Seasonal hiring: 7 tips for successful onboarding

If you want to get the most out of seasonal hiring, you have to go beyond the basics. Successfully hiring great seasonal employees requires a well-written job post, a streamlined interview process, strong onboarding, and ongoing communication. If you get seasonal hiring right, you’ll find yourself with happy, invested employees, and a trusted talent pool for years to come. If you don’t, it can cost you time, money, and even your reputation. Homebase is here to make hiring and onboarding seasonal employees as simple as possible, and help your whole team grow and succeed. 

What is seasonal employment?

Seasonal employment is a temporary job with a set end date. Seasonal work is most commonly available at certain times of the year when employers require additional help. For example, retail stores may need extra hands during the holiday rush, a swimming pool will need to staff up during the warmer months, or a fitness center might get a rush of new customers in the new year.

Businesses that do seasonal hiring typically fall into two categories:

  • Seasonal industries: These businesses are only operational in a certain type of weather. When the weather’s warm, amusement parks, swimming pools, and ice cream shops are in full swing, but in the winter, they may close, or operate on severely reduced hours. In the winter, ski resorts, winter equipment rental shops, and outdoor ice rinks have their high season and usually shut down as soon as spring arrives.
  • Businesses with busy periods: These businesses operate all year round but need extra help with certain events or at certain times of the year. Think children’s clothing stores before school starts, a retailer hosting a pop-up, or a once-a-year conference that requires a lot of lead up time. The work is sporadic and occasionally unplanned, and can come on suddenly.

What is a seasonal job? According to the Affordable Care Act, the technical definition of seasonal employment is a position that lasts six months or less, and begins around the same time of year (such as summer or winter or the holidays). Seasonal employment can be full-time or part-time but is never a year-round job.

When should a business hire seasonal employees?

A business should hire seasonal employees whenever they need to beef up their workforce. This varies from industry to industry, so let’s look at some examples:

  • A beachside shop that only opens from June to September will need to hire cashiers for the summer season. They’re looking to hire summer students who are looking for work while school’s out. The seasonal hires know their contract is up when the shop closes in the fall.
  • A popular clothing store opens a pop-up location from October to January. They need sales staff and cashiers while the second location is open, but can’t spare any staff from their primary store. They’ll need to hire seasonal staff as long as the pop-up is open.
  • A restaurant on a ski hill is open year round, but reduces their hours in the warmer months. They’ll need to hire servers, hosts, and kitchen staff during peak ski season when they’re open all week. They’ll reduce their staff again when the ski season ends.

Whenever your business needs the extra help, it’s important to get started well before your busy season begins. For example, retail stores should start hiring in early September for the holiday season. 

What are the advantages of hiring seasonal employees?

Hiring seasonal employees can have many benefits for your business. It’s a flexible, cost-effective way to meet your needs when you’re extra busy, and you may just find yourself with a solid, regular talent pool. Here are five reasons to consider seasonal employees this year:

Temporary help, long-term opportunity

Seasonal employees are a huge help during busy times. And if you find the right person for the seasonal job, a temporary employee can become someone you hire every year, or even keep on during slower times. Seasonal employment allows you to try someone out for a few months and gauge if they’re right for your business before you invest in a permanent hire. This makes seasonal employees a great source of potential talent for growing businesses.

Diversify your team

When you hire a temporary employee, you have the opportunity to think creatively about your business. Hiring someone for seasonal work gives you the freedom and flexibility to try someone with a different background or perspective—like someone who’s just starting out in your industry, an international student, or a stay-at-home-parent instead of someone with a corporate background. Sometimes a fresh point of view is just what a small business needs. 

Fill temporary staff shortages

All businesses experience staff shortages, whether it’s the busy season or not. If a full-time employee goes on maternity leave or needs to take an extended period of time off, it doesn’t make sense to replace them with a long-term hire. Hiring a seasonal employee is a cost-effective way to fill a temporary vacancy and has a lot of benefits. Your temporary hire will gain valuable work experience and you gain an employee that understands your business. Ask them if they’re willing to work on an on-call basis or another type of schedule. You never know when you’ll need to cover a leave or a shift.  

Cost-effectiveness

It costs less to hire seasonal employees because you’re only paying for support when you need it. While seasonal employees are entitled to the same rights as part-time and full-time workers, they don’t stay on your payroll after your busy season is over. Seasonal workers are the best way to get extra help without breaking the bank. 

