5 Ways To Foster A Student-Friendly Workplace Environment

By Julia Dunn on December 24, 2017

Wondering how to connect better with your college student employees? Want to create a more positive and productive workplace experience for both your staff members and yourself? College students will undoubtedly end up in your staff at some point or another as more and more students need to work to afford university expenses, and more and more students are understanding the value of real-world experience prior to graduation. Lost on how to foster a student-friendly environment? Here are five ways to get started:

via Pexels

1. Give frequent feedback (including praise)

One of the most constructive ways to make your work environment more suitable for college students? Create a culture of feedback-giving on a regular basis.

Hold regular staff meetings, individual consultations with employees, or both. In meetings, you might consider giving shoutouts to student employees who excelled that week, either for their superior customer service, their smooth management of a difficult situation in the workplace, or something else. Positive reinforcement can look like the following:

  • I appreciate the way you…

  • I’m impressed with…

  • I really enjoy working with you because…

  • [Our] team couldn’t be successful without your…

  • I admire the way you take the time to…

  • You’re really good at…

While any employee would certainly perk up at some praise, college student employees will respond especially well to it simply due to their heightened interest in succeeding at work. Many students don’t work their first job until they get to college, so workplace matters are totally new to them. Students should know they’re doing a good job if they are in fact doing a good job.

Moreover, students these days are all about professional development. As they work to complete their degrees and gain experiential training in their field, they wish to learn from mistakes, make conclusions about what works and doesn’t work in the workplace, and absorb as much information as possible to apply for the future.

2. Take on more of a mentor role (70% supervisor/boss/employer, 30% mentor)

College students want to connect with their bosses. They want to get to know you, learn from you and hear your story of how you got to where you are in your career. Students work faster, more accurately, and more happily in the workplace if they have a positive relationship with their supervisor. Making yourself more of a resource to your student employees will likely evoke an increase in your workplace’s health and quality of work. This is a win-win for you and your students.

You should also make efforts to get to know the human being behind your student employee. Find out their strengths, interests, and aspirations in their particular position. How can you help them progress in the role that you’ve entrusted them? What do they need from you in order to meet their goals? From the student perspective, it means a lot to have a supervisor who is willing to invest time into their professional development. As a recruiter/employer, you will also grow in your supervisory and management skills the more you are willing to learn about your own employees.

3. Be clear and communicative about scheduling

Students are incredibly busy, but most of them are fantastic time-managers. That said, they expect their supervisors to communicate with them about scheduling in a timely manner. No college student likes to receive their shifts for the upcoming week with only a day’s notice. To make your management practices more student-friendly, develop a timely system for communicating with your employees about their office hours. You might consider setting up a Google Calendar just for your employees’ shifts and sharing it with your staff so that everybody is on the same page about who is supposed to be working when. This will eliminate any unnecessary confusion in advance, making life easier for your student employees as well as yourself.

4. Consider offering mini skills-based workshops

As mentioned earlier in this piece, students are nimble and willing to learn whenever they can. If you’re finding your student employees are shaky with Search Engine Optimization or uncertain about best practices for promoting your company brand, use moments of confusion as learning opportunities. The time you put into your staff is always worth it in the long run, even if it means losing a couple of hours of your Saturday afternoon. Ask your college student employees if they’d be able to make a little workshop session at some point during the week, and work out a time that works for as many of your staff members as possible. Workplace trainings tend to increase performance for those who participate, and holding a single workshop saves you from having to explain the same topic multiple times for multiple people. As phrased in this University Business article, “Keep [your student workers] learning while earning.”

5. Celebrate your workplace successes

This works in tandem with offering positive feedback when it is due–when your student employees nail a presentation or master a tricky function in Photoshop, celebrate them! Celebration can mean anything from a cupcake party in the office to a company dinner on the weekend. If your entire organization accomplishes something huge, don’t hold back from having some fun with your employees.

Your student employees will thrive most in an environment that supports professional and personal growth at the same time. While you might not think so, they will notice any efforts you make to support them.

By Julia Dunn

Uloop Writer
UC Santa Cruz
A writer, editor and educator based in Northern California.

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