The Importance of Training Young Employees

When a new crop of coddled kids joins the workforce, you may have to remind them of employment basics.

I was speaking with the CEO of a large employer recently when the vice president of human resources popped in. "Sorry to interrupt," she said. "But, I spoke with Mary's mom, and everything is okay." I couldn't help but comment. "Let me guess," I said. "Mary is in her 20s." We all laughed and swapped stories about adventures in hiring employees born in the 1980s. Trying to run an independent health club with them among my key staff members? Well, let's just say I've become a much better manager from having to deal with this generation.

Today's 20s

I know it is unfair to paint an entire generation of people with the same brush. Indeed, we have staff members who are in their 20s who do a fine job. But, I don't think there's an employer anywhere who would disagree that the 20-somethings we are hiring today are vastly different than the 20-somethings of even 10 years ago.

I used to have just two rules for my staff: 1) Show up on time, and 2) take care of members. With a college-educated staff of fitness professionals back in the 1990s, I didn't know how easy I had it. With this new crop of "kids," we've not only had to come up with new rules, but we've had to start by teaching Rule No. 1!

Rule No. 1

Yes, show up on time. We define "on time" as 10 minutes before your shift, so when it begins you are in uniform, settled and ready to go. "On time" is not running in the door at or after the time your shift starts, and saying with a laugh, "Sorry I'm late."

Rule No. 1, part A. No, you are not going to get paid for those 10 minutes you arrive early. Why? Well, let's see ... we don't dock you when you make or take personal calls; you sometimes get to leave a few minutes early; and, oh yes, I almost forgot: This is your job!

Rule No. 1, part B. Arriving "on time" but then sneaking into the locker room for personal grooming or taking a shower does not qualify as having been "on time." Lest I was unclear, you need to arrive ready to work, because, you know, this is your job!

Rule No. 2

While we run an informal operation, and we are friendly with our staff, you and I are not peers. Don't ask me from behind the computer, "Aren't there any games on this thing?" And don't call on Friday morning to ask when paychecks will be delivered.

Rule No. 3

When you are going to be absent from work or late, you need to call. Do not have your mother call. I don't want to speak with your mother ... ever (unless she is a member).

Rule No. 4

When you move on to another job, as so many part-timers eventually do, you need to come pick up things you might have mistakenly left behind. Do not have your mother stop in (see Rule No. 3).

Rule No. 5

You will make mistakes. We will correct those mistakes. We will move on. We did not intend to inflict pain and agony on you by pointing those mistakes out to you. Pointing them out was not a value judgment. You are still the wonderful, infallible soul your parents say you are. But, while your soul is infallible, your job performance is not.

Rule No. 6

Lose the nose ring and the cell phone. If I see either during your work shift, you're fired. The world will not implode if you do not express your individuality or are out of touch via cell phone, text messaging and email for a few hours.

Rule No. 7

Longevity is only one criterion for a raise. I don't care that you've been working here for more than a year, especially if you are a part-time employee. Show me value, and we can talk about earning more money. Showing up does not qualify you for a raise (although, based on Rule No. 1, doing so on-time puts you ahead of your peers).

Worth the effort

I'm sure other facility owners have their own stories and rules. The good news is that I like this crop of 20-somethings. Their naïve view of the world is endearing. And, once we get through to them, they are proving to be loyal, hard-working and reliable. It's just a matter of overcoming decades of coddling and pampering from their parents, coaches and teachers. After all, they're not to blame, right?

The views expressed in this column are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fitness Management magazine.
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