Flexibility 

With seasonal employees, you can easily adjust the size of your workforce to meet your needs during the busy season. Because seasonal employees don’t usually have the same expectations as your full-time staff, they may be better equipped to handle a fluctuating schedule or being asked to step in at the last minute. Imagine a busy college student trying to save money before school starts during the fall: they may be just the person to take on that last-minute shift so they get overtime hours (and overtime pay!).

What are the disadvantages of hiring seasonal employees?

With all the benefits of hiring seasonal employees, you might be ready to jump on the seasonal hiring bandwagon. Before you do, let’s consider some of the downsides of hiring seasonal workers and how that might affect your business.

Less motivation and commitment

Because seasonal workers are only at your business for a short amount of time, they may not be as invested as your full-time employees. While there are lots of excellent seasonal workers out there, seasonal hiring may result in less reliable, motivated, or committed employees. This is why it’s important to set clear expectations, have a great onboarding process, and create a work environment that’s worth investing in. It’s also smart to reach out to your best seasonal employees from previous seasons. Homebase can help you get the most of your seasonal employees with clear seasonal job postings, an automated onboarding process, and plenty of tools to keep your staff engaged.

Less training 

Training seasonal employees is usually less involved than training full-time staff. If seasonal employees don’t receive adequate training they may be unprepared, stressed, or unable to do their job properly. This may result in higher employee turnover rates. Tailor your training for your seasonal staff so you’re only teaching them what they know for their particular time of year, and 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.

Lack of loyalty

There’s less stopping seasonal employees from switching to a different seasonal job with better pay, benefits for employees, or a more flexible work schedule. You can’t control how loyal a seasonal employee is to your business, but you can take measures like offering competitive pay, flexible hours, and a culture that motivates all employees. Open communication is a great way to ensure employees stay in the loop and feel valued. Homebase’s free mobile app has a built-in messenger tool to make it easy to stay connected.

How to successfully hire seasonal employees

Hiring the best seasonal employees will put you on the right track to have a successful busy season. Even if you’re only hiring a handful of seasonal workers, you want to make sure you get the cream of the crop before they get hired by other companies. Here are four ways to successfully hire seasonal employees.

Plan ahead 

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. It’s important to look at your data and determine when you’re busiest. Once you’ve established your peak months, start your hiring process as soon as possible. As a general rule of thumb, you should start the hiring process 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. 

Did you know? You can integrate Homebase with your payroll, POS, and other tools. It’s the easiest way to automatically view your company’s data in one place, helping you determine things like your busy season.

Be specific in your job postings

Writing a detailed, accurate job description will save you a lot of effort later in the hiring process. A well-written job posting will help you weed out applicants that aren’t qualified or wouldn’t be the right fit for your business. You won’t waste your time or the potential employees’ time, in interviews.

An accurate job description must 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 skills

You should also specify if the role is recurring or has the possibility of extension. Many seasonal employees would love to come back the following year, which means less time spent on next season’s hiring and onboarding.

Think about who will be looking for seasonal jobs when you’re recruiting and tailor your job postings accordingly. 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 looking for work when school’s out. Busy season during the winter? 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, look to the local community of retirees that may want to supplement their income.

Homebase makes it easy to create stand-out job postings. In just a few clicks, you’ll have a tailored job posting and effective screening questions to help you find the best candidates. 

Not sure where to start? Choose from our library of pre-written job postings to increase your chances of attracting the strong talent you need to boost your business. 

Know the difference between a seasonal employee and seasonal worker, and classify them as such

To stay compliant, it’s important to know what kind of worker you’re hiring. If you don’t know the difference between a seasonal employee and a seasonal worker, you could wind up paying significant penalties. Here’s what you need to know:

What are seasonal employees? Seasonal employees are hired for six months or less and work the same time period each year. For example, cashiers hired in November and December during the holiday rush, or lifeguards that work for June, July, and August every summer. 

What are seasonal workers? Seasonal workers are employed less than four months, or 120 days of work, during the calendar year. They’re expected to leave when that timeframe is over. Freelancers or temps are the best examples of seasonal workers.

If you’re unsure about your city or state’s local laws, you should invest the time into researching your requirements so you can  easily stay in compliance with state, local, and federal labor laws. If you don’t have an HR pro on your team (and let’s face it, many small businesses don’t), work with software and professionals that can keep you on track. Homebase offers  versatile HR advice and products  to  help you classify your employees properly and help you follow the rules when it comes to pay, time off, and benefits.

Use the right tools to help you with hiring

In the months leading up to your business’s peak season, you’ll have your hands full. While it’s important to get seasonal hiring right, you likely won’t have a lot of extra time to post on multiple job sites, screen candidates, pore over resumes, and schedule interviews.  

To avoid getting overwhelmed with the hiring and onboarding process, streamline your workflow and use as many helpful tools as you can

You should consider: 

  • Creating a library of job posting templates so you don’t have to recreate them each year or for different job sites.
  • Making a list of screening questions to weed out applicants that won’t be a good fit. This will save you time when you’re ready to go through applications.
  • Using an app that keeps all your employee and candidate information in one place so you avoid  losing track of important data.

With hiring and onboarding software like Homebase, you can upload your job ad to all the major job listing sites simultaneously. Then, you can track all your applicants within our app so you don’t have to worry about forgetting or missing anything. You can even automate the onboarding process when you’ve found the right fit. Using smart tools to streamline your hiring and onboarding leaves you more time for important tasks like interviewing and scheduling.

Get referrals 

Asking your employees to refer their hard-working friends and family members is the best way to find great seasonal employees. Employee referrals come with an added layer of trust because your employees are only likely to refer people they know will do an excellent job. We recommend offering a small referral bonus to encourage your employees to refer people they know. You get happy employees and a high-quality pool of new, vetted candidates. We call that a win-win.

Not sure about bonuses? Homebase can help you put a proper bonus payroll system in place. This will help you ensure you’re staying compliant, keeping your employees aware of taxes, and helping boost your team’s morale.

Why is it important to onboard seasonal employees?

Hiring great employees is already tough and keeping them is even harder. A good onboarding process is key to retaining employees, but companies tend to spend very little time on this part of the hiring process. With up to 20% of staff turnover occurring within the first 45 days of employment, a standardized onboarding process is essential. 

Here are 5 reasons to invest in onboarding your seasonal employees.

1. Better onboarding means better performance

You may feel like seasonal jobs aren’t worth the investment, but your temporary employees need to be just as capable and confident as your full-time staff if they’re going to meet your needs. Proper employee onboarding plays an important role in helping your staff excel. In a well-known study for Glassdoor by the Brandon Hall Group, researchers found that a strong onboarding process improved new hire retention by 82%. It was also found that strong onboarding improved the productivity of new hires by over 70%. Productive new hires save you time and money, and they’re typically happier, too.

2. A short-term hire can still have a long-term impact

Seasonal employees may be short-term hires, but they can still have a long-term impact. Poor service or a bad experience will cost your company big time. According to the Customer Service Barometer, one third of Americans will consider switching companies after a single bad experience. That one bad experience can translate into serious revenue loss for your company over time, especially given that Americans tell an average of 15 people when they’ve had a poor experience. The stakes are high for getting service right and strong seasonal onboarding can make all the difference. A great customer experience is your most powerful weapon against reputation damage and revenue loss.  

3. You can stand out as an employer of choice

In the current tight labor market, it’s harder than ever to find qualified seasonal employees. That means you need to be an employer that seasonal employees get excited about. Properly onboarding your seasonal workers is critical to creating a work environment that employees love. If it’s done right, onboarding gets new employees invested in your culture, introduces them to staff at all levels, fosters open communication, and makes them feel like a part of the team. Strong seasonal onboarding helps you create a reputation as a company that values its employees and puts you ahead of the competition in hiring season.

4. You can build a trusted talent pool 

Short-term workers can be a long-term asset if you invest in them from the start. It’s one of the many reasons proper onboarding is important. If you foster a positive relationship with your seasonal employees from the outset, you’ll be first on the list for the next hiring season or when you have a permanent need. And who better to fill seasonal or permanent roles than someone who knows your business, your culture, your practices, and your people? Easy recruiting starts with fantastic onboarding. 

5. You’ll save yourself time and money 

If you get your onboarding right, you could be looking at a long-term pool of potential hires that know your business. Get it wrong and you’ll be starting from scratch before every busy season. Having to re-train new employees every year is costly. Not only does it take time to recruit, interview, and onboard new people, according to recent data, it costs an average $1,678 to train one employee. On the flip side, companies that invest in proper training and onboarding may see as much as a 24% increase in their profit margins. So while onboarding is an initial upfront investment, it will save you time and money in the long run.

