grocery store employee

Leverage their energy, guide their growth

Employers in many sectors hire Minnesota teens. About one in five workers in the accommodation and food service industry are between the ages of 16 and 19 in Minnesota. The art, entertainment and recreation (one in five workers are ages 16-19), retail trade (one in six workers) and agriculture (one in eight workers) sectors also employ larger numbers of teens.

In addition to knowing what restrictions state and federal law place on wages, hours and types of work for workers under age 18, employers also need to consider special supervision and guidance needs when managing teens.

Safety first

Even though teens may be restricted from using some of the most dangerous equipment in your workplace, they still need full safety training and ongoing safety reminders. Employees ages 15-19 have more than twice as many trips to the emergency room for injuries at work as do people 25 and older, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. This is because teens don’t have as much work experience, they don’t have as much life experience, and they may be less likely to recognize that something they’re doing is dangerous. Some employers have teens under 18 wear different colored shirts so they can visually identify whether they should be doing a particular task or operating specific machinery.

Education is key

Teens are hardwired for learning and they tend to absorb information quickly. But handing teens a training manual may not be the best way to ensure they know your company’s philosophy about customer service, how to operate amusement park equipment or what ingredients go on the house special pizza. In-person group training, a series of short online training sessions or regular training topics by text message may be more effective. Of course, nothing takes the place of a supervisor spending one-on-one time with a teen worker to make sure they understand what they’re supposed to be doing and know they play an important role in the organization.

Keeping teens engaged

Teens are likely working because they need money for the things they want to buy or do. But many teens are seeking a purpose in their work, too. They want to see how their current job might be a step on the path to their future education or career goals. What skills can teens learn at your workplace that will help them later in life? What advice can you offer them? Plus, with teens being teens, it’s important to make their job a (reasonably) fun and social experience.

Praise their good work

When teen workers are doing their job well, make sure they—and their co-workers—know it. Call out their good work in an employee meeting to give them a boost of confidence.  Reward teens who are performing with perks like a choice position or special opportunities. For example: catering a big high-profile event or going on a sales visit to meet the client who’s purchasing products the teen helped make.

Management issues

Teens are, after all, new to the world of work. So don’t be surprised if you have to deal with situations unique to the age group, like parents who call or show up for job interviews or some occasional goofing around on the job. This comes with the territory for employers who hire teens. Teens may also need more reminders about the importance of being on time for work, more supervision when it comes to the appropriate use of mobile devices on the job and more hands-on instruction for submitting timecards. Clear workplace rules that are referred to often and are easily accessible in person and online will help teen employees understand expectations and live up to them.

High turnover

Teens may be working around school, sports and other activity schedules, so they may go into a job knowing they’ll only be working for a few months. Summer jobs are a perfect example of this, and it’s the time when the largest number of teens are employed in Minnesota. Employers can encourage teen employees to stick around for a set amount of time so they have predictable turnover. Or if certain teens prove themselves to be outstanding workers, you could offer more flexibility in their schedules to retain them longer. Of course, making the job fun, engaging and meaningful will help keep teens employed longer as well.

Here are some helpful resources: