Pipino uses plum assignments as an incentive for top
performers. His ice cream shop,
in the heart of upstate New
York horse-racing country, caters music festivals, parties and
other events. His top workers
get the catering gigs, which pay
more and generally come with
better tips and more authority.
Of course, young people also
come with their own special
set of management challenges.
Pipino, for instance, gets tired
of helicopter parents who come
along on job interviews and call
in sick for their kids. “I always
politely tell them, ‘You don’t
work with us. I want to hear
from your son or daughter,’ ”
The legal landscape is also
diferent. Under federal law, you need to keep
track of the ages of all workers under 18, and
some states require special paperwork such as
work permits for them. (Check your state’s laws.)
Federal rules also bar youth from operating certain equipment in the kitchen, so McClain at
Six Flags makes sure teens aren’t assigned any
cooking jobs to avoid confusion. Other legislation prevents them from operating rides. But
his crew of 15- to 17-year-olds take tickets, work
registers and handle other jobs.
The amusement park uses tracking software
to monitor teens’ hours because Maryland prohibits anyone under 18 from working and going to school more than 12 hours combined in a
day. The software blocks youngsters from being
scheduled for hours that are over the limit and
alerts managers when they are close to reaching
As any parent of an adolescent can tell you, it
can be difcult to connect with teens and may
sometimes seem like you’re speaking another
language. That’s why Six Flags takes advantage
of the communications vehicle that these dig-
ital natives are most comfortable with: texting. Teens get alerts on
their phones to remind them of interviews, orientation and training,
McClain says. At Timberlane, job interviews cover what’s expected of
workers, since many teens have never held a job before.
Even so, sometimes Timberlane’s regular workers need to have a talk
with their youthful counterparts about such topics as the importance
of being on time for work. “They require a bit more oversight than a
staf member who’s been in the workforce for years,” Yanulavich says.
The team at Six Flags fnds that a highly structured attendance
policy helps curb attendance abuse. The company’s leaders have also
had to clamp down on cellphone use on the job—for adults as well as
teens. This season, lockers will be available to workers to stow their
devices, and aquatics and ride attendants will be required to use them.
Violators will be terminated.
Pipino has had to fre only two young workers in 10 years. He tries
to be fexible with teens—by cutting them slack about using cellphones
during slow of-season days, for example. Even after verbal and writ-
ten reprimands, he has a talk with them: “I say: ‘If this doesn’t correct
itself, I have to let you go, and I don’t want to do that.’ ”
Teen employees are vital to many businesses, even if they work only
for a season or two. But the lessons they learn on the job will stay with
them for a lifetime. “For 80 percent of them, it’s their frst job. We are
giving vital job training to young people,” Pipino says. “I view myself
as their frst learning experience to set them up for success in their
careers.” In other words, hiring teens is totally worth it.
Tamara Lytle is a freelance writer in the Washington, D.C., area.