10 tips to hire, retain seasonal workers

With the holidays approaching, competition for temporary help is heating up
By Leandra Harris
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 10/25/2011

As the holiday season quickly approaches, employers that need seasonal help will face a dilemma — recruiting seasonal help. Hiring seasonal workers is a great solution when business picks up but full-time hires aren’t practical.

However, employers need to hire well and seasonal employees come with their own set of challenges. And with many other companies in search of additional staff as well, the competition is fierce.

Preparing a seasonal staff shouldn’t take precedence only during the holiday months — recruiting top-notch seasonal help takes year-round effort.

Here are 10 tips on how to hire — and retain — the best seasonal employees:

Start recruiting early: Begin the search early to make sure there is enough time to train and orient new hires before the busy season begins. Companies should start screening applicants early in order to gauge how well a person fits in with a team and environment.

Getting a jump on recruiting also provides a larger applicant pool to choose from — before other employers have had their pick of people in search of seasonal work.

Rely on the familiar: Once an employer finds good temporary employees, it will want to rehire them. So, for the upcoming season, it makes a lot of sense to contact temporary employees who have worked out well with the company in the past. They might like to work again this year or could recommend reliable replacements.

Ask for referrals: Referrals are an inexpensive way to find high-quality candidates since employees typically refer those they believe to be capable and they may know someone who is looking for temporary work but is not necessarily searching the job boards. Consider offering a referral bonus to encourage staff to recommend qualified candidates.

Cast a wide net: It’s important to target a variety of applicants, regardless of the position. Target students who are looking to earn extra money in their free time or retirees who have some spare time. Seniors come with maturity and work experience already under their belts so they should easily transition into the new roles.

To attract these niche candidates, consider advertising at school campuses, libraries, recreation centres and career fairs.

Be picky – find the right fit: Most people perform better at a company when they are a good fit. Look for people who have the capacity to engage with clients and the ability to complete the work and fit in with the corporate culture. The money and time spent in matching the right people to the right job will pay dividends in the long run.

Train: Every time a temp starts a new work assignment — no matter how skilled or unskilled — a certain amount of training is required for her to perform the assigned tasks to suit the specific needs of that company.

Be sure to spend time orienting temporary workers as you would other employees so they understand the business, get up to speed quickly and are successful in the role — regardless of the anticipated length of employment.

Scheduling: Treat new workers with respect, giving them stable working conditions and regular hours. Provide clear expectations. Let them know when they will begin and end their shifts, breaks and lunch. That way, everyone will be on the same page.

Motivate: Some employees look at seasonal employment as temporary, making it difficult for employers to motivate them. There are, however, a few things you can do to keep seasonal employees productive and motivated.

For one, announce their arrival and introduce them to current staff. Secondly, initiate a buddy system so new hires have someone to talk to if they have questions or encounter problems. And provide new hires with information to read, offer a tour of the facility or
invite them to meetings.

Provide incentives: Make it worth a seasonal employee’s effort to stay the course. Provide incentives such as competitive wages, discounts or bonuses for higher sales or people who stay until the end of the season.

Think about future needs: Seasonal work situations provide a good opportunity to test drive employees before you commit. When staff members are hired on a temporary basis, it allows an employer to evaluate their skills and work habits. If you have had some exceptional workers during the busy time of year, consider asking them if they’re interested in full-time employment.

Reliable seasonal workers are hard to find — once an employer finds them, it should want them coming back. With a little bit of planning, attention to detail and good judgment, an organization can create a rewarding experience for the business and the workers.

Leandra Harris is executive vice-president of human resources at Randstad Canada. For more information, visit www.randstad.ca.

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