Hobson Associates

All You Need to Know About Hiring Seasonal Employees

Seasonal EmployeesAny season may be the season of your discontent -- if you don’t take care to source, hire and onboard seasonal workers who represent the best that your business has to offer.

Many pitfalls plague employers that must supplement their full-time staff for the summer, for tax season, or for any other portion of the year when business peaks. Most of these troubles stem from a failure of the company’s leadership to devote energy and resources to assembling an optimal seasonal workforce.

Are you willing to take a fresh look at your seasonal operations to see where you might improve your staffing? Consider these 10 approaches to fielding workers when the annual rush is on.

Assess your needs.

Do you need additional salespeople on the floor, part-timers to package and ship products, or employees who are willing to work weekends? Based on your past records, determine which areas you need the most help in before you begin your search.

Start early.

The longer you wait to begin your search for seasonal help, the more quality employees will sign on with your competitors. In fact, 60 percent of employers will begin looking for summer help in April.

If your seasonal staff is large, dedicate substantial resources to successful onboarding.

Giving seasonal employees the sink-or-swim test could hurt your bottom line at season’s end. “One of the most common mistakes is throwing seasonal hires on a sales floor with minimal training or onboarding, viewing them as a way to fill a schedule rather than as company representatives to serve your customers,” says Nels Wroe, partner and product director at SHL Group, a vendor of talent-assessment tools.

Take time to ensure that job descriptions for seasonal hires are accurate, complete and up-to-date.

“We have clients using job descriptions that are four or more years old,” says Wroe. Consider asking the author of the job description to spend a few hours shadowing an employee in the relevant position. Your customers won’t forgive poor service simply because it’s rendered by a seasonal worker.

Consider tools for high-volume hiring and screening.

If you’re hiring for hundreds or thousands of seasonal positions, you’ll probably benefit from talent-management systems. “Our candidates have doubled or tripled over the last few years, so we need tools to manage the flow,” says Kyle Martin, manager of talent acquisition at Vail Resorts Management Company in Broomfield, Colorado. Wroe says that with seasonal hires, “you have a very limited window to get a return on your hiring investment. Assessments let you select workers who will get up to speed more quickly.”

Hire for attitude as much as aptitude.

Most seasonal work is about being flexible and getting up to speed quickly, rather than bringing to bear an elaborate skill set. “All of our training is so in-depth -- we don’t necessarily need someone with experience,” says Lemcke. “We’re looking for dependable workers who emphasize safety and customer focus,” says Martin.

Don’t shortchange HR and related processes for seasonal employees.

You may be tempted to save short-term costs by bypassing some HR processes for seasonal employees. This can bring you trouble on many fronts, from fielding confused workers to running afoul of labor laws. So keep your seasonal workers on your regular HR platform, and disseminate systems and knowledge to branch offices that are hiring for the season. 

If you use staffing vendors, consider giving just one an exclusive for your seasonal hires.

Staffing agencies may be swamped filling the seasonal needs of many clients at once. If you promise one agency all your business, they may be more willing to go the extra mile to bring you the best seasonal workers.

Don’t assume that all your seasonal hires are just for the season.

Many of your seasonal workers will never be candidates for permanent positions, but some of them may be. Tag potential permanent hires early on, keep close tabs on their performance, and at the end of the season, evaluate their fitness for full-time employment.

Don’t neglect your end game.

Never assume that your workforce will remain intact through the season; it most likely won’t. “No matter how much we plan, we still have to hire some people toward the end of the season,” says Lemcke. Consider structuring compensation to reward seasonal workers for staying as long as you need them.