According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013a, Nearly 98.6% of young people hold at least one job between the ages of 18 and 25. The statistics also state that an average teenager holds at least 6.3 jobs between 18 and 25, which makes them highly prone to job-hopping, constantly trying to search for jobs that can bring out the best in them. While most are satisfied with a dead-end job that helps them pay college bills, many others seek for experience beyond the expected dead-end jobs. It is this search for the ideal workplace that drives these fiery beings into a spin of job hunts, job searches, and in some cases long periods of unemployment.
This rising cohort of job hoppers is not only problematic to teenagers themselves but also to employers who have to go through the hiring and training process time and again. A win-win situation can be achieved if employers extend their understanding of a teenager’s working nature and develop a management strategy that can help bring out the potential and talent that each of them carry. It is necessary to note that teenagers are usually passionate and are willing to dedicate their time to a workplace, a cause, or even an employer if they feel valued, cherished, and are given opportunities to work without having to satisfy bureaucratic demands. In time, these young resources prove to be valuable assets to an organization because they possess the drive and the energy that senior employees may lack. Smart employers understand the dynamic impact created by the merger of experience and wisdom with drive and talent.
So, if your organization is looking forward to nurturing young talent and bringing out the best in them, here are a few effective management tips you could implement.
Develop Clear Communication Channels
Unlike professionals, teenagers do not come equipped with professionalism or inferred notions of work ethics, meeting expectations, etc. They need to be told their responsibilities and the employer’s expectations clearly. The more open your communication channel, the better they can understand their job role and responsibility. If you see them doing something against company culture, speak to them about the action and the consequences of an action firmly. Make expectations clear and avoid sarcasm, bad-mouthing or demotivating conversations that can worsen the situation instead of fixing it. Keep your communication kind but focused, open but directive and it can be of mutual help to you, the employer, and your teenage employee.
Identify Their Skills and Make the Best Use of Them
Along with passion and drive, teenagers also have their own unique set of skills. Some can be great at communication and building relationships while others may be excellent at solving problems. As an employer, you need to understand the skill and personality of your teenage employees and give them opportunities to excel accordingly. Once you tap into their ‘best zone’ they will respond by performing their best; therefore, spend more time on identifying talent than in measuring output.
Make them Feel Part of the Process
One of the biggest mistakes employers make is disregarding a teenage employee’s presence in a meeting or their input simply because they are not aged or experienced enough. Nothing is more demotivating to these kids than being disregarded by their seniors. Listen to them, ask for their input, make them part of the process, and see what they bring to the table. If you like what they have to offer, make them responsible and accountable. This is one of the best ways for you to figure out who holds the most potential and who can benefit your organization the most. Involve them in company processes, decision-making meetings, strategy, goals, etc., and they will never be bored again. Remember that Gen Y employees will stick around if they are provided an environment or a culture that values their input and gives them room to grow and excel.
Give Them the Respect They Need
It’s a misconception that teenagers are never serious about work. Ask any teenager and you’ll know that they are ready to give in the hours and the sweat provided they are given the right amount of respect and credibility. When a teenager sets out to work, they understand that they are finally on their own and need to find stability. Most teenagers work while in college so the job is important for them to pay loans, rent, and other living costs. The last thing they want to do is endanger their jobs, but when employers are disrespectful, harsh, and generally discriminatory, teenagers will either rebel or quit. As an employer, you need to understand that teenagers deserve the same respect as any other employee in the organization. Sure, they may be hard-headed at times, they may not be well-groomed professionally, and they may even be hard to manage, but all of that can be changed if you choose to train them well.
Reward Them When They Do Good
Incentives and rewards matter a lot and are some of the best ways to motivate teenagers to do a great job. Yes, this may sound shallow, but it’s important to note that teenagers have been brought up to feel special and entitled. They have been rewarded for saying please and thank you, they have been rewarded for mannerisms and behaviors that Baby Boomers learnt through harsh discipline; therefore, teenagers lack the ability to learn through discipline but do well through rewards. The rewards don’t have to necessarily be monetary, rather it can do with providing them with free training, free online courses or even paid leave. There are a number of incentives you can think of to make your teenage employees feel valued and respected.
Have a Flexible Management Style
Now this may be difficult considering managers and employers tend to stick to hard and fast rules in the organization. Punctuality, dress code, behaviorism, attitudes, etc., matter a lot to an organization’s culture; however, implementing these codes of conduct requires a flexible attitude. You cannot impose rules on teenagers, rather you will have to be flexible enough to know where these codes can be minimized for employee satisfaction. For example, if an employee has a genuine problem clocking in at 9 a.m. in the morning (note, emphasis on the word genuine) you can give him or her a better time. Secondly, do not expect them to work overtime, especially if they have school to attend. These youngsters cannot cope with excessive stress and may end up developing mental disorders that could ruin their future. Be kind, be flexible, and know where to draw the line with schedules and duty expectations.
Give Regular and Effective Feedbacks
Make feedback and one on one sessions a part of your organizational culture. These sessions have been known to dramatically impact employee performance and enable them to grow progressively. It is also during these sessions that you can identify their weakness, motivate them to do better, and confront them with any wrong-doings. Avoid yelling at them or publicly humiliating them. Avoid giving them a bad review without first listening to them or helping them overcome their problems. And don’t just end with feedbacks. Give them tasks, challenges, and follow-up on those tasks. Ask them to share their insight and their discovery. Ask them their intended solution. With this kind of follow-up and attention, even a laid-back teenager would take their job seriously and want to do their best to impress you. Remember they need acknowledgement, appreciation, and acceptance, which can only be provided if you know them and give them a chance to shine.
These pointers may come off sounding quite generous and maybe you are in the line of work that demands less talk and more action (bars, restaurants, factories, etc.), but even then, you still have the leverage to train your young staff well. You’re doing all this not just for their future but for the wellbeing of your organization as well. Happy employees do the right work and stay loyal to a company.
Think of yourself as their mentor and facilitator and put yourself in their shoes - think how tough it would be for a young 18 something teenager to work for the first time in an environment that demands 100% of their time and energy. It’s a tough world out there and these young ones need the help of their seniors to make it through.