Perhaps you own a retail establishment that sees heavy traffic around the holidays. Or maybe you manage a beachfront café whose business peaks throughout the summer. No matter the nature of your business, if you’re tasked with manning the ship during your busy season, you’re no doubt aware of the challenges that come with hiring seasonal staff.


The problem with seasonal employees is just that: They’re only in it for the short term. Whereas your regular employees risk losing their jobs if they slack off or grossly underperform. Your seasonal staff have far less to worry about—which means that you have far more to worry about. At a time when your business is at its busiest, you can’t afford to have lackluster help. So how do you motivate employees who come in knowing they’ll be out of a job in a few weeks’ to a few months’ time? Here are a few ideas. 


1. Incentives Programs


Just because seasonal folks aren’t in it for the long haul doesn’t mean they don’t want to make as much money as possible can while working for you. For starters, if your budget allows, try offering your workers a competitive wage. You don’t need to go overboard, but it should be enough to make them realize that they’ve landed a pretty decent gig.


Next, try implementing an incentives program that rewards your employees for a job well done. If you own a retail establishment, you might consider a weekly monetary bonus for the employee who gets the most upsales in the dressing room. Run a restaurant? Institute a program that offers a financial reward for the employee who receives the best feedback each week. (You can collect this information on comment or survey cards, or via online reviews on sites like Yelp.) The key is to give your seasonal staffers a real reason to perform their best—and nothing motivates people like cold hard cash.


2. Flexible Scheduling


Everyone loves flexibility on the job, and when you’re flexible with your employees, it sends the message that you value the work they put in. And while you may be less inclined to be flexible with seasonal staff, a little attitude change on your part might go a long way.


Imagine you’ve hired a couple of college kids to work at your establishment for the summer. There’s a good chance they dread coming to work and would rather spend their days relaxing at the beach. If you make it clear that you’re willing to cater to their needs, they’ll not only appreciate your consideration but quite possibly do a better job as a way of returning the favor. Of course, you should only be flexible within reason. There’s no sense in hiring someone who needs every third afternoon off. But with some advanced planning, you can map out a schedule that works well for both your long-term and short-term hires.


3. Building Ongoing Relationships


You may only require seasonal staff on a temporary basis right now, but that doesn’t mean your business needs won’t change in the future. Similarly, if your business is one that experiences a seasonal uptick, there’s a good chance you’ll have a need for extra staff around the same time next year, and the year after that. The best thing you can do is make this clear to your seasonal employees. It never hurts to remind them that if they do a good job, they’ll probably get a repeat opportunity to come back and work the following year. For a high school or college student with limited skills, it doesn’t get much better than a standing seasonal offer.


Remember, too, that some of your seasonal employees may actually be looking for full-time work. Even if you don’t have it available, it never hurts to hint at the possibility of longer-term employment provided they meet or, ideally, exceed your expectations.


Finally, don’t hesitate to remind your seasonal staff members that you’d be happy to serve as a reference for future employment—provided, of course, that they do a good enough job to warrant a glowing review. Again, if you’re dealing with students who have limited experience, a strong reference will be invaluable to them as they make the next step in their careers.


Keep A Positive Attitude

While you may not have particularly high hopes for the seasonal staff you employ, you’d be surprised at how much effort you’re able to eke out of them if you set the right stage for success. The key is to go into your busy season with a positive attitude rather than resign yourself to weeks of mediocre employee performance at best. You never know how hard your staffers might be willing to work in order to prove themselves, and the more encouraging you are, the more responsive and diligent they’re likely to be.