While away on holiday I was sitting in a café one day and noticed something which has stuck with me. A very young person was delivering meals to a table. The scenario stuck in my mind as he just didn’t appear to fit that particular role. I don’t mean from a team fit perspective, but from a customer’s perspective.

I noticed that customers interacted with him differently. They didn’t seem to know how to engage with him, or help him in the normal unspoken way we customers do (like how we move to the side, as a plate is passed across the table).

It was fascinating to watch and it got me thinking. Is there a point at which an employee is just too young for some types of work? Can a young person command all areas in a workplace, in the same way as someone with a few more years’ experience?

Don’t get me wrong – our young people are hugely valuable in our workforce and we should give them every opportunity to develop their skills and earn a living. It’s more about identifying the best work zone to engage our young people when they are starting out, and identifying where they fit in a front-line role. Supermarkets are a good example. From my experience, young people on the checkout, by and large, provide a superior level of customer service – right down to popping my full grocery bag into the trolley with a smile. And there are the young people working at Mitre 10, who seem to thrive in their workplace. They’re polite and if they can’t help me, they hand me over to someone who can.

The problem arises when it’s a work zone where customers need a certain level of knowledge or “street smarts” that a young person simply hasn’t had enough experience in the workforce to acquire. Or where the customer is generally more demanding, and the young employee hasn’t yet developed their engagement skills.

As an employer, you have a duty to help your employee to succeed. It’s devastating for an employee to be in a situation where they have been set up to fail, especially if this is their first job.

So how do you help them succeed? On-boarding an employee well is the first step. Orientate them into the workplace, train them on your product or service offerings, and train them in your service delivery standards (and for heaven’s sake ensure you’re walking the talk). Guide and mentor them in their initial customer interactions – most customers are only too willing to be patient if they know an employee is in training.

It doesn’t stop there though. Employees need ongoing mentoring, guidance and training. They need added responsibility as they progress and acknowledgement when they do well; some on-the-job coaching or a refocus, if they haven’t done so well. Most employees are good employees – they just need to be developed and supported.

If you have any questions about finding employees for your business, if you need a sounding board or want help at any stage in recruiting and on-boarding your new hire, give us a call 823 3250.