A young girl scoops gelato into a cup while smiling at the camera.
Qualified teen workers can have a great work ethic, expand your capacity to do business, support growth, and more. — Getty Images/Eternity in an Instant

Hiring teenagers to fill roles can be a great solution for small businesses needing additional staffing. However, hiring young workers comes with its own set of considerations.

Below are six benefits of hiring teenage workers for your small business, plus some tips to help you effectively recruit, hire, and manage them.

Why hire teenage workers for your small business?

Driven, hardworking teenagers can be a great asset to any business, especially during the busy summer and holiday seasons, for a few reasons:

They're eager for work

Labor force participation rates for teens have reached the highest percentage since 2009 at 37.6% as of April 2024. Many teens want financial freedom, and they're willing to work to get their foot in the door. Both internships and lower-wage less technical jobs are on the docket.

It's an efficient way to expand your workforce during peak times

Employment-seeking teens often take part-time jobs to fit with their school and extracurricular schedules. Since they're typically not seeking benefits, hiring teenage workers in part-time limited-skill positions can answer your workforce needs efficiently and affordably. This can be especially useful for businesses operating seasonally or needing extra hands temporarily, such as during summer vacation or over the holidays.

You might be eligible for a tax credit

Depending on the state in which you operate or manage a business, you may be eligible for a tax credit when hiring teenage employees. For example, businesses located in New York that employ individuals ages 16-24 may qualify for the New York Youth Jobs Program tax credit, which offers up to $7,500 per eligible employee. Teens are also included under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which encourages employers to hire candidates who face challenges securing employment.

You're shaping the next generation of working professionals

No matter the industry, teenage workers can develop soft skills such as responsibility, organization, time management, and creative problem-solving that will serve them well throughout high school, continuing education, and the workforce. Studies show that working helps teenagers engage with their community, which leads to new connections, broadens their exposure to people and different systems, and aids in personal growth.

Employment also offers financial stability, supporting teens' futures and reducing wage gaps. Professional experience at a young age can lead to higher-paying jobs later on, as it boosts resumes and honest professional skills.

[Read more: What to Know if Your Teen Wants to Start a Business]

Potential challenges of hiring teen workers

Hiring teenage workers can pose challenges if small business owners are unprepared, including the following:

  • Scheduling problems due to lack of transportation. Many teens rely on guardians for rides, especially in areas without sufficient public transportation. This can lead to scheduling conflicts if transportation options are unavailable, potentially resulting in understaffing issues for businesses.
  • Inexperience handling stressful situations. Because this may be a teen's first experience working in a high-pressure environment, it can be challenging to prepare them for stressful situations such as an unexpected rush or dealing with angry customers.
  • Need for increased supervision. Young workers need additional guidance due to their limited experience. They may misrepresent your business or conduct themselves in a way that could negatively impact its reputation without supervision.

Hiring teen workers not only helps a business get through peak times and find standout young employees to promote, but it also acts as a vital learning experience for teenagers.

Tips for recruiting, hiring, and managing teen workers

If you're considering hiring teenage workers, follow these tips to ensure you take the proper steps to recruit, hire, and manage your new employees.

Review the legal requirements for hiring teen workers

Before adding teen workers to your small business's payroll, review the state and federal laws to ensure compliance. Federal legislation limits when and how many hours teens can work, and it defines where they can work and the jobs they can hold.

Younger teens (13 and under) may only perform light jobs like newspaper delivery or babysitting, while 14- and 15-year-olds can work limited hours outside of school. Those who 16 to 17 face fewer restrictions and can work in nonhazardous roles without time limits. At 18, federal child labor laws no longer apply, though state regulations may still apply.

Post your jobs where teens are 'hanging out'

Meeting teens where they congregate, such as online platforms and social media, can help companies and organizations advertise part-time jobs perfect for teen workers.

"We've found that [by] moving to an app-based program called Job Get, we get more hits from teens," said Andy Diamond, President of Angry Crab Shack. "Utilizing a platform that they are more familiar with has been helpful."

Add the right keywords throughout your job listings, such as "weekend work," "teen job opportunity," and "part-time hours," to denote that the position is suited for teens. This optimizes your job listing for search engines to ensure it reaches your target audience.

Participate in school job fairs and advertise at community centers and local youth clubs to reach more potential employees in person.

Communicate transparently and showcase your values

Gen Z is infamous for demanding authenticity and social responsibility from brands, so transparent communication and those same values are important to teen workers when seeking employment.

"We're seeing better traction with a more creative approach to hiring beyond simply relying on your typical job ad," said Chris McCuiston, CEO and Co-Founder of Goldfish Swim School. "By focusing on the impact and purpose of the job opportunity, you're able to attract talent from individuals who want to pursue work that truly makes a difference — in our case, saving lives."

Be patient during the interview and onboarding process

Diamond noted that the interviews teen candidates conduct with you might be for their first job, so you want to get a sense of their skills, strengths, and personality traits that match your business.

Teens' resumes may not fully reflect their capabilities. Instead, ask targeted questions to explore how they manage their time across multiple tasks, what unique qualities make them a standout candidate, and their existing skill sets.

Consider the courses they're taking in school and their extracurricular activities, too. Sports and after-school programs can provide great learning opportunities and strengthen skills, including time management, verbal communication, and teamwork.

Once hired, it's important to be clear about your expectations, establish rules, and cultivate open lines of communication to work well with teens.

"[Teens] typically need a little more guidance when it comes to professionalism and work environments, so we set clear expectations in the job interview process regarding punctuality, call-off procedures, customer service basics, and more," said Diamond.

Accommodate teen employees' schedules when possible

Between classes and homework, extracurricular activities, and budding social lives, teen workers often have full plates. Promote accountability and ensure adequate staffing by establishing procedures for sharing availability.

Be upfront about your expectations and emphasize the importance of being responsible for one's own schedule. Offering flexibility to accommodate life events helps teens better manage their commitments, increasing the likelihood they return to work for you in the future.

[Read more: How to Fill Gaps on Your Team When College-Aged Employees Go Back to School]

Build relationships for your long-term seasonal employment needs

Hiring teen workers not only helps a business get through peak times and find standout young employees to promote, but it also acts as a vital learning experience for teenagers. John Vanore, a multiunit franchise owner with Rita's Italian Ice, recommends hiring younger teens who can stick with you throughout their high school years.

"High school years are formative and crucial to development, so it's important [for the company] to be respectful of prior commitments such as prom, vacation, or summer school," Vanore said. "This also allows you to ... develop a strong working relationship so that [the teenage employees] continue to come back year after year and maybe [even] when they're home from college."

This article was originally written by Katarina Betterton.

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