I have hesitated to write this article, but I am a small business owner and I have had some experience here that will absolutely impact what I will teach my children when they get a job one day. So I hope that you find this useful for your own loved ones.
We own an ice cream store and most of our employees are fantastic youth. We go to great lengths to hire kids who we can trust with our store. Over the years we have probably employed about 40 or 50 kids. Some will last for years and some last days. So we have had a little bit of experience with employees and what we expect from them verses what we receive from them.
Below I will list a few things that will make your children absolutely invaluable employees. The kind of things that will impact all of their future jobs, and will get them amazingly glowing reports from former employers. These are things that will get them greater responsibility and paychecks. Naturally, I will also mention things that will make them replaceable or at worst, a liability.
1- They don’t see it as “just a job”
When we observe employees working we are witnessing their work ethic. We understand, better than they, that they are showing us what they are made of. The kid who is always asking for time off or is consistently cutting corners will do that in their next job and the next. They will be the first one we let go, and the last one we promote. Oppositely, when we observe an employee who is dependable and works really hard throughout their entire shift we know that it isn’t our store they are doing that for, but rather that is how they work – which will extend to their future jobs as well.
We had a young man work for us who is now serving and LDS mission. We were so sad to see him go. He used to come in and pull up the sales report and had a personal goal to beat the number of sales for the first half of the day. So instead of rolling his eyes if a customer came in, he was happy and grateful which came across in how he treated our valued customers. And then he extended that attitude to how he cleaned and took care of our store. He was an invaluable employee to us.
I cannot tell you how many times my husband and I mentioned to ourselves how amazing this young man’s future was and how any employee would be lucky to have him. In fact if we ever receive a reference call from a future employer for him we will say, “HIRE HIM!”.
2- They WORK their shift
And when I say “work”, I mean “do things”. An incredibly common attitude in a retail store like mine is that kids think that if they are there waiting for customers to come in, they are working. I promise you, their employers don’t see it that way. They see it as sitting around and getting paid for it.
In the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet under “Honesty and Integrity” it says this: “Be honest in your job, giving a full amount of work for your pay.”
In the past, if I were teaching the standard of Honesty and Integrity I would probable skim over this particular sentence. But now that I am an employer – I see the great importance of this statement and could spend an entire hour on it! You cannot assume that if they are good and upstanding youth that they understand what “giving a full amount of work for your pay” means. In fact, I would say that only a handful employees that we have had truly understood this – and we have employed GREAT youth!
I am pretty sure that every employee we have ever had has had a cell phone which is a constant connection to social interactions with their friends. This is something unique to this generation and is likely impacting MANY youth’s work performance. We have video surveillance in our store and we constantly see their phones out. Between texting and all the forms of social media they could be involved in their phones for their entire shift. Even though we have a “phone in the back office” policy – this is like asking them to remove their right hand and they are constantly trying to get away with it.
Let me put it from an employer’s perspective: Every business has a bottom line that they have to meet each day in sales, otherwise they lose money. That bottom line is typically somewhere in the several hundreds to thousands. When that employer looks and sees that there is no business happening but at least their employees are improving their business, then something positive is happening. However, if they see that their is NO business and NO work happening – then that can be at best frustrating, and at worst – they will look for different employees. Not only are they losing money, but they are paying employees to sit around. If this happens day after day… it would be crazy for the employer to continue to allow that to happen.
3- They don’t steal in any way
If I were to say to an employee “don’t steal from us” they would think that we just mean “don’t take our money”. First of all, I would be surprised if I could find a business owner that this has not happened to and honestly, I don’t think we want to know how much money has been pocketed by our employees- but we do know it is a lot! Money is a great temptation, even for really good kids. It is hard to find proof all of the time, but trust me, employers are pretty smart and their gut feelings get them a long way. So even if a kids thinks they are getting away with it, likely they aren’t and their employers will eventually figure it out – even if it is after they move onto another job. Kids talk and reports show – this is really good for kids to know.
However, there are MANY other ways to steal from an employer other than actually taking money. For example, giving away free or discounted products to your friends – that is a form of stealing. Why? Because it costs your employer money and they did not give you permission to do that. Another way? In our case, eating our product. Since we have an ice cream store, we have a lot of tempting candy sitting around, and a handful here and there really adds up for us. That part of the ice cream is our most expensive part and we have to replace what is eaten. We know it happens because we see it, and it is something we have to bring up over and over and over… and over and over.
Another way is wasting product. This can happen by using too much product or actually wasting product. We understand that things happen and sometimes product needs to be thrown out for various reasons – but when that reason is because of carelessness on the job, then, well, it costs us money. Also, retail business prices are typically determined through very specific formulas. For example they will factor in exact amounts of product used along with services in order to determine what the price should be. If product prices go up, then the cost of the item must go up otherwise the business will fail. Therefore, if an employee gives too much product this will add up really fast, and it costs the employer a lot of money and threatens their business and family’s security. Suddenly they are replacing product without the sales to support it. The employer may not see you as stealing from them, but they will see you as a liability for their business.
All of these things are important for the kids to understand and can help make them better employees.
4- They are professional
That is a really nice way for me to say “they don’t have their friends come in and hang out while they are working”. Any employer is happy to have friends come in and enjoy their product – but this will be a test on the professionalism of each employee. Can they have their friends in the store and still be a great employee? It is actually a pretty good test.
The funny thing about this is the first people who will tell us that employees are hanging out with their friends are customers. Customers become very devoted to places they come often and will let owners know when things like this are happening.
5- They see the business as a family and not just a business
Any small business is started by people who have saved hard earned money and are taking a risk they are hoping will pay off and be a blessing for their family. They are the last people who will be paid and often are lucky to have enough left over after their expenses to pay themselves at all. As you can see in the above descriptions, there are countless ways to lose money and only one way to make it, so dialing in all of those things are really important.
Here is a little story. At our ice cream store you get 2 mix ins with each ice cream you order. Anymore than that and it is an extra charge of 50 cents. We had an employee that had worked for us a really long time only to find out that they were often not charging for those extra mix-ins – so basically they were just giving away our product, and the most expensive part of our product. Over the course of a year they would have given away hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. When we approached them on this they acted like it wasn’t a big deal. So we asked them, “what if we added up all of the mix ins you have given away and withheld that money from your future paychecks?” Well, then it became personal for them, just as it had been personal for us. But they had been seeing us as just a business and not as a family. That is dangerous because it takes away feelings of personal consequences, but I assure you – to your employer – they are there.
Well, there you go – I could go on and on but those are some principles that are really important to us, and I imagine, to other employers as well. So, hopefully this can be good information for your children when they are building their work experience and character.