Teens in Restaurants & Small Businesses

How is it that we forget so quickly what it is like to be young?  To be a teen with minimal vision, over confidence and a sense of self-worth disproportionate from our reality?  How quickly we forget the lack of vision we had, gravitas we often walked with and issues we missed in the world around us.  When working in industries such as the service industry (restaurants) companies have to deal with the ever-growing teen population, the difference between what most of us (thirty or older) and the teens of today deal with is a perception and ability to question things we never could.  We used to have to accept what was told to us or do a lot of work to question it; before the internet looking for the answer took a lot of extra leg work (literally).  Even with the information one often had discussions with others on the findings because of the medium they gathered the information from (a book 4 to 40 years old).

Today’s youth has grown up with the ability to search for answers in the palm of their hands and know no other way.  This leads them to question everything, sometimes they can put a little bit too much faith in the internet, but as technology becomes more ingrained in our culture people are learning how to vet the internet and the sources they use.  Though there are still issues, misinformation and misdirection will always be a part of our everyday life.  With an ever growing youth work force (Department of Labor statistics), capitalizing and utilizing the right tools can be the difference in the profits of your business.

How do we relate these issues of our culture with that of coaching up our youth in school, sports and restaurants/retail?

Having to go a little further in explaining, giving out information or solidifying what you are asking of someone is the difference; when your employee questions more you need more answers.  Simply stating that it needs to be done, (just because) doesn’t work.  It’s about connecting the dots from the company that pays them, to the solutions that the brand utilizes and the expectations you as a manager have for them.  When you get them to understand the motivation needed, regardless of the job it will carry them further, then the simplistic approach of demanding it.

What are the best ways to communicate and coach up teens in your restaurant or small business?

Don’t be afraid to reach them on their level when communicating; utilizing text messaging more than calls leads to better communication with your staff.  When trying to interview often times you can get a heads up on other employers who aren’t willing to text someone for an interview. In our surveys we have found that employers that text their applicants (for minimum wage jobs) received a much higher return rate than those who didn’t (this was true and well surveyed throughout the restaurant and retail industry).

When utilizing text messaging to communicate scheduling changes and other items help to hold accountability because a manager can save the messages for recall later if needed.  This also opens the door of communication between staff and supervisors because of the informal nature of text messaging.  A generation of people spend more time communicating through a keyboard than in person or on the phone, if you don’t work to meet them in this medium you can lose out on great employees that want to learn, work and succeed.

Sometime dealing with Teens means revisiting the same issues multiple times.

Though we always want to hold people accountable when we are training up inexperienced young adults in the workplace often times we have to repeat ourselves and deal with their defensive nature.  This is why utilizing formal write ups for coaching come into place; if I they are done regularly and used for coaching (not just when you want to terminate someone) your staff will understand and learn from them.  Lack of communication, detail in direction and coaching are often issues we run into regularly when working with retail and service industry businesses.  When working with a younger, inexperienced work force feedback (good and bad) is needed.

Though we were all teens, many of us misguided, ill-tempered or short-sighted we often forget (quickly) that it takes time and experience (aka failure) for many of us to learn properly. All we can hope as we grow older is that the mistakes we make are small enough and correctable as to not derail our future.

Remember what it is like to be a young adult, pair it with the issues of today’s youth that we may have not grown up with (depending on age) find a common ground and form an expectation of their success. Knowing someone will fail from the moment you hire them, make a poor decision and may be hard to work with gives you a starting point to grow them.  I often tell new hires of any job and industry you will make mistakes, you will fail and it will be your fault.  From those failures we ask you to learn, improve and not repeat them, that is what it’s about.  If there are no failures, no issues and no problems there is usually someone doing a great job hiding it (problems keep us all employed, if everything was perfect there would be no need for teachers, coaches, etc.).

When we take the time and invest knowledge and experience into someone we can get great things from them.  Once in my career I trained up a 19-year-old delivery driver (of a restaurant) into a shift manager, later a General manager of a quick service restaurant doing over 1 million a year in revenue.  Before their 22nd birthday they took the store to the highest sales of any store we had owned at the time. He later became an area manager and has since moved on to other leadership positions in his career. The point of that story is that the company would have never had that amazing talented employee for almost a decade had we not invested time and knowledge into them.  Building up a constant bench of training to invest and grow your team, even if they move on to other things as they grow is how you keep your company and business relevant, operating and profitable.

If managers are afraid to coach up talent and teach others, it often comes from a place of fear in losing their job.  It’s up to you as an employer and business owner to ensure that you empower that make your team better, even if they out train their own position.  A great manager that coaches up future leaders for your company can get paid properly, even if you don’t have a different position for them.  There will be people who fail to the point of no return with whom one hopes they learn from the lessons taught, the failure and grow moving forward.  We cannot forget that it starts with our young adults, taking time to coach them up and allowing them to fail along the way.  If we strictly promote the people who have a good record, minimal issues and show up all the time without looking at leadership qualities, failures they have overcome and character traits we are doomed to repeat issues and minimize our operational ability.

Coaching up employees (young adults) is about patience and cultivating talent.  It’s expensive to one’s costs in refusing to train up than it is to have someone fail along the way.  When you hire someone with “experience” for a job, what are you getting and how do you know they are experienced and don’t come with external issues that can affect your company? Chances are they failed before they got you (which is fine), that is why they need a job (which is ok).  That point alone should remind us to train up our staff, teach anyone who will listen every day to ensure we understand who are leaders are and can become.  When a farmer plants crops they don’t plant just enough for what they will need, they plan on a failure rate and hope that they did enough work along the way to have the proper yield.  You should treat your company and employees the same way; constantly training up and cultivating talent knowing some you will lose; some will fail but the finished product gives you a great return on your investment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *