How To Handle Seasonal Employees When Business Slows

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Seasonal employees come in all flavors, says John Orr, SVP of Retail at Ceridian, a human capital management organization. Orr works closely with seasonal employees in the retail industry, but no matter what industry, it’s important for employers to think of the seasonal employee as a long-term investments.

“If treated like temporary seasonal employees, the time and nurturing extended to them will be limited and self-fulfilling,” says Orr. “Some will remain seasonal and possibly temporary, while others should be determined and viewed as groups to nurture and grow into the business for a longer term stay as career choice employees.”

Employers who use seasonal employees should try to find workers with lifestyles that match your business, says Marc Prosser, co-founder and managing partner of Fit Small Business, a site that provides reviews and articles for small business owners.

For instance, if you have a summer resort, try to hire high school or college kids who will be out for break.

“You want to hire people that you can bring back for multiple seasons, so you aren’t worried about constantly finding new workers,” says Prosser. “If you hire a high school senior, you may be able to bring them back for a few more seasons during the summer, granted they don’t go away for vacation.”

Let’s say your season isn’t the summer, then look for industries that correspond to yours. For example, movers are super busy during the summer time but not as much during the winter. Let’s say you have a snow plowing business, then you could speak to moving companies to see if any workers are available.

“Look for local businesses that have different busy seasons from you,” says Prosser. “They may be able to provide you with some referrals.”

When hiring temporary or seasonal help, because of the time spent training them, as well as the knowledge of the team, company culture and processes that happens throughout the assignment, it can certainly feel like a loss when a project ends, says Brandi Britton, Division Director for OfficeTeam, a leader in specialized administrative staffing.  

“Small business leaders can certainly benefit by using temporary help during especially busy periods, but find themselves not wanting to lose someone who is a good fit as a project draws to a close,” says Britton.

As a manager, if you want to keep a temporary worker around or want them back when business needs pick up, they should try the following three strategies, according to Britton:

  • Let the candidate know how much you appreciate them. When working with a temporary professional who also happens to be a good fit for your company, you don’t want to lose out on what they bring to the team. Make sure you’re meeting with them regularly and they know that they are adding value. Regular check-ins will help the feel like part of the team and even if you can’t extend their assignment, they may be more willing to come back when work picks up again in the future.
  • Evaluate the needs of your full-time staff. If you want to extend a temporary employee’s assignment, find out when your full-time team members last took personal time, this is a good opportunity to encourage them to take some time off. Seasonal workers can be integral in helping teams avoid burnout, and will help get them more integrated in your business.
  • Think about future plans. Take a look at long-term projects and plans, while you have a great temporary employee on hand. Use this time to assess whether or not there are any changes that may be made in terms of your organization or if there are projects coming up that could benefit from the help of your new temporary hire. Instead of losing out on someone who is a good fit, see where they can help with day-to-day business until projects pick up again.
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