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Top 5 Tips for Engaging Your Summer Students

June 27, 2016, by Corina Sibley | Work Environment and Policies

A friend of mine recently shared her teenage daughter’s experience with her summer employment.  Within weeks of being hired, her university-aged daughter felt so demoralized by her new employer that she’s already given her notice after only 1 month of employment.   Her experience was anything but positive which is sad as it is a double-whammy for the employer.  Not only will turnover amongst your summer staff be high, but word of mouth travels quickly and poor employee referrals will often result in an impact to the business bottom line down the road.  Teenagers are social media savvy and they have parents who have friends, too – all of whom are consumers (needless to say, I wouldn’t patronize this business establishment after hearing how they treat their summer students!).

So, what can you do to avoid the above scenario for your own summer student crew?  Here are our top 5 tips for engaging your summer students:

1. Post schedules early

For those jobs that are shift-oriented, make sure you communicate the shifts to your staff as early as possible, at least a week in advance if you can.  Summer students often come back from universities to work in their home town.  This means they are also visiting families and friends that they may not have seen all school year.  By knowing their shifts well in advance, this allows them to plan their outside of work activities well in advance, something they will really appreciate and in turn, stick with their employer. 

2.  Provide a minimum guaranteed hours per week

Many employers hire summer students for added flexibility during the summer months.  This often means inconsistent hours for the student.  As many students are saving up for the next year’s tuition, providing a minimum guaranteed hours will help them in this task, and in turn, ensure your turnover stays low.  Costco uses this model with their part-time staff and it has helped them lower turnover to 12% in an industry that has an average turnover of 21%.

3.  Provide constant communication

Today’s young workers love feedback.  Make sure you have a mechanism to provide positive reinforcement or constructive criticism early and often.  If providing constructive feedback, ensure it is done in an objective, non-personal manner.  Give specific examples, then describe the impact on the team/department/company, then provide your expectations going forward.  Using judgemental language does not help (such as saying you’re lazy, stupid or an idiot – no kidding, this still happens to our young people at work).

4.  Treat your summer students like future consumers

Remember, your summer students will soon be flourishing in their chosen careers with their own discretionary income.  Treat them as you would your current customers.  They in turn will treat your current customers well and the cycle of positive customer experiences will continue!

5.  Build your talent pipeline

Consider your summer student hiring program as a part of your talent pipeline.  Treat them well so they will want to come back to you summer after summer (thereby decreasing your recruiting budget), and perhaps even a full-time role upon graduation.  More and more businesses are using  the summer student program as a tool for future hiring; often giving full-time offer letters before the students return in September for their last year of schooling and thereby beating the talent scrum that happens during the last year of college/university!

By using the above common sense approach to your summer student contingent you will lower your turnover, increase your positive word of mouth reviews and build loyalty and engagement amongst your young seasonal staff. 

Other Items of Interest:

Things You Need to Know When Hiring Students

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