The wonders of a teenage workforce, by Ed Heaver -11/02/20
Never work with children and animals, the old saying goes. As someone who co-founded a business whose success depends on a workforce of fantastic teenagers (of which there have been 17,000 since 2006), I couldn’t agree less.
Our 18 and 19 year old auditors (mystery shoppers), visit stores across the UK and the Republic of Ireland, buying age-restricted goods like alcohol, e-cigarettes and knives. All should be asked for proof of age and they report back on their experience. Their findings provide valuable intelligence for retailers about how responsibly their staff are behaving. Where necessary, clients address their training and practices to improve performance...
Serve Legal’s reputation relies on the rigour and consistency of our auditors’ work and we have high expectations. Many join us with little or no work experience, but they move quickly into a world of compliance, trading standards and the law. The level of responsibility required goes beyond the expectations of other jobs typically taken at this age and they rise to the challenge. Technology is key for these digital natives and training, guidance and support are delivered via social media, video-sharing platforms and instant messaging. However, we haven’t forgotten the importance of human engagement and every auditor regularly speaks directly with their dedicated area manager, many of whom started out as fresh-faced 18 year old auditors themselves.
Operating remotely and flexibly from home, college or university, auditors take on audit work to suit their schedule and fit around commitments. To counter any sense of isolation or distance from our brand values, our employee engagement programme ensures that auditors feel motivated and part of a team doing important work. Excellent work is showcased through #ImpressEd, a Twitter-based initiative, and achievements are recognised with financial incentives. There is kudos in winning Auditor of the Month, Auditor of the Year, community and environmentally conscientious awards, in addition to a place in the Hall of Fame for exceptional performance.
We take the duty of care to our young colleagues seriously and have a network of regional area managers who mentor, motivate and support auditors at a local level. Despite having no physical premises aside from an administrative base in London, we have a strong sense of professionalism, camaraderie and corporate pride.
I find it hugely rewarding to see the transformation our auditors make from inexperienced teenagers at a crossroads in their education or early working life into confident, work-ready professionals. While the part-time and relatively short-term nature of contracts at Serve Legal means that we’re unable to offer apprenticeships, we nonetheless take our commitment to auditors’ career development and employability seriously.
Some of our auditors work for two years, others for months (average tenure is just under one year), but at the age of 20, most ‘retire’ because their apparent youth is vital to the credibility of our age-related audit services. On ‘retirement’, some transition into other audit services within the business such as sports media compliance and customer experience allergen auditing, and others progress into management positions. Some extend their education or go on to pursue successful careers elsewhere - we have lawyers, accountants and management consultants amongst our alumni. Auditors keep in touch, provide career updates and often seek opportunities to re-join the Serve Legal team.
The positive relationship we have with our auditors is mutually beneficial. They do an enjoyable, interesting job that fits around lifestyle, education or work commitments, and through which they develop confidence, independence and transferable skills to support future employability. We, the older, permanent members of staff, enjoy and benefit from the energy, tenacity and fresh thinking our auditors bring, not to mention the forcing of our hand to adopt ever advancing technologies.
During our 14 year history, 17,000+ teenagers have not only helped build a successful business but have contributed to a rise in compliance with the law by retailers all over the UK and Ireland. Without the audit programmes we deliver, I’m certain that harmful products would be more widely available to children. To Serve Legal auditors past, present and future, a heartfelt thank you.
To find out more about becoming a Serve Legal auditor, email: email@example.com or visit www.servelegal.co.uk/apply