Spring is here, and many students are already preparing to apply for seasonal and/or part time employment. You have specific legal responsibilities as an employer of a teen. In addition you as a first employer have opportunity to lay the foundation of that student worker’s habits, workplace attitudes and behaviors. The legacy of his or her employment with you could have lifetime impact. You can set your student workers up for career success, so this means there is no such thing as “only” a summer job.

Starting out right

It’s important that student workers understand your expectations about attendance, interaction with colleagues and customers, etc. as early as the interview process. You can choose to train them if they do not have adequate skills to do the whole substance of the job at the beginning, but it is far more difficult to overcome ingrained attitudes. Look for a match based upon motivation and values first, and then deal with the skills.

You might believe that it is “obvious” that you do things like show up for work when scheduled and you show respect for (meaning hands off) your coworkers’ property. You might assume that “everybody” knows an employee shouldn’t swear or linger on personal calls in the workplace.  It’s not necessarily obvious and not everybody knows.  Talk about your performance standards in specific terms during the student worker’s orientation process.

Hold them accountable

Remember that foundation of work habits? You do a disservice to your business and your employees if you do not hold all workers, including student workers, accountable for lapses in judgment and improper workplace behavior.  Mistakes are potential learning opportunities, but only when you call attention to them and discuss them promptly with the employee. It is important to redirect the student worker to the preferred behavior and come to agreements on how to improve. If you decide to overlook things like borderline attendance habits, and poor interpersonal behaviors you telegraph that you have a lower “real” standard.  One more thing – if you choose to tolerate rather than discipline, the employee will likely carry their problem behaviors and attitudes on to other employers.

The benefits of student workers

Student employees have energy and enthusiasm.  They bring knowledge fresh from the classroom and are eager to apply it to start to become more financially independent. Smart employers of student workers see this resource and build management processes to leverage its benefits.