How to Supervise a Group of Teens
Christine McDade is an experienced human resources manager.
Welcome to the World of Work!
Supervising teens in the workplace can be a very rewarding experience for supervisors in charge of their work. As teen workers play a very important role in the workplace, it is paramount that their work experience be directed in a manner that allows them to grow in maturity, character and professionalism. Teen employees will have little, if any, practical work experience prior to the first day of work. Supervisors must act appropriately to guide them through their work to make the most of the opportunity. In essence, supervisors are preparing these teens to be the workforce of tomorrow. It is important to both the teen worker and the employer that the experience be successful.
Why Do Teens Get Jobs?
Teen workers often seek employment to gain actual work experience while earning some money for their wallet. Some teens recognize that they can help their family's financial situation by getting a job to contribute toward household expenses. Others have a need to put money away for savings to help with the costs of college or even for the purchase of their first car. Still, others seek certain jobs that may provide them practical experience in an organization that they hope to work for in the future. Most teens are enthusiastic about their first job and look forward to the opportunity to earn that first paycheck. It can be a very positive experience for the teen.
Give Teen Employees a Good Start
Providing a safe, productive work environment for teens will lead to a positive work experience. Knowing the basics about employment laws and good work practices will assist the employer with onboarding and supervision of these important workers. Employers must consider the following points:
- FLSA - Know the Fair Labor Standards Act as it applies to youth workers. Rest and lunch breaks are handled differently for young workers and adults. For more information, check out www.youthrules.dol/gov or the general Department of Labor website, www.dol.gov.
- Title VII and Other Employment Laws - Supervisors should take time to teach teen workers about workplace harassment laws as they pertain to working for an employer. Respectful workplaces will require all employees, both young and old, to participate in positve interactions. Teen employees may not understand the difference between how they act at school/with friends and how they must act professionally at work. Supervisors should be able to explain the laws or refer the employee to Human Resources for more information on the matter.
- Positive Attitude - Supervisors should communicate with teen employees the importance of a positive attitude in both work and school. A positive attitude will get a teen worker far with management who recognizes and rewards those employees with a positive attitude. A positive attitude can spill over into everything in life, both professional and personal.
- Attendance - There may be quite a learning curve for the teen worker who learns of attendance requirements in the workplace. Again, they must realize that tardiness has different repercussions than one might receive at school for being late to class. Also, calling in when they are sick versus just not wanting to come in also has repercussions at work as an employer has a business to run. A boss will replace the worker, teen or adult, who does not make a commitment to be dependable as an employee. There are also DOL requirements for how long a teen worker is allowed to work. The DOL website offers the particulars of the child labor requirements.
- Customer Service - For many teen employees, the notion of customer service will be new as they have never been in a situation to provide service or interact with someone while representing a group or, in this case, an employer. Solid customer service should go hand in hand with good interpersonal relationships with co workers by being mindful of how they speak with one another. Dealing with difficult customers and their concerns may be very new to a teen employee. At times, dealing with a difficult customer can even be a bit intimidating to an individual new to the world of work.
- Safety - All employees, especially teen employees, should be trained to do their jobs in a manner that ensures their good health and safety. Consulting the Department of Labor website will be a valuable resource as there are restrictions about what types of machinery and equipment can be used by a teen employee. Cleaning supplies and their chemical make up should addressed as chemicals are often present for the purpose of cleaning and ensuring a sanitary place for a business receiving customers. An introduction to workplace violence training will also be very important in the event of a robbery or hostile confrontation in the workplace.
Onboarding and Training
Teen workers will need extra care and attention from supervisors to ensure the understanding and awareness of proper workplace etiquette. Communicating the company's mission and philosophy of zero tolerance of workplace harassment can be achieved in a number of ways. Consider the following:
- Employee Handbooks and Communications - Employee handbooks outline the company's policies and procedures. These documents should be given to all employees or made available to all.
- New Employee Orientation - Supervisors should be sure to go over the employee's job description, policies and procedures, and overall company mission during new employee orientation. It is also helpful to provide the employee some background or historical data about the company to demonstrate the company's growth.
- Regular Meetings and Employee Followup - Once an employee has been provided a foundation through understanding of policies and procedures, regular follow up through meetings with staff members is necessary to keep all employees updated on changes in the workplace.
- Training - Training is another means of investing in the employee. Teen employees will be used to learning and workshops as they sometimes resemble aspects of a classroom. Training will be an effective way to reach out to this population of employees.
- Open Door Policy - Teen employees must know that they are not alone should they need to ask questions or advice from management and/or Human Resources. Knowing that they have a place to go in times of trouble or confusion can help avoid unnecessary problems in the future.
When effective measures are taken to ensure a smooth transition into the workplace, employees are likely to be more successful. An onboarding program that is productive with elements listed above will help new employees to feel a sense of belonging and commitment to the organization who cared enough to assist them in the transitional period. New hire orientation, regular follow up through meetings, effective communication and an open door policy help employees be successful.
Some Closing Remarks...
Teen workers need more attention and care from supervisors due to their inexperience in the workplace. In addition to a good start through practices listed above, regular communication and support should be demonstrated to ensure the success of the chosen employee. The enthusiasm and excitement that is displayed by the teen worker might just be infectious to the attitudes of those around them in the workplace.