Dependable, competent seasonal employees are essential to business success. Any retail human resources department will tell you that qualified, reliable temporary workers who can reinforce peak seasonal needs lead to consistent bottom line growth. And being able to pull from a dedicated stable of personnel year in and year out makes for smooth transitions and fewer problems associated with hiring and training issues.
So how does retention work for seasonal positions that are, by definition, temporary? The solution lies in thinking year-round in your treatment of these positions. A long-term strategy of commitment with specific retention goals in mind is a must-have, so that temporary staff are kept in focus not just when they’re employed, but also during the off season. Your retention plan should focus on employee relations, competitive compensation and an open door for issues that arise. You should also focus on the end of their term of employment as well, with a positive exit experience and a plan to keep in communication with valued staff you’d like to see return in the future.
Here are the four “Cs” you should keep in mind when creating a seasonal employee retention strategy, so you can avoid the dreaded holiday shopping season “hangover”:
Give seasonal workers a well-defined expectation of the job up front, so there’s no confusion when it’s time to part ways. Let them know exactly what the job entails, the length of expected employment and compensation (rate of pay, bonus parameters, etc.) in the initial stage of hiring. It’s much easier to retain temporary workers season after season if they feel like they’re being dealt with in a straightforward manner, with no surprises or miscommunicated expectations.
Communication also means listening when seasonal employees have an issue or request. Far too often, temporary workers feel that it’s not their place to speak up as a permanent employee might. Encourage feedback from temps while on the job, as their expertise might lead to constructive changes going forward.
Be the business that seasonal employees will recommend to others when it comes time to staff up again in the future. Encourage temp workers to treat this like their position, as brief as it may be. Let them participate in the culture of your business environment, whether in potluck meals, office contests or other team building events that your permanent staff take part in. Foster a positive community intermingled with coworkers that seasonal personnel look forward to. The more they’re treated as a collaborative member of the company and not an excluded observer, the more likely they’ll want to be a part of the team the next time around.
This may seem like an obvious point, but it’s important to see how competitive you are in the compensation of seasonal employees in comparison with others in your field. Fair compensation is a great motivator for workers, so check with peers and competitors to make sure you’re paying for the right talent to come your way. Keeping equal or a little above in compensatory rates ensures the best talent will have one more reason to take a closer look at you. End of term bonuses and other incentives can also go a long way to not only motivate seasonal employees, but keep them wanting to come back year after year.
How you treat the end of a temporary employee’s term can make a big difference in whether they’ll want to return in the future. Show appreciation when letting them go; they’ll remember it. Individual exit interviews when possible bring a level of personal attention to the process, and can result in important feedback. Ask them about their experience. Get their sense of expectation versus outcome, improvements that can be made, and if they’d be willing to come back in the future. This valuable information isn’t only for their piece of mind and benefit, but yours as well. Employers should want to compile this information to assess how seasonal demands are met, and create a best practices summary going forward. Seasonal employee input should play an integral role in developing future process.
Cultivating seasonal employees also means keeping in touch with them in the off season. Let them know you have them in mind even when they aren’t currently on the payroll. Not only will it serve to foster goodwill, but it keeps you abreast of their availability.
The “holiday hangover” is something that can give your business a headache if you aren’t careful, but utilizing these tips when forming an action plan can prevent that headache. Focusing on the needs of seasonal employees year-round, and not just when they’re onsite, will make your annual temporary staffing demands a more successful, harmonious procedure.
Terri Helsel is Senior Manager of Human Resources at Paycor, a Human Capital Management provider for small and medium businesses. With 20 years of experience as an HR generalist spanning organizations of various size and industry, Helsel is an expert in employee relations, employee engagement and HR operations. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Services and a Master’s Degree in Labor and Employee Relations from the University of Cincinnati.