By Neville Chamunorwa

The workplace can be a minefield. Even a team of highly-skilled, experienced workers can butt heads and lose motivation at times. That being so, it’s no wonder the world of work can be daunting for young workers. From the rigidity of the classroom, teenage workers suddenly find themselves in an environment where they are expected to achieve without strict discipline. Motivating them to perform at their best can be one of the biggest challenges of hiring teenage workers.

The following article outlines some of the most important steps you can take to keep motivation levels high and improve the overall performance of your teenage workers.

Give Them The Same Respect As Any Other Worker

It can be easy to make the mistake of seeing teenage workers as overgrown children. Certainly, they are still in the transition phase to full adulthood. However, to prepare them for this it is important to treat them with the same respect extended to more experienced workers. This may take the shape of:

Giving them the freedom to use their initiative

It might be tempting to baby teenagers through the learning process or completely take over tasks because it’s quicker to do it yourself. This doesn’t provide your teenage workers with the space they need to grow, however. Only by leaving them to their own devices – within reason – will they become accustomed to carrying out various tasks and using their initiative to find effective solutions.

Including them in decision-making processes

If your company has regular team meetings it is good practice to encourage your teenage workers to be active participants. If they don’t willingly put themselves forward, look for ways to engage them without making them feel victimized. It could simply be a case of being too self-conscious to contribute voluntarily. Showing that you want them to actively take part will help give them the confidence they need to speak up in the future.

Asking for their opinions

Ask them for their thoughts and opinions on an informal level as well as during meetings. Ask how they’re finding the job. What they think of the company. If they feel there are any areas for improvement or tools that could help them in their specific role. Thereafter, listen to their answers. A two-way respectful discourse helps to integrate your teenage workers into both the culture of the company as well as the world of work in general.

Not patronizing them

As any parent of a teenager can tell you, patronizing them rarely results in a favorable outcome. Taking this approach is likely to see your teenage workers retreating into their shells and refusing to engage with the company as a whole. No matter how obvious something might seem to you, try to remember that almost everything is new to them. Adopting a respectful tone will help them to progress at a much faster pace.

Incentivize Them

The majority of workers do not show up every day purely for the love of the job. To keep people motivated, they need an incentive. Your teenage workers are no different. While money in the form of their hourly wages is the most obvious one, ask yourself if there are other ways you could incentivize them. Some potential options might be:

•    Bonuses and other non-monetary rewards in the form of gifts or vouchers for achieving set objectives.

•    A flexible working scheme where your teenage workers have some control over the hours they work. This might involve a starting time window – for example, between 7.30 am and 9.30 am – or the option to work extra hours and save them up for a day or afternoon off.

Set Them Manageable Targets

Motivation is often a cycle that feeds itself. If you set an objective, that objective acts to motivate you to do the work to achieve it. But then achieving that objective can also provide the motivation to push you on to bigger challenges. That’s why it’s important to set your teenage workers manageable bitesize targets that are realistically achievable. To ensure you’re on the right track, consider the following:

Making sure your teenage workers have the necessary skills

If they have not been properly trained or equipped with the necessary skillset, then you are setting your workers up for failure. Make sure you set them up with the tools they need for success before they begin. When in doubt, check whether they feel confident to undertake the task at hand and be willing to provide some extra support if required.

Setting a clearly defined goal

Check that they understand exactly what the goal is, including the steps towards achieving it before they start. To facilitate their development, allow them to draw up the plan of action or step-by-step guide for how to reach their objective and remain available to offer any assistance.

Acknowledging and celebrating their success

When your teenage workers achieve certain targets, explicitly acknowledge it. Celebrate their successes, because feeling appreciated acts as a source of motivation in itself. If there are rewards or bonuses attached to those targets, try to provide them in a timely manner. This will firmly link the achievement and the incentive in their minds for the benefit of future performance.

Avoid Stigmatizing Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes, regardless of age or level of experience. It is a normal part of life and learning. As such, it is important not to attach a stigma to these mistakes. Recognize them for what they are – part of the trial and error of learning a new job – and be encouraging and patient when they occur. This will help to build confidence and avoid paralysis by inaction for fear of getting something wrong.

Tap Into Their Potential

Teenage workers will see the world through different eyes. While this can lead to clashes it can also be an invaluable source of innovation. Depending on the nature of your business, get them involved in brainstorming sessions for new ideas. If your company has customers in the same demographic, you have an internal point of reference.

Help Them Manage Their Time

When it comes to teenage workers, you may well be dealing with workers with very little experience in the area of time management. That’s why it is crucial to offer them as much support as possible in learning how to manage their time. Implementing time-tracking software can help them understand how their time is being spent and assist them in being as productive as possible during working hours. Not only will this stand them in good stead for the future with your company, it will also benefit them when managing their time outside of work.

Set Up Your Teenage Workers For Success

Managing teenage workers can be a rewarding experience when approached in the right manner. While each individual has their strengths and weaknesses, the way in which you tackle the process can transform it completely. By nurturing, supporting, and recognizing your teenage workers as important and valuable members of your team, you will keep them motivated and help to mold the next generation of strong, experienced workers.

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