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Hiring Teen Workers: A Good or Bad Idea?

Hiring teen workers may seem like taking a risk for some employers. The stigma of hiring employees who cannot work late, may not have ever had a job, may not be allowed to use specific equipment, and must schedule their shifts around family vacation is very real. Who wants to hire employees with these restrictions? The answer is simple; plenty of employers! Teen workers are vital to organizations in certain industries such as retail and tourism; specifically, during the peak summer months.

Contrary to popular belief, workers under the age of 18 are more than just fresher versions of regular employees. Sure, employees who are under the age of 18 are subject to stricter federal and state work and safety rules, but those employers who are recruiting them should be aware of these guidelines. Just like hiring any other employee, there are special techniques that organizations may use in order to receive the best results from teen workers. These special techniques may include managing mobile device usage, and even dealing with helicopter parents. For the organizations that utilize them, teen workers will ultimately set the tone for the “peak season” and even be an asset in the future if things go well.

As contradictory as it sounds, the teen workforce between the ages of 16 and 19-years old is actually shrinking due to demanding sports, academic, and other school activity-related schedules during the school year and summer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from the 1970s through the 1990s, more than half of teens that fit the criteria above were employed or looking for a job. However, by 2024, around one in four of those teen workers will actively seek a job, the Bureau predicts. This has currently caused a large demand in workers for specific industries and has resulted in a large majority of those positions being filled with employees from abroad. Organizations are beginning to hire tens of thousands of foreign exchange students on temporary work Visas. However, given the current climate surround immigration, this may soon be a thing of the past?

As with any other employee search, employers must first figure out where they are going to be able to find their ideal teen candidates. Some ways of reaching teen workers may include: counseling offices at local high schools; inviting the teens to tour your facilities or offices; recruiting booths at career fairs; speaking to classes regarding resume building; and of course, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. Getting in front of the teens is the most important move. As this may be their first job, they may not know how to go about getting a job in the first place.

Organizations must be cautious when employing teen workers, as keeping them safe is critical. Keeping all employees safe is critical, however, there are federal and state-mandated laws with stricter protections on teen workers. Like all other employees, teen workers must receive any and all safety training that the organization provides. Studies show that employees under the age of 25 have a higher rate of injuries compared to those over the age of 25. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, in 2014, employees ages 16 through 19 had more than twice as many work-related injuries that sent them to emergency rooms as did people 25 and older. This is even more of a reason for employers to absolutely ensure that teen workers are receiving all of the safety training that they are able to get from the employer. Odds are that an organization’s whole workforce is not solely made up of teen workers. Those workers who are not teens may be paired up with the teen workers to form a “buddy system” in safety sensitive jobs. This affords teens ongoing safety training as well as training in the job that they will be performing.

As with any age group of employees, teen workers come with their own set of management styles. For instance, during interviews with teens, believe it or not, helicopter parents will ask to sit in on an interview with their child. Also surprising to some may be the fact that there are instances in which parents will call-in sick on behalf of their child. A way to politely confirm this information is to say something along the lines of, “Thank you for the call, however, you do not work with us. I would like to confirm this with your son or daughter.” Hopefully, the parents will respect that their manager is holding their child accountable to their responsibilities with the organization. This goes to show that with teen workers, stressing the importance of communication is so important.

While communicating with teen workers may sometimes feel like speaking a different language, it is important to communicate with them in the ways that they know best; digitally. This includes: texting; emailing; messaging through an app; etc. Some organizations use these methods to communicate with all employees regarding just about everything regarding their employment to include: interviews; training sessions; upcoming work events; and sometimes even shift schedules. However, this may be a double-edged sword as teen workers are typically the ones using their mobile devices on the job the most. Managers must be quick to curb the use of mobile devices for personal use on the job. Organizations should also back those managers up with a well-written policy stating that personal use of mobile devices is prohibited during working hours.

Teen workers also come with their own set of legal implications, as well. As an organization that employs teen workers, it is imperative that the organization is keeping track of the ages of all workers under the age of 18 as some states require specific paperwork such as work permits. These work permits either include an employment certificate, or an age verification form. For additional information about the federal laws and restrictions surrounding teen workers in each specific state, visit https://www.dol.gov/whd/state/certification.htm. For additional information about your specific state’s laws and regulations surrounding teen workers, visit your respective states Department of Labor website for required forms and additional information.

Teen workers are absolutely vital to many different organizations, regardless of the fact that they have to make it to their best friend’s birthday party. Teen workers will learn more than you know while they are on the job, and if your organization is the one in which they felt prepared them for “reality”, they may be the next employee base that your organization has for the coming years. Hiring teen workers, when managed appropriately, may be the best choice your organization makes during the hiring process and beyond.

For additional information on this topic, please contact us at www.newfocushr.com .

Written by: Patrick McKenna, SHRM-CP

HR Consultant





New Focus HR is a human resources consulting and training company that services all organizations. Our expert team collaborates with businesses to attract, motivate, retrain and retain their biggest assets, employees. While engaged with an organization, our focus is to find solutions that improve the company’s internal HR-related practices while increasing results at the same time! Our focus. Your results.