September 29, 2016

Training Teenagers

Teenagers, or junior staff members, are relied upon heavily in our industry and they can become a great asset to our business. We love them because they come cheap and they do the jobs that, let’s face it, the rest of us don’t want to do.  However, if we don’t take the time to understand these young minds then we are not giving ourselves, or them the best opportunity to find their full potential in an employment situation, and sometimes they can then become the stuff that nightmares are made of.

Teenagers in the work force need very different training methods than more mature staff members. Scientists now know that the teenage brain is very different to the adult brain, as they are not yet fully developed until around 25 years of age.  The key difference is that teenage brains have different thought processes, they have different communication requirements, they need longer to make decisions and they have more intense emotions than adults.  These are also the key factors you’ll need to understand to most effectively train them.

Interestingly enough, the only area of a teenage brain that is well developed early on is the area that seeks pleasure and reward.  Their brains fire up when given a reward so this is the first key factor when training them.  Rewards such as an extra $20.00 at the end of the shift or extra time at their lunch break can be great motivational factors.

There are companies that deal with the training of staff, which is a brilliant option if your budget allows.  After all, isn’t one of the big issues of being in charge the ability to delegate?  Engaging a few basic skills to train younger staff members will make them an efficient part of the team and yes it is worth training them!

Use these ideas and have fun watching your junior staff members blossom from unsure teenagers to happy, creative and confident members of your work force.

1/ The first shift a new junior works is imperative to setting the tone.  They will be very nervous so it’s important to know that the first hour of employment can set the standard for the rest of their career with your business.  Start them off by giving them reading material on your business, even if that means reading your website.

2/ Have an induction on day one so you can set the ground rules and expectations straight away so there will be fewer issues down the track. Have your junior start during a quiet time so you’ve got time to do this, don’t just throw them in the deep end.  Other staff members may need to be reminded to be patient with new juniors and to treat them as equals.

3/ One-on-one training is the best way to go because you need to keep their attention.  Start with one job, explain the task to them, and then show them.  Ask them to repeat the task back to you then allow them do it by themselves.
Repetition is the key and once they have mastered one task they can move on.  Keep sessions short and to the point and don’t try to cover too much in one session. Make sure you structure their time; ideally, you should plan out their entire work week.

4/ Managers and owners should always lead by example and this is particularly important with younger staff members.  As a team leader make sure you have a positive outlook, be patient, be happy and remember that stress is contagious.  As the front runner, it is always up to you to set the example.  Appreciate your staff, thank them for the tasks they complete and look for what has been done as opposed to what hasn’t been done.  Work should be a fun place to come to (no, really!) especially for your staff so make sure you are offering a work environment that is pleasurable for your workers.  Sometimes giving your staff an endless supply of free coffee is just not enough.  As crazy as this sounds some workers need more.

5/ Discipline depends on the situation and everyone handles it differently.  If the situation is serious you will handle it in your own way and if your junior is doing something wrong you need to address it immediately.  If you let things go they will think it is acceptable and what’s worse, other staff members may start doing it.
6/ Teenagers will not fall apart if you put pressure on them.  They can handle stress and if they can’t they need to learn very quickly.  Don’t hold back on them because they are younger.  Make sure you hold them responsible for their own actions too.

7/ Sometimes it’s easy to forget that people have a life outside of work, especially when owners/managers rarely do.  With teenagers at work you may need to be patient sometimes as they are just learning that they need to leave problems at the front door.  If they had a bad day at home/school this may affect their behaviour.  Act accordingly and teach them the appropriate behaviour.

8/ Never cross the line of Manager and Staff.  Everyone should definitely get on at work and fun is often the order of the day.  However leaders always need to separate themselves and should limit socialising with staff outside of work to ensure the perception of favouritism does not creep in.

Teenagers are at a different stage in their lives than adults and they are often from a different generation than their leaders.  This means that they may often see things differently.  Use their ideas and listen to their input.  They may be a great asset in helping you expand into the teenage market or even tap into it for the first time.

The ultimate aim in taking this advice is to give you a valued team member who will be worth the time and effort you put into training them. Train your junior staff well and you will have a staff member that is efficient, organised and skilled.  With staff like this, your business achieves more through their direct contribution and through the standard they maintain in attitude and behaviour.  As a boss, this is exactly the kind of staff that you not only want but need!

About the author:

Briana Bryon, is a freelance photojournalist based in the Riverina “food bowl” of Australia.  She possesses a degree in Philosophy and a background in café start up and event management.

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