How to effectively onboard seasonal employees

The key to onboarding new hires effectively is streamlining as much of the process as possible. That way, you can focus your energy on welcoming your new staff, making training effective, and getting them acquainted with your business—not sitting under a pile of paperwork. Here are 7 ways to effectively onboard your seasonal employees.

1. Be prepared

After you make an awesome hire, you’ll need to get their paperwork in order before they start working. Homebase’s onboarding program gets the ball rolling before your new employee’s start date, and manages onboarding paperwork so you don’t have to. With everything organized before the job starts, you’ll have more time for the other important aspects of onboarding: training, introducing the team, giving feedback, and more.

2. Have an established training process

While a lot of employees prefer to learn on the job, formal training is still an important part of the onboarding process. Sitting and listening without any hands-on learning isn’t ideal, so the best training programs should strike the right balance between the classroom and learning by doing. The best way to develop a training program that works is by talking to your current employees. What did they wish they’d known then they started? What did they like and dislike about their training? Our team communication app makes it easy to get feedback from your employees and store it all in one place.

Once you’ve chosen your core training goals, you can create a schedule and any materials you need. It’s important to share these with your new hires ahead of time so they know what to expect. Send your training materials quickly and easily with our onboarding tool.

3. Introduce your culture

Employees are much less willing to accept a less-than-stellar workplace culture even if they’re paid well. If you want to attract and keep excellent employees, you must create and maintain a positive company culture—and an employee’s first introduction to your culture is during onboarding. So, how do you get off on the right foot with your seasonal employees, give them the training they need, and also make them feel warmly welcomed?

You can do this by infusing your company culture into every step of the onboarding process.

  • Introduce your team. It’s important that employees feel comfortable around coworkers as fast as possible and that your new hire feels welcome.
  • Send new employee announcements, welcoming each new starter to the company 
  • Give public recognition or have a celebration when an employee goes above and beyond 
  • Offer rewards or incentives and being clear about how and why they’re given
  • Provide employees with an easy way to reach out to other employees, including management, like a messaging app—not everyone’s comfortable asking questions in person right away. Plus, employees don’t have to share their personal information when they use a messaging app, which is better for privacy.
  • Give regular feedback during the process and making it easy for employees to share their thoughts
  • Have a clearly defined mission, vision, and values, and include it in your employee handbook

4. Foster open, two-way communication

Your seasonal employees are coming into an unfamiliar environment where they’re surrounded by longer-term team members. It’s easy to feel a little disconnected and unsure. One of the easiest ways to make your staff feel included from the get go is with an employee communication app.  A good communication app helps you foster a collaborative culture and creates transparency, which helps employees feel like they can communicate freely. The Homebase team communications app is packed with features that bridge the gap between you and your employees. Look for communication tips and tools like individual and group messaging, automatic notifications about shifts, or schedule changes, file sharing, real-time feedback, and shout outs when someone’s doing a good job. 

5. Get everyone on board with onboarding

Onboarding is more than just filling out the appropriate forms, it’s the process of helping new hires become confident in their job, integrated into the team, and excited to represent your company. One of the most effective ways to really integrate a new employee is to get everyone at your organization involved in the onboarding process. Not only does it spread the responsibility for the task more evenly, it’s an opportunity to solidify company values with your full-time staff and help them feel invested.

You can involve your team with onboarding in a few ways:

  • Get the people who know the content best to present during training. For example, if you’re hiring sales staff for the holiday season, have your current sales people teach your new hires the ins and outs. Not only will they get expert knowledge, it’s an opportunity for new hires to meet employees from all over your company.
  • Create a buddy system for new hires. In addition to a new job, new hires are getting used to an unfamiliar environment. By assigning every new hire a buddy, they have someone to ask about the coffee machine, someone to invite them out for lunch, someone to give an office tour, and a designated person to reach out to with day-to-day questions.
  • Don’t forget the owner. Even if your new hire won’t get to interact with you on a regular basis, they should have the opportunity to meet you, introduce themselves, and ask questions. Owners that invest in and listen to all their staff members—whether they’re permanent or not—tend to have happier, more engaged teams.

6. Make sure you’re compliant

While it’s less fun than team lunches or showing a new hire the ropes, keeping your new hire documentation organized is critical. If you don’t get the paperwork right or can’t find important information when you need it, new staff are likely to get frustrated. Worse, you could end up on the receiving end of a fine. The United States has strict labor laws, especially when it comes to seasonal hiring. For example, many seasonal workers are under the age of 18 and on school breaks. This requires extra documentation to hire minors legally. Homebase can help small businesses stay compliant by tracking and storing these kinds of forms and data.

7. Offer—and ask for—feedback

Your new hire will rely on you for regular, honest feedback during the onboarding process. However, spontaneous feedback can be overwhelming or anxiety-inducing, so it’s best to go with a structured feedback process. Structured feedback looks like:

  • A scheduled in-person review session at the end of each week. Both of you will have the opportunity to contribute.
  • Using your team communication app to send notes and encouragement at the end of each day. Bonus: your new hire will get to learn about how your team communicates.
  • A larger review session with a direct manager or the owner to discuss achievements, areas of improvement, and goals for the coming weeks.

Remember to ask for feedback, too! Your new hire will have valuable input and can

help make improvements to the onboarding process and other areas of the company as well.

Get the most out of your seasonal employees with Homebase

Finding the right people, getting their paperwork in order, organizing training, and staying compliant have to be done when you’re growing your team, but they can be time consuming. As an all-in-one team management and team communication tool, Homebase helps you stay organized and automate as much as possible  when it comes to scheduling, time clocks, and payroll. This leaves you more time to focus on employee happiness, showcasing your culture, and making your new hires feel welcome—an equally important part of the onboarding process.

And, with Homebase’s hiring and onboarding process systems, you can streamline employee communication easily from day one, turning their first day into the first of many more. 

Good organization, authenticity, and open communication are central to helping employees feel excited about your company. And as we’ve learned, happier employees stay longer and work more productively. From hiring to onboarding, scheduling to team communication, and making seasonal employees feel valued, Homebase can help the whole team grow and succeed.

Hire and onboard with ease

Is your business struggling with seasonal hiring and onboarding? Homebase can help. Our modern tools make it easy to manage scheduling, time clocks, payroll, team communication, hiring, onboarding, compliance, and more. Get started for free.

Seasonal hiring FAQS

What is seasonal employment?

Seasonal employment is a temporary job with a set end date. Seasonal employment is available at certain times of the year when employers require additional help. Businesses that hire seasonal employees typically fall into two categories: seasonal industries and businesses with busy periods. A seasonal industry may be a swimming pool that’s only open in the summer months, and a business with a busy period could be a clothing store that has a rush in November and December.

When should a business hire seasonal employees?

A business should hire seasonal employees when their full-time employees can’t meet the demands of a busy period or whenever they need to beef up their workforce. Busy periods range from industry to industry, so here are some examples:

  • A  beachside shop that’s open more in the warmer months should hire extra cashiers for their busy period.
  • A restaurant on a ski hill would hire seasonal servers during peak ski season.
  • A bookstore may hire seasonal stock staff or floor employees in the holiday gifting rush.

What are the pros and cons of hiring seasonal employees?

Hiring seasonal employees has pros and cons. Seasonal employees can have many benefits for your business. It’s a flexible, cost-effective way to meet your needs when you’re extra busy, and chances are, you’ll build a strong, reliable talent pool to fill seasonal and even permanent positions.

There are downsides to hiring seasonal employees, too. Short-term hires may not be as committed as your long term staff, they may receive less training than full-time staff, and they may have less loyalty to your company because they have a predetermined end date. You can avoid many of the potential pitfalls of hiring seasonal employees with the help of Homebase’s hiring and onboarding tools.

How do you hire the right seasonal employees?

Hiring the right seasonal employees can make or break your busy season. There are a few things you can do to make sure you find the right fit:

  • Give yourself plenty of lead time. Hiring competition is fierce for seasonal employees and it helps to get ahead of other businesses.
  • Be specific in your job postings. Writing a detailed, accurate job description will save you a lot of effort later in the hiring process and will help you weed out applicants that aren’t qualified.
  • Use tools to streamline your hiring process. Homebase can help you by posting to multiple job boards at once, creating helpful screening questions, and tracking applications in one place.
  • Get referrals from your friends, family, and current employees. There’s a much higher chance of finding a hardworking team member you can trust.

Why should you invest in onboarding seasonal employees?

When you put so much time, energy, and money into finding seasonal employees, you should put as much effort into making sure they stay—even if they’re only temporary. A strong onboarding process helps employees stay longer, improves happiness and productivity, and reduces the chance of your customers having a bad experience. A short-term hire can still have a long-term impact. 

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