3 tips for managing teenage employees

Teenage employees
Explicitly communicate expectations when hiring teenage employees, so they understand the level of professionalism they should uphold.

Employing teenagers offers many benefits. Evenings, weekends and the summer months when school is out are the perfect opportunities to employee teenagers. Teenagers give retail bakery operators extra help during times when regular full-timers prefer not to work. Full of energy and ready to earn, teenagers provide an excellent resource for the retail bakery owner. However when it comes to employing teenagers, owners and managers should adjust the approach used with typical adult employees.

1. Communicate and explain expectations

Upon the hiring of a teenager, managers must communicate the real expectations of the job. Without condescending the new employee, clearly communicate what needs to be done, the dress code, cell phone policy for the position, time off, socialization, etc. “I find that the most difficult thing about working with teenagers is ignorance about professionalism. Some of the most motivated and intelligent teenagers undermine themselves with an overly casual approach to work,” says Allen Koh, CEO of Cardinal Education, an educational consulting company based in Silicon Valley.

Unlike more experienced adult employees, teenagers need specific training. Again, it’s not because they’re less intelligent or have some kind of aversion to hard work, but many teenagers lack experience in the working world. The opportunity to provide a solid example of what it means to take responsibility and send them into the world with solid skills and a good attitude will give you satisfaction as a contributing member to the business community overall. If they ask questions, respectfully offer them the correct answers.

Teenagers spend most of their time being told what to do. When explaining policies and processes to them, it’s important to explain why and how these policies and processes were determined. This also gives lesser experienced teenage workers a glimpse into the process of decision making.

2. Capitalize on their strengths

Ann Connelly, co-owner of Sweet Sixteen Café in New York, gets input from teenage employees on aspects of business that adults might not be as savvy about. Social media and the latest trends represent areas in which teenagers possess more skill and knowledge than average adults. “They don't have the concerns and responsibilities that adults do, which frees them up to be more creative in their input,” she says.

Find something your teenage employees excel at and nurture that talent. Many teenagers hace raw skills and talents that simply have not had the space and environment to develop. Take the time to help them develop their skills and interests, and you’ll create an energetic employee who buys in to your bakery’s goals and mission.

3. Be understanding and flexible

Most teenagers do not pay mortgages and rent, utility bills, etc. Their priorities don’t match up to the adult employee’s. Managers must bear this in mind when dealing with them. Friends, birthdays and social events that seem trivial to the adult might carry high importance with a teenage employee. While it’s certainly not a free pass to work whenever you want, it should be considered when granting days off and scheduling.