A couple of years ago, my son applied for a job at a local fast-food restaurant. It was his dream job - a place he’d wanted to work at for quite some time. He was 15 years old at the time. He needed help with the on-line application so as he applied, I sat nearby and watched, helping to explain what a few of the questions meant, but mostly staying hands off and providing encouragement to him as he completed the application independently.
As he went through the process, I watched with my HR hat on. At the time, I was the Chief Human Resources Officer for a large health system and I’d been in the Human Resources field for close to 25 years. So, of course I was comparing this organization’s system and the candidate experience with what we offered our candidates. And I have to say, I was impressed. Granted, this fast-food organization is backed by a very large corporation with, I presume, a lot of resources, but he was only applying for a part-time entry level job.
Still, the on-line application process was user friendly and very thorough. It even included extensive pre-employment assessment testing that was built into the application process. I’m sure they used this system to weed out the candidates that didn’t fit their ideal profile for their organization. And I was envious that I didn’t have this tool for my recruiters to use. The amount of time it would save is huge.
HR Tip #1: Invest in technology and use it to the greatest extent possible to help with candidate selection on the front end so that your people resources can be spent on the high touch areas with candidate interaction where it provides the greatest value.
My son didn’t hear anything for several months on his application, but one day we were driving by and I noticed a sign on the sidewalk that mentioned a job fair. I told him he should stop by when he was done at the gym and check it out. So, he did! He was interviewed by a recruiter and (I think) offered the job on the spot. When he got home, he told me, “Mom, I got a job.” He was beaming with pride. I was full of questions, to which he didn’t have answers: “When do you start?” I don’t know. “What are you going to be doing?” I don’t know. “How much are they going to pay you?” I don’t know. “Are you sure you got the job?” was my response. He replied, “Well I told him I’d already done that online application so he told me to go online and fill out the new hire paperwork.” Hmmm. Ok.
HR Tip #2: Extend formal job offers to candidates you hire. Put offers in writing and make the terms of the offer clear, including anything they need to know about what to bring on the first day (note on this later), where to report and to whom.
Lots of texts back and forth between my son and the recruiter over the next week or so provided the clarifying details he needed, he completed the new hire paperwork online, we purchased the proper uniform items for him to wear on his first day and he arrived for Orientation, meeting his boss for the first time.
HR Tip #3: Include the hiring manager in the interview process in some way so the employee has a sense of who they will be working with.
His first day on the job went well, his boss was very welcoming and took care of the remainder of the hiring process. I was out of town on his first day and he didn’t know he needed to bring certain documents, so after a quick call to me, my husband had to take his passport to his workplace so he could complete the I-9, but overall, his first day was a success.
Of course, being the HR professional that I am, when he got his employee handbook, I poured over it out of curiosity. Again, I was impressed with what it covered. I kept saying, “Did you know…?” His employee discount is amazing and most shifts he brings home dinner for himself at an amazing discount…the biggest perk of his job since he loves the food. With the responses I kept getting from him when I’d ask, “Did you know…?” I finally said, “Did you even read this thing?” Sort of. Hmmm. “Didn’t you have to sign something that said you did?” I doubt he read the whole thing. At least not as thoroughly as I poured over it. Do most employees read the employee handbook? I doubt it. And most organizations ask them to sign something that attest that they did…and they sign it.
HR Tip #4: Consider other, more effective and engaging ways to convey important policy information to your new employees during the orientation process than simply handing them a handbook and assuming they have read it because they signed something, saying they did. That document may cover you legally, but you really do want them to know the information.
There have been a few times during his employment where I’ve had to bite my tongue being the mom of a minor. I know what the BOLI regulations say about employment of minors in terms of shift lengths or end times and when he’s asked to stay later and it’s bordering on exceeding limits, I’ve held my comments a time or two. In those instances, my son has wanted to work and it’s never been a safety issue, but I always make sure he knows what the law is and that it’s his choice. And I always make sure he knows what he should be getting in terms of breaks and lunches when that happens. I usually get a text back with a response of “I’m on my break now.”
