Every job we have is a learning experience, especially when we are young. Everyone has gone through it: the nervousness of entering the workforce, the anxiety that we are not qualified enough, and the fear of failing, all mixed with the knowledge that we have a lot of experience to gain. If you are a business owner or manager hiring young employees, it’s your turn now to teach them skills they will carry with them throughout their lives. What do your young employees need to know to thrive and be the best employees they can be? Here are a few lessons you should take special care to impart.
Everyone needs to learn time management, and it’s never too early to start. Most young people learn time management in school, but it’s an ongoing lesson that even many adults have not mastered yet. Give your young employees a leg up in their careers and emphasize the importance of balance from day one.
If an employee’s time management skills are affecting your business, sit down with him or her and assess where the issue lies. Author Maia Heyck-Merlin recommends asking questions including: how well is your time aligned with priorities? What gets in the way of you focusing on them? What takes more or less time than you expect? How well do you take advantage of small pockets of time? Teenagers and young adults may feel embarrassed that they do not have this skill yet, but it is just that—a skill, not a personal failing, and they can learn it quickly.
Social skills are another example of a lifelong learning curve. You can pick them up from any experience—but as a business manager, you will be spending a significant amount of time with your young workers, so you have an opportunity to teach them numerous valuable lessons. Set a good example for them: how do you interact with customers? How do you engage clients and coworkers in conversation? Give them a chance to follow your lead, and offer constructive criticism so they can improve.
How to handle conflict
If you teach your employees how to handle conflict while they are young, you will make the rest of their lives smoother. Conflict is inevitable in business. Sometimes it occurs between colleagues, customers, vendors, etc.—but de-escalating it and coming to a viable solution is a coveted art. Emphasize the importance of listening carefully and asking questions so that your workers are never without all the information. Instruct them on how to identify points of disagreement, and remind them to focus on events and behavior, not personalities (if you focus on the latter, conflict with the same person is more likely to recur).
Harvard Business Review conducted a study and found that most respondents over the age of 40 believed they were more capable of controlling their work than people under 40. Sometimes this is due to having young children at home, the desire to impress supervisors, and dealing with an array of demanding clients. Older employees, however, are more practiced at delegating and pushing back on others’ requests.
It is essential to account for how much power members of a business structure have to exercise, but everyone can learn to approach problems creatively. If they are struggling with a logo design project, for example, let them know about the tools they have at their disposal. When your young employees are struggling with something, help them look at the problem from new angles and reframe constraints they previously thought resolute.
How to manage yourself
Remember that you are not perfect, either. You probably remember managing your boss (and most likely still need to), so do not be resistant when your young employees do the same to you. Instead, offer guidance on how to do it politely: encourage them to express their frustrations, concerns, and complaints positively. Ask for their advice regarding possible solutions. Let them approach you for feedback. Don’t, however, fix problems they should learn how to do themselves, and make it an educational opportunity.
Acknowledging that you need management at all will inspire your young employees to respect you more. You are not just teaching them practical social and business skills; you are teaching them accountability and integrity.
Much of business is goal-oriented, so teach your young employees how to set realistic ones and approach them practically. Doing so will also help them set career goals for advancement in your company, or when their time with you is done. Inspire them to pursue goals that are defined, challenging, and will give them a sense of accomplishment once complete.
You are going to need to impart young workers with valuable lessons, but they do not have to be specific to your business. What lessons do you plan to teach employees in their teenage years or early 20s?