making young people aware that HR exists.
A lot of young people know that there's a HR in the company or a team, but they don't know who to contact, why to contact them, what conversation can I have with them? Like, very fundamental things that you'd expect people to know, they're not known if you don't actually spell it out for people. So I think understanding that as well, and understanding that the cultural side of things is given importance. And so things like, you know, comfortability, consent, these are ingrained from day one, from the induction period.
Chris Bombolas: Nathan wants to know, how would you communicate critical information to a young person that needs to be understood and accepted immediately? This young person may not agree with the policy and have a different opinion. It might be something, say, around safety compliance with legislation. You said earlier that they want to be part of an organisation, you want their feedback. They may not necessarily agree with that policy. So how do you guide them through it so that they're not disillusioned?
Jahin Tanvir: Yeah, absolutely. I think, again, as I mentioned before, young people love high agency, they love being part of the decision-making process. But at the end of the day, the decision comes from the manager. It comes from, you know, the company, what the workplace is set. So, you know, as you mentioned, in most cases, if they disagree with something, it doesn't mean it's going to be changed because they gave their feedback. It's a feedback that gets acknowledged, warranted and can be brought to change if it's appropriate. But in a lot of cases, they can't bring change to something that's already there.
So how do you communicate that to young people? The reason there will be that sort of that barrier is the young person, young employees, in many cases, will be like, “Okay, why? Why are we doing this? What's the point of it?” And in most cases, that young employee just wants to understand it better, right?
In most cases, that young employee may not have experience with the sort of the workplace culture or that workplace introduction that you're bringing into the company. They're asking why, or they're confused, or they need understanding, not because it's out of arrogance or it's out of that they don't care about it, or they're just young and they don't want to listen. It's because they're just trying to understand why you do it this way, right? And so getting to that mindset of if they ask why, don't be defensive, don't be like, oh, they're just young and they don't understand it.
They're just not right for this job. Actually being like, no, they're just trying to understand why I am implementing this, especially in high-pressure situations, in high-octane environments, in very stressful deadlines. When they ask why, when they ask, what's the point of this? Again, coming from the mindset as a manager, as a leader, when you're working with young employees, realising that they're coming from a place of understanding, or they're trying to understand, and not trying to attack you.
So I've seen a lot of cases, especially with young employees, when you work with, again, different corporates, organisations, schools, universities, interns, where they're just like, my manager felt like I attacked them because I asked them why we do a certain way, that we do it this way. Whereas if you actually go in and realise they're actually asking you because they don't have experience in XYZ, and they're just asking you to understand it more. So if you come into that mindset, I think any conflict, any frustration, goes away because you realise it's coming from a place of trying to find compromise and understanding, rather than creating a conflict and being like, oh, I don't want to listen to this, all of these things.
So again, young people love high agency, they love communication. At the end of the day, the decision of the company or the workplace relies on the managers, on the leadership group, on the board, people who are hired to make decisions, but also invite young employees part of the decision. But also, if you have to bring something in, come from a place of understanding, and not from a place of being very defensive. Because most young people, again, don't have the experience, they're here to learn. So if you come with a mindset that the reason they're asking why, or they're being a little hesitant, is because they don't know why you're doing X or Y. So giving them reasons, even if it's once, even if it's twice, it gives them a better understanding. And then, you know, going from there, which I have seen many case studies where they're just literally asking why, to better understand.
Chris Bombolas: Jahin, time on the wing, we're gonna wrap it up there. I'll take you back to your presentation. I can see the passion about safety and young people in workplaces I have one final quick answer, if you may. Any regrets about not continuing with optometry?
Jahin Tanvir: Absolutely not.
Chris Bombolas: <laugh> I thought that may have been the answer. Thank you very much for your presentation and your Q&A's today.
Jahin Tanvir: My pleasure, thank you for having me.
Chris Bombolas: As I mentioned at the beginning of today's session, I encourage you to reach out if you're struggling or need support. Lifeline is available 24/7 on 13 11 14. Thank you everyone for joining us today. There are some of the contacts on your screen now. Of course, before we go, also, we'd love to hear your feedback on today's presentation. So please grab your phone and scan the QR code. We'll put that on the screen shortly.
The QR code for the feedback, of course, that always gives us great feedback and Jahin was adamant that we need feedback and it's a two way street. So in the future, we can then look at the way we present these presentations. We appreciate that. It'll only take a couple of minutes. So that's the QR code, hop onto it.
Takeaways from Jahin's presentation are available on our website in the coming days. You can also catch up via this watchlive link if you're eager to replay straight away. We'll also upload Jahin's presentation onto our WorkSafe.qld.gov.au site. So keep your eye out for that in the coming days. And while we're on our website, check out our full range of case studies, podcasts, speaker recordings, webinars and films to help you take action to improve your WHS and return to work outcomes. The resources are free to download so I encourage you to share these with your staff and your networks.
Thanks again to Jahin for another fantastic presentation and answering all our questions. Hope you enjoyed our Work Well presentation thanks to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.
As we celebrate Safe Work Month 2023, work safe, home safe. Bye for now, see you soon.