HR Tip #5: Always make sure your supervisors are trained on wage and hour laws, that they understand the importance of adhering to them, and they know the consequences for the organization if they are violated. Failure to comply, even for employees who are not minors, can have big consequences for a business if an employee chooses to pursue a claim against an organization.
His co-workers went out of the way to include him at the holidays and invite him to participate in their gift exchange and those that are part of the core team (the full-time workers) have made an effort to get to know him during his time there. That has really made him feel part of the team and contributes to his enjoyment of going to work.
HR Tip #6: Encourage team members to be inclusive of those part-time and casual workers, even if they are only working sporadically. They want to feel part of the team too and they are often critical when vacancies or absences from the core team occur and you need them to fill holes in a schedule.
I’ve also been quite impressed to see the communication that’s come from the corporate office and the caring approach they’ve taken with their employees in handling a COVID19 scare and, most recently, the challenges with a smoky environment and potential evacuations as a result of devastating wildfires in Oregon. It’s clear to me that this is a company that puts employee safety above profits and that they care.
HR Tip #7: You will never go wrong when you put your people first.
I’ll close this month’s blog with a story. For Christmas last year we wanted to get my son tickets to a 49ers football game. He’s a huge fan and has been for many years. The challenge was figuring out how to ensure he got time off of work, as he is scheduled to work every weekend. I didn’t want to be one of those parents who got involved with their child’s work.
HR Tip #8: If an employee’s parent or other relative approaches you to interfere with a work situation that’s not appropriate, feel free to explain you cannot discuss the employee’s work situation with anyone other than the employee. If the employee asks for the relative to join them in a meeting, just say “I’m sorry, but they will need to wait outside.” and be firm about it. The relationship is between the employer and the employee and it’s not appropriate for a parent or anyone else to be involved.
In this case, however, I realized that there was no way for me to pull off this surprise without a conversation with his boss. So, one day while he was at school I went into the restaurant and asked to speak to Armando. I explained who I was and why I was there. He was surprised at first and then told me he was from the Bay Area and he was a 49ers fan too. He said, “Can I be your kid?” The ice was broken! We conspired together about how to ensure the time off in a way that my son wouldn’t find out. Armando became my co-conspirator, as did a couple of other coworkers who overheard all of this.
We managed to pull off this big surprise and I was amazed that nobody spilled the beans over the course of three months, as I bought the tickets in September. Little did I know what a fantastic season the 49ers would have! Christmas morning was a total surprise! He swore to me nobody had told him and he was shocked (and somewhat horrified) that I’d talked to his boss and that there were several people that knew about his “secret trip” before he did! And when the 49ers beat the Seahawks in that fantastic finish in December last year, it was even sweeter that we got to be there in person to see it. We even managed to bring a 49er hat back as a thank you to Armando and he loved it!
HR Tip #9: Hire great managers like Armando who are supportive of their employees enjoying life outside of work.
Overall, my son’s first job has been a wonderful, growth and learning experience for this teen. It’s been fun to see the maturity that’s developed as a result of the responsibility he’s taken on and how he’s earning his own money. He’s loved watching the balance in his savings account grow and his goals for his earnings keep getting more and more aspirational. I’m so proud of him for that.
He was 15 when he was hired and he just turned 17 last month. Very few places give 15-year old’s a chance these days. He was nervous and unsure when he first started, but he’s gained confidence and they worked with him to learn the job. Armando was patient and the weekend supervisor took the time to show my son the ropes. He’s doing so well that they are training him to do other things and talking with him about a promotion soon, which is building his confidence even more.
HR Tip #10: Give young people a chance. It sometimes takes patience, but it’s worth it.
It’s an investment in the future.
Laurie is an experienced Human Resources executive who is passionate about organizational culture, creating great workplaces and employee engagement.