5 ways to hire seasonal workers & keep them coming back

Does your business experience an upswing in sales during the holidays? Is your business strictly seasonal, only hiring seasonal employees during the winter or summer seasons? If you answered yes to either of these questions, this post is for you.

Hiring and recruiting talent for a year-round, full-time position can be challenging in its own right. Recruiting seasonal employees full or part-time employees often presents a whole other set of unique challenges.

They can range from young workers such as high school or college students making minimum wage to retirees looking for a hobby and extra cash. Their skill level will vary and they may require more training to get them up to speed with year-round employees.

Finding and training new staff year in and year out seems like a lot of time, effort, and money. Wouldn’t it be great if you could learn how to retain employees for seasonal work year after year?

Here’s what you need to know.

​​What is seasonal hiring?

Seasonal hiring is the recruiting, training, and hiring of a labor force to meet demand during specific times of the year. An example would be the holiday season, when stores have a higher demand for part time and full time employees to meet increasing customer expectations. Many new hires are not trained as well as regular staff so retaining the same hires from a previous year or season can add extremely valuable experience to your workforce.

How to successfully recruit seasonal employees

We’re not just talking about putting a job post up on a local community board posting an ad online. We’re talking about finding the right platforms to help your small business find reliable job seekers that can return year after year.

Take a step back and look at your business. What months are considered your high season? Are you a retailer who needs extra help during the holiday rush? Is your restaurant in a coastal community that’s jammed packed every day of the week during the summer but padlocks the doors during winter months?  Whatever your ‘high season’ is, find a business or industry with the opposite and leverage that as a recruiting platform.

If your busy season is during the summer, students and teachers are going to be your best resource for finding recurring seasonal employees. Their schedule is as consistent as it gets.

Somewhere between Memorial Day and the official summer solstice, college students return home and parents of high school students are nagging their children to be responsible, earn their keep, and find a job.

While some teachers may get paid over the summer or choose to teach summer school, there are many others that want to earn extra income through other means than their day job. For summer businesses, this creates the perfect storm for finding quality employees that have a high probability of returning to work next year.

If you’re a retailer or other type of business whose season doesn’t fall into the summer months, don’t worry, there’s still plenty of other ‘opposite industries’ for you to explore; you just need to be a little more creative.

If your business is located in a cold weather state or one that experiences seasons other than summer, lifeguards, and theme park employees are great groups to consider for seasonal employment. If your business operates in a state where summer is year-round, chances are there’s an awful lot of retiree snowbirds that take up residence during ‘winter’ that want to supplement their income.

Since you can only offer employment for a few months or weeks out of the year, finding people with an opposite schedule is going to greatly increase your chances of retention.

1. Screen seasonal employees properly

As noted by Monster.com, “the big months for hiring are January and February, and late September and October.” By beginning in late winter or early fall, you can ensure you get first dibs on talented candidates.

While you may get tons of applicants from walk-ins or job boards, employee and customer referrals tend to be more reliable. A referred candidate is not only has faster  onboarding, but also less of a burden on your labor costs.

Many stay-at-home Moms, retired seniors, and adults seek seasonal employment to supplement their income. “An experienced worker may be able to come in and mentor younger employees to help get them up to speed”, says Sharon Kropf of MGO Strategic Staffing. This means you can get someone with extensive work experience for an entry-level rate.

If a seasonal employee shows early promise, it is a good idea to monitor their performance and then gauge their availability for a higher commitment to the role. A great place to start gauging their interests is during the hiring process. Make a note in the job description or ask about it during the interview. Having a list of questions and a screening form will help you identify the right candidates.

2. Be appreciative of seasonal workers

This goes back to the golden rule of ‘treat others how you want to be treated.’ Treat your seasonal employees just like your year-round employees.

Make sure they receive the proper training and have the right tools to be successful at their job.

Let them know how greatly you appreciate them and all they do for your business during the busiest days of the year.

3. Offer incentives when hiring seasonal workers

Building off appreciation, if you have a valuable seasonal employee, don’t be afraid to offer them perks for coming back next year. A boost in the wallet is always a great incentive whether it is overtime pay or a raise. According to research, the leading reason employees stay or leave an organization is because of compensation. 

You can also offer incentives in other ways such as a discount on your products and services.

However, no amount of money is going to make an employee come back to a seasonal job that has a toxic environment or poor culture. Create a culture that is well organized, but yet fun and engaging. As an employer you want to be desirable; you want employees to want you. 

4. Offer flexible scheduling to employees

Everyone loves flexibility on the job. 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 temporary workers, 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 appreciate your consideration. And quite possibly they’ll do a better job to return 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.

5. Stay in touch with seasonal workers

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. If your business experiences a seasonal uptick, you’ll likely need extra staff around the same time next year.

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. 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 it’s not available, it never hurts to hint at the possibility of longer-term employment.

With a solution like Homebase, employees can download our app and easily stay in touch with each other during the off-season with our free messaging platform. Keep the lines of communication open throughout the year and check in periodically. It’s a great way for employees to feel appreciated (#2) and help build that desirable culture (#3). 

Don’t hesitate to remind your seasonal staff members that you’d be happy to serve as a reference for future employment. If you’re dealing with students who have limited experience, a strong reference will be invaluable to them.

6. Ask seasonal employees to return 

Last but not least, simply ask them. You’ll never get what you want if you don’t ask. Don’t let a good employee get away simply because you never asked them to stay.

While the season may be over, they may be willing to work for you on an on-call basis. Which brings us back the previous point of staying in touch. If a regular employee calls out or needs coverage, you can reach out to your seasonal employee.

Recruiting seasonal workers is a tough business. It takes money and resources to manage all the extra activity that goes along with it. Now that you know how to retain seasonal employees you’ll have more time and money to spend on other things.     

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