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Ask HR: Any Tips for Teens Looking for Summer Jobs?

SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is answering HR questions as part of a series for USA Today. 

Do you have an HR or work-related question you'd like him to answer? Submit it here.


I am the parent of two high schoolers in Dayton, Ohio. As we approach summer, both are looking to earn money. Are there any recommendations or precautions minors should be aware of when looking for employment? –Nikki

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: As a parent of a preteen, I appreciate your concern. This is an excellent time in their lives to begin understanding what it means to be employed, working for a paycheck and feeling pride in the value of work. At the same time, you understandably want to put them in a position to have a positive work experience.

There are several recommendations minors should be aware of when seeking employment.

  • Search for jobs in a variety of ways: online job boards, newspapers, in-person, or the company website. Making a professional introduction can also help with landing a job.
  • Consider the work you're interested in or aligned with your skill set. Other considerations include working conditions (inside, outside, physical labor, safety), pay and hours.
  • Review Ohio's child labor laws. This includes hours of work that are permissible depending on when school is in session, and some occupations are prohibited depending on a worker's age.
  • Avoid jobs that would compromise your values. If the job doesn't match your values, there are other options out there.

Here are some precautions minors should keep in mind when looking for employment:

  • When searching for employment, employment scams often appear in the form of work-from-home jobs and high-pay-easy money jobs. Research employment scams and how to spot them. Learn to vet the positions and companies you are interested in. And the golden rule: Never provide personal data until you are hired. 
  • Be familiar with general employee rights such as minimum wage and overtime pay. Young workers may be taken advantage of when they are not aware of the laws.
  • Consider if the job could have safety implications. Even if not excluded by law, teens should be aware of companies' employee safety processes to understand why workers should not circumvent them.

Communicate with your teens before they get a job and once they've landed one, too. Discuss the opportunities they are finding; for example, have they properly vetted the job opening and company? Once they start working, continue coaching and find out what is going well, what they have learned and what is not going well. Let them know it's OK to make mistakes or missteps. First jobs are about learning how to be a valuable employee, including how to respond to errors.

Providing coaching and direction towards the right opportunities can help develop a valuable partnership and successful job experiences for your teens.

Our company has experienced significant employee turnover in the last year. Departing employees take a lot of operational "know-how" with them. What are some of the best approaches to preserve institutional knowledge? –Dominique

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: Many organizations wrestle with preserving institutional knowledge, especially in this era of high employee turnover. However, with some foresight, you can implement several strategies for retaining valuable employee know-how even when you cannot retain the employee.

Here are some of the best approaches to consider.

  • Workforce assessments: Document employees' current knowledge, and determine which information is most important.
  • Mentors: Have long-term employees mentor and train new employees. This helps to transfer knowledge directly related to the organization.
  • Document work processes: Establish standard operating procedures, or SOPs; these can help an employer determine how to operate productively.
  • Communication: Increase communication with employees to keep an open dialogue to ease the transfer of institutional knowledge.
  • Adoption of Technology: Review technology options to help enhance the maintenance of institutional knowledge.
  • Learning and sharing: Remove silos within an organization so employees can gain knowledge from other areas. This can also be accomplished by establishing cross-training between departments.
  • Succession planning: Help maintain a smooth change between roles. Integrate the knowledge transfer to the right people to keep the knowledge within the organization.

Ultimately, there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to retaining institutional knowledge, but having multiple strategies available will go a long way toward identifying what works for your company. I applaud you for being proactive. Your organization and leadership will appreciate you tackling this initiative.


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