The holiday shopping season starts earlier and earlier every year. Many retailers start advertising holiday promotions as soon as temperatures drop below 80 degrees and some business owners hire seasonal employees for the holiday rush. According to a survey from CarrerBuilder.com, 43% of retailers bring in additional workers for the holidays. And 42% of those companies aim to bring those workers on full-time. But when you’re hiring for a temporary gig, how do you motivate these employees to stay on after the Christmas trees are taken down? Here are some tips to help your business retain your seasonal workers.
Kind of like the new kid who shows up to school halfway through the year, your seasonal employees might be looked down on by your permanent staff. That doesn’t mean that they’ll be shoved in trashcans and have “loser” spray-painted on their lockers, but, seasonal employees may be ostracized to some degree. Before your seasonal employees start, meet with your regular staff and make sure they know new people are to be treated as equals, and that any sort of disrespect will not be tolerated. Then ask them to keep an eye out for seasonal workers they think would make the best full-time staff. If they feel like part of the process, they’ll buy into it more. And they might even befriend some of your new employees. Also, make sure seasonal new-hires are trained just like your full-time employees, or your customer service will suffer. Will this take some time? Of course, it will, but holding a full-length, large-scale training for your seasonal staff will have them up to speed when they step out on the floor. The ultimate goal here is for your customers to have no idea who’s permanent, and who’s seasonal.
Those two are not mutually exclusive. The temptation is to