High school and college students play a very important role in the pool industry. We need extra help during the busy season and that coincides with the teenagers and young adults summer break. They are the perfect complement to our adult staff members. To have successful and great student employees you need to treat them with respect, regardless of age. Reward them with small rewards and kind words of praise. Happy employees make better people and better people make better employees. After all, they have an important job to do no matter what position they hold.
We employ high school students to work at our labs. Testing water is one of the most important parts of my retail business so we make sure they are well trained, understand their responsibilities, and treat them well so they always have a smile on their face. We employ a few college students to assist at the counters and cash registers. They go through the full customer service, sales, and cash register training the same as the full time salespeople. They are on the front lines selling, too. Schedule the time for training and make your plans in advance and stick to the schedule. Don’t ever make the claim that there is no time for training. One of the best ways to learn is to train. Let employees train and help each other. If you assign someone to teach another on a particular subject, the trainer will need to become an expert. Each of my college students spends their week long spring break training. I put together a 40 hour training program that includes products, procedures, hands on, role play, games and rewards, and lunches. My role is to make sure that they can take care of my customers, increase profits and feel good about coming to work every day.
Know what is most important to your student employees. Ask them! Get to know them and focus on coaching rather than bossing. Make time for them and make sure they have a full understanding of your expectations. Inform them of what they can do to be a better employee. The key is to inform them immediately as things happen, and convey it with respect. Follow up throughout the season. I check in with each of my staff members at least once a week on their turf, not my office. I actually keep a checklist on my desk so I don’t miss anyone. It is a casual conversation to see how they are doing and if they need any help with anything. (They don’t even realize I actually plan it.) You’ll be surprised at what you can learn about your customers and your business from fresh eyes and ears.
Provide a nice and enjoyable working environment. Teenagers and young adults typically have a very active social life. Allow schedule swapping with very specific guidelines: swap with someone that does the same job, has the same level of understanding, and overtime is never created as a result. You will always have who you need on staff and your staff will always be happy because they will rarely miss something that is personally important to them. (The adults love this, too.)
Give employees of all ages specific responsibilities. Make each and every employee feel important as they are a very important part of the organization’s success. Your students will appreciate your trust and will be inclined to do the best possible job they can. My students are responsible for tasks such as the weekly lab supply inventory, store opening and closing procedures, display pool and spa care, replacing shelf tags when there are price changes, the Loyalty Reward Program, and they get specific merchandising projects among other important things.
Include your students that sell in the commission structure, bonuses and sales games if you are doing them for the adults. They are smart and will be highly motivated for the rewards.