Catch the WAVES:
Motivating Today’s Young Workforce
By Ken Whiting
Employing teens has always come with challenges, and that’s more
true today than ever!
Raised while multi-tasking on
life’s super technology highway, they can confuse, complicate, and
at times, consternate.
truth is every generation thinks higher of their own performance of
when they were teens. How soon we all forget. Still the reality for
many businesses is teens are the employees closest to the customer…
the face of their company! To remain competitive and maximize
profits, it’s essential that employers capture, leverage and
contribute to the skills that teens can bring to the
workplace. But that requires change on the employers’ part.
an age group, most born since 1990, whose entire lives have been
enveloped in a world of technology, information and communication
change, as well as major cultural and societal shifts. Less
attention has been given to personal responsibility, and basic work
ethics are not taught in school or at home. They simply have never
heard about the importance of being on time and in uniform, giving
respect to a supervisor, communicating clearly, making eye contact
or job commitment significance.
what’s an employer to do? Plenty! The following are guidelines to an
effective strategy to working with teens. We call it catching
of Life: This is about improving the workplace environment.
Appreciate the fact that young staff members are the way they are.
It’s not wrong, it’s not right, it just is. Meet them where they
are. Allow some failure. Don’t focus on what they’ve done wrong.
Build your relationship by encouraging them on what they are doing
right. They can become fiercely loyal if they are taken seriously
and treated with respect.
impressions mean everything. Be welcoming, provide social events
and emphasize fun. Celebrate their successes, not those just from
the workplace, but learn where they excel away from work. Make a
connection with their parents, families and friends.
Attitude: They come with an attitude of independence and “what’s
in it for me.” If you learn how to feed this you’ll find highly
motivated teens. Provide flexible scheduling and provide
incentives for performance… and don’t make them wait. Instant prize
programs are best. Recognize positive behaviors and catch them doing
something right. Promote strong performers quickly and give them
more responsibility. Patience is not a virtue with teens, so
provide variety in job duties. Establish goals and empower them to
come up with the answers. You’ll be surprised.
are talking about attitude, what about yours? A condescending and
inconsistent attitude from leaders at work will send your teen
employee out the door and working down the street.
Verbal, Video and Visual: This age group has watched 20,000
hours of TV by the time they are 18. Over six hours per day are
spent in front of a video screen. You need to use this technology
to your advantage. Include some examples here, such as create a
training video for your staff to watch, use computer programs to
train new hires, etc.
are important, so use their nickname. Applications should be online
and your work schedules posted on your Web site. Don’t print mounds
of paper and expect the information to be read and retained. Make
handbooks and memos less complicated and smaller, while focusing on
the most important items for your business success. Enhance
communication by using e-mail and text messaging. Create a vibrant
workplace through the use of photos and videos of your employees at
work and away from work.
Education… not Just Training: If training is the “how,” then
education is the “why.” This age group requires to know the
purpose, the why, behind tasks. Never assume anything, confirm
their knowledge and explain the purpose behind every task.
and teachers used to prepare teens for the workplace. That does not
occur at the same level as it once did. Build education into your
training process and you will find longer-term, and a more committed
young work force. This is the new calling for today’s teen
Matters: Style is how employees look, the image
of your company and how they are treated at work. Teens care
about how they look and how they’re treated. Uniforms shouldn’t
embarrass your staff, and your grooming policy should be relevant.
Be prepared to justify both to your employees.
knowledgeable of current teen trends in fashion, music and
entertainment, and pay attention to the techniques and strategies
utilized by retailers to get teens to spend their hard-earned money.
Today’s retailers are very good at motivating teens!
don’t quit companies… they quit people. As a supervisor of teens,
how you carry yourself has a huge impact on performance and
retention. Every manager or supervisor needs to be on board with
the commitment of getting the most from your teens.
five principles can be used as overview that will help you determine
what would work best for your operation. A fresh approach in
working with your teens does not mean that you need to compromise
the values and principals of your business. Instead it should
provide the opportunity for you to increase your focus.
can be inspired, motivated and productive. Today’s teens are the
most knowledgeable and adaptive group ever. Don’t judge them
through the eyes of when you were a teen… look through theirs. You
have nothing to lose, everything to gain, and you’ll have a positive
impact on the lives of the teenagers you employ.
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