Hiring students has its pluses and minuses and requires a good plan in place for success.

Many companies rely on flexible part-time workers to fill gaps during busy periods. If your business is in a university town or other location that has a large student body, you could be in luck. There’s a ready supply of (presumably intelligent) staff from which to draw.

That said, students come with their own needs and agendas that may limit their availability – so as an employer, is it worth going down that route? Let’s take a closer look at how meeting your part-time staff needs by hiring students might work for your business.

Essentially, there are two main things that motivate students to get a job:

  • Earning money

Student loans, accommodation and travel, food and living costs – not to mention books and other college expenses – it’s expensive being a student. Many students are keen to supplement their funds by getting a part-time job, while some depend on part-time work to make ends meet.

Nor are student employees likely to be greedy when it comes to remuneration. Without much work experience on the CV, they are fully aware that the money isn’t going to be that great. Add to that the fact that students can only work limited hours because of course commitments, and their expectations of earnings are going to be manageable.

  • Building the CV

Money may be a great short-term motivator as far as student jobs are concerned, but work experience is arguably an even bigger driver. Many students actively look for part-time employment, temporary work placements, or short-term internships in a concerted effort to boost their CVs.

Whether this involves bar work, a call center job or a desk-based position, there is a clear realization that these jobs are well worth doing. There are valuable transferrable skills to be gained that could be immensely useful to get onto the first step of the career ladder after university.

Given the competitive nature of the graduate employment market, “just” having a degree may not be enough to impress graduate recruiters who are looking for additional skills and some commercial exposure. A good reference from a previous employer will also help.

Both of these motivational drivers provide valuable insights into how students “tick,” which your business can use to its advantage. However, in order to get the best out of hiring part-time student employees, you should be prepared to go the extra mile to accommodate their unique needs.

Embrace flexibility and compromise

Student employees can be a great choice for your business. The best ones bring with them plenty of positive attributes that are of huge value to any organization: bags of energy and enthusiasm, a willingness to learn new skills, a fast pick-up rate, and a strong work ethic, among others. Too good to be true?

On the downside, it’s important to realize that the priorities of student employees are always going to revolve around their studies. Don’t expect a student worker to be available at short notice, say, to cover absence due to sickness, if there’s an imminent academic deadline or exam approaching. There’s nothing much you can do about the restricted availability other than simply factor it in. With some foresight, proper planning, and a degree of flexibility, it needn’t be a problem.

Set work schedules together

When it comes to shift planning and work schedules, make sure you’ve identified exactly what your organizational staffing needs are for the upcoming period, before allocating hours to people. Importantly, also ask other managers in the company if they have any special requirements when it comes to job functions and employee work hours that should be taken into account.

Once you have a clear understanding of what your part-time staffing needs are, set shifts and work schedules with your individual student employees. Ideally, you will have been provided with a copy of their school schedules, so you can be aware of any potential availability issues.

Make sure everyone understands that work schedules aren’t just a matter of employee preference, they are binding. Additionally, there should also be a simple but mandatory process for requesting time off or changing work hours.

Communicate job expectations clearly

Especially when it comes to working with inexperienced staff such as students, it’s worth making an extra effort to communicate your company policies and job expectations as clearly as you can at the outset, to avoid any misunderstandings further down the line.

A written job description is essential, plus a copy of your employee handbook including expectations of appropriate dress and behavior while at work. It’s also advisable to schedule regular face-to-face meetings with each student employee as a way of providing feedback, clarifying expectations, addressing any issues that may have arisen, and to give praise.

Provide a supportive environment

Student employeess may lack the experience and maturity of other types of employees. For all you know, this may be their first real job, so there should be no wonder why their telephone skills or timekeeping may be a bit rudimentary.

On-the-job training should be an essential component of managing student staff. Effective supervision or mentoring by a senior member of staff can also be hugely beneficial to integrate the new student worker into the team, helping them to bond with the company and its culture.

Finally, a little guidance on being a good employee at this stage can go a long way. Whether as part of your onboarding process or regular staff training, workshops on relevant topics such as business etiquette, time management skills, work/life balance, and specific company policies can set the right tone for working together successfully.

Written by: Mike James, BOSS Contributor