12 tips to make hiring seasonal employees a breeze

Hiring seasonal employees presents unique challenges. Trying to bulk hire and train new team members at your busiest time of the year can be even trickier than finding the right person for a full-time position.

You might be tempted to cut corners. After all, your seasonal employees are only there for a short time. But no matter how long they work for you, seasonal employees still represent your business. It doesn’t matter to customers whether they got bad service due to a temporary worker or not.

Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to set yourself up for success when bringing seasonal workers on board. Let us walk you through our top tips on how to do so with minimal stress.

What are seasonal employees?

Seasonal employees are people you hire to meet extra demand at specific times of the year, like summer break or the holiday season. They may perform the same duties as permanent staff, but their contracts only last for a few weeks or months.

Businesses that hire seasonal employees usually fall into two categories:

  • Seasonal industries: These are businesses that rely on a certain kind of weather to operate. For example, amusement parks, swimming pools, and outdoor sports centers are much busier in the warmer months. They may even close in winter. The reverse is true for ski resorts, winter equipment rental shops, and outdoor ice rinks, which have their high season in the winter and shut down as soon as spring arrives.
  • Businesses with busy periods: These businesses run all year round but experience extra sales around certain events or times of the year. For instance, fitness centers get more new members in spring when customers prepare for their summer holidays. Another example would be children’s clothing shops and stationery stores getting a rush of customers at the end of the summer before the school year starts.

How to find and hire seasonal employees

Here are some tips for making the seasonal hiring process smoother. There’s advice for every step of hiring and onboarding — and a few extra to help set you up for next year.

1. Plan for demand ahead of time

In the current tight labor market, it’s harder than ever to find qualified seasonal employees. That means you need to get ahead of the competition to build the best possible team for your business.

So, consider your business model, look at your internal data, and figure out which months are reliably your busiest. Are you a retailer who needs extra help to hire for the holiday season? Does your beachside restaurant get most of its customers in the summer months?

Once you’ve established your business’s peak months, start hiring as early as possible. This differs between industries, but it’s usually three or four months before your busy period begins. For example, start hiring in early September for the holiday season if you’re in the retail sector.

2. Use the right tools to help you with hiring

In the months leading up to your business’s peak season, you’ll also have to prepare yourself for the upcoming rush. There’s new inventory to go through, displays to install, and marketing campaigns to roll out. You may not have time to post ads on every job site, pore over resumes, and spend time going back and forth between your phone and your calendar to arrange interviews.

To avoid getting overwhelmed by dealing with the hiring and onboarding process in the middle of your business’s busiest months, streamline your workflow so you can work more effectively and get more done. For example:

  • Creating or using a template for job ads means you don’t have to write one for each individual listing site.
  • Keeping a file of your applicants means you’ll stay up to date with their progress.
  • Using an app that keeps all your employee and candidate information in one place with let you focus your attention and avoid you losing track of important data.

Hiring and onboarding software like Homebase can upload your job ad to all the major job listing sites like ZipRecruiter and Indeed. Then, you can keep track of all your applicants within our app so you don’t have to worry about forgetting or missing anything. This will leave you more time to focus on other essential tasks like interviewing candidates and creating schedules for new hires.

3. Target your search for job seekers

To speed up the hiring process, consider who will be looking for jobs when you’re recruiting. Then, you can tailor the way you promote your open seasonal positions to them.

For example, if you need to hire for the summer season, students and teachers will be your best resource for finding recurring seasonal employees as they’re likely to be job searching during the warmer months when they’re not working or studying. Target them by posting ads around schools and universities or popular other student hangouts.

If your busy season doesn’t fall in the summer, there are still plenty of other resources to consider. You just need to be more creative. For example, if you live in a colder area, you can target lifeguards and theme park employees for winter jobs. And if your business is located in a place where summer is year-round, chances are that there’s a local community of retirees that may want to supplement their income.

4. Be upfront in your job description

Writing a detailed, accurate job description can save you a lot of effort later in the hiring process. They help you catch hires that aren’t qualified or wouldn’t be the right fit for your business before you waste both of your time sitting down for an interview.

So in your job posting, be sure to include:

  • Keywords like ‘temporary,’ ‘full-time,’ and ‘seasonal’
  • The expected length of the contract
  • The expected weekly schedule or amount of working hours
  • The hourly rate you’re offering (can be a range depending on experience, like $20-30/hour)
  • Any essential and desirable skills

You should also be very clear about whether the role is recurring or has the possibility of extension. If some candidates can return the following year, you can give them preference. That means having to spend less time on next year’s hiring and onboarding process, too.

5. Get clarity on what kind of work seasonal employees are looking for

Where possible, give preference to candidates who indicate they’re happy with temporary work. They’ll be more likely to stick out the season with your business and be satisfied with their job.

On the other hand, candidates looking for permanent roles can be a risk. They may be excellent workers, but they’re more likely to leave you halfway through the season if they get another long-term job offer. Then you’ll have to start the hiring process all over again when you’re even busier.

However, some businesses might want to hire seasonal workers and leave the opportunity for additional work open-ended. This can happen when owners and managers think they might need more full-time employees after the busy season, but aren’t sure. In that case, you can discuss the situation with the employee in question after they’ve worked a couple of shifts and you feel sure they’d be a good fit for your team.

6. Screen applicants properly

Although seasonal workers are only temporary, they come with the same risks as permanent employees. Dishonest staff can do a lot of damage in a short period of time, so you need to screen temporary employees just like you would with any other hire.

Set yourself up for success by hiring from reliable sources. While you may get tons of applicants from walk-ins or job boards, employee, customer, and community referrals tend to be more dependable. A referred candidate isn’t only less risky, but probably already knows a little bit about your business. That means a faster onboarding process and therefore less of a burden on your labor costs.

7. Don’t neglect the onboarding process

You might be tempted to rush through the onboarding process for seasonal positions. But you need to onboard all new hires properly or you risk overwhelming them or their work not being up to par.

You can save time by tailoring your onboarding process for seasonal staff instead. Only teach them what they need to know for that time of year. For instance, restaurants could remove product information about summer deals like ice cream and salads from their onboarding process for winter hires.

Consider a software solution like Homebase to fully streamline the onboarding process. Homebase’s hiring and onboarding tool sends all new employees welcome packets and gets them to e-sign their contracts and new hire documentation.

Getting the onboarding process right also means keeping all your staff member documentation well organized. If you don’t, you could end up frustrated or even on the receiving end of a fine. For example, many seasonal workers are under the age of 18 and on school breaks. But the United States has strict labor laws that require employers to fill out extra documentation to hire minors legally. Homebase can help small businesses stay compliant by tracking and storing these kinds of forms and data.

8. Show your appreciation

Let your seasonal employees know you appreciate them just as you would with your permanent team members. They’ll work harder for your business and be more likely to return next season and it’s the right thing to do!

One popular way to show appreciation for seasonal employees is throwing a goodbye party at the end of your busy period. You can also let them know you’d be happy to serve as a reference for future employment, too. If you’re dealing with students who have limited experience, a strong reference will be invaluable.

9. Offer incentives

Building off appreciation, if you have a valuable seasonal employee, you can offer them incentives for coming back the following year. Extra pay is always a great motivator, whether it’s overtime pay or a raise. If your budget is tight, consider perks like discounts on your products and services instead.

However, no amount of money is going to make an employee stay at a seasonal job that has a toxic environment or poor culture, so don’t rely on financial incentives. Ensure you take care of all your employees’ needs if you want them to stick around or return next year.

10. Offer flexible scheduling

Everyone appreciates a job that has a bit of flexibility. This is particularly true of temporary employees who are probably working during their summer break or the holiday season. There’s a good chance they’ll want to schedule some time away with their families or days relaxing at the beach.

While you may be less inclined to be flexible with temporary workers, there are benefits to giving seasonal employees a degree of control over their schedules. It sends the message that you:

  • Understand they have lives outside of work
  • Trust them to ask for a reasonable amount of time off
  • Value their contributions to your business and want to reward them for their hard work

If you make it clear that you’re willing to cater to your seasonal employees’ needs, they’ll appreciate your consideration and be more likely to perform better and return the following year.

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. Scheduling tools like Homebase make it easy to create dynamic employee timetables that ensure no one’s time off conflicts.

11. Stay in touch

You may think you only need seasonal staff, but small businesses’ needs change quickly and often. Plus, you’ll likely require extra staff around the same time of year in the future.

Make potential future opportunities clear to your seasonal employees. It never hurts to remind them that if they do a good job, they’ll probably get a repeat job offer down the road. And for high school or college students with limited skills, standing seasonal job offers can be an exciting source of income and valuable work experience.

Keep the lines of communication open throughout the year and check in with seasonal staff occasionally. 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.

12. Ask great seasonal employees to return

As well as encouraging seasonal employees to come back, don’t forget to actually ask them once you’re ready to start hiring again. You can’t expect people to commit to your business the following year without a clear offer.

Plus, when your busy season is over, you can ask temporary employees if they’d be willing to work for you on an on-call basis. That brings us back to the previous point of staying in touch. You never know when one of your existing team members will need leave or time off, and you’ll find yourself needing someone to cover their shifts. That’s when you can reach out to past seasonal employees!

How streamlining your seasonal hiring process helps your business in the long run

Hiring seasonal workers is a tough business. Although you have to treat temporary employees the same as permanent ones, they have specific needs that make finding them and bringing them on board extra challenging.

With a platform like Homebase, you can automate a lot of the hiring and onboarding process. This frees up your time to focus on high-priority work, like choosing the right candidates and working through your to-do list before peak season begins.

Streamlining your hiring and onboarding process can also make hiring seasonal employees work for you rather than against you. Instead of being a chore, bringing in temporary hires can be a great opportunity to find new potential full-time employees and build a contact list for future years.

FAQs about hiring seasonal employees

homebase customer photo homebase customer photo

What are the benefits of hiring seasonal employees?

The main benefit of hiring seasonal employees is that you can adjust your labor costs to match your budget. And because it’s relatively simple to predict how busy you’ll be in the short term and at certain times of the year, you’ll only have to hire the exact amount of seasonal employees you need.

There’s also less risk attached to seasonal workers. If someone’s a bad fit for your business, you won’t have to worry about investing in their training or letting them go. You can just let them finish the season and move on.

How do you attract seasonal employees?

You can attract seasonal employees by using: 

  • Word of mouth
  • Job ads
  • Social media posts
  • A careers page on your website
  • Referrals from your customers, community, and current staff
  • Incentives for previous employees to return

A hiring and onboarding tool like Homebase can make it easy and hassle-free to find seasonal employees. For instance, you put together a job post by using a customizable template, instantly post it to top job boards like Indeed and ZipRecruiter, and manage the whole recruitment and interview process within the app. 

What is the disadvantage of seasonal employment?

The main disadvantage of seasonal employment is the difficulty associated with training temporary workers up to your regular standards. Because business owners hire seasonal employees during their busiest periods, they’re usually short on time and have to rush through things they usually wouldn’t.

Seasonal employees are also less likely to take their job seriously and perform their best as they know they won’t be around for the long term. Some of them may even quit before the end of their contract if they aren’t satisfied or get a better offer.

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