How to support and motivate student employees

Reports on student employment in the UK indicate that almost 50% of students get a job in university

Although official numbers haven’t been made public for a while now, one of the last reports on student employment in the UK indicated that almost 50% of students get a job in university.

Most students still receive a certain degree of financial support from parents, but the report shows that students choose to seek employment to help their career after graduating, to avoid being in debt, and to save up for the future.

For employers, these statistics can be very encouraging. A growing segment of young, motivated, energetic prospects can solve your staffing issues and revitalize your business, but, at the same time, bringing a student member to your team comes with a fair share of responsibilities. Apart from respecting the rights of student workers in the UK, you also have to make sure you offer an environment where students can grow and feel accomplished, otherwise they’ll leave your company as soon as they get a better offer.

Invest in training and growth

Money may be the primary factor that drives students to get a job in university, but it’s not the only one. One survey shows that 41% of students choose to work because they want to boost their CV and make sure they have good job prospects after graduation. These students can become a valuable resource because they want to learn and grow, so you should offer them what they need to do that.

As enthusiastic as students might be, they are often inexperienced and you shouldn’t expect them to fill in a term sheet or have basic customer service notions right after finish high school. Before giving a student worker any responsibility, make sure you provide them with proper training on how to do it and have someone supervise them.

It’s also important not to assume that a student will leave your company before long. Student employees have the same rights as all the other employees, so you don’t want to limit their growth opportunities. Don’t treat them like cogs in the machine thinking that for them you’re just money, because maybe you’re not. If a student feels welcome in your organisation, likes what they do, and sees that they have a way to go up, they’ll stay with you instead of looking for a new employer.

Communicate directly

With Gen Z, the “meeting that could have been an email” may become a thing of the past. While previous generations of employees preferred communicating with their superiors over email, phone, or text, various studies show that Gen Z workers value the opposite: direct communication at work. That’s right, even if Gen Z uses technology so much, they feel the need for face-to-face communication. This is because young employers want to be socially connected with everyone, including their bosses, and feel more motivated by personal interactions. Just make sure you don’t make those meetings too long. Studies also show that Gen Z workers value bosses who are transparent and straightforward.

Offer them a streamlined, organized environment

Even a responsible, hard-working, ambitious student worker remains a student. They have plenty going on in their lives, from exams and social life to student debt and family responsibilities. Studenthood can also be very stressful, especially for international students, so they might not always have the time, energy, and attention to figure things out on their own. That doesn’t mean their presence in the company will be any less valuable. Students can be amazing assets, but you should take some administrative measures to offer them an organized, easy to understand work environment:

  • Always give them a clear list of the tasks that need to be completed. Don’t let them guess what they have to do.
  • Inform them who is their supervisor, who they respond to, and to whom they should talk if they need anything.
  • Measure their productivity with online time tracking software. This tool is useful for all employees, not just students, but it is also used by a lot of agencies in the UK to track student hours and help them have a clear overview of their work.

Be flexible

Like the rest of employees, students have some responsibilities within your organisation. They need to respect your code of conduct, meet their job description, and come to work on time. And while it’s normal to hold a worker accountable when they don’t meet requirements, a little extra flexibility goes a long way when hiring student staff. Keep in mind that they have to balance studying and working, which is no simple thing. Not every student is willing to sacrifice grades for a paycheck, so they still need to get to classes, do their homework, and learn for exams. If a student employee asks you for time off or flexible hours during a busy time of the year, be reasonable; they’re not asking it to party, but because they can’t balance work and study otherwise. If possible, schedule their shifts in advance, so that they can plan studying for exams, and be understanding if they can’t respond to extra workload as well as other employees.

Learn how to combat apathy through constructive feedback

Workplace demotivation happens to everyone, not just students. Studies show that only 30% of employees feel engaged and inspired at work, and, for students, one of the major causes of apathy is the lack of feedback. Because they’re so young and inexperienced, students can do some unique mistakes, so it might be tempting for an exasperated baby boomer supervisor to roll their eyes at them and be condescending. But this isn’t constructive and treating a student this way can quickly convert all that energy and enthusiasm into apathy. If a student employee makes a mistake, don’t leave them in the dark and assign that task to somebody else. Be patient, explain to them what they did wrong and give them a chance to fix it or try again. Turning a mistake into a learning experience will keep them motivated and fuel their curiosity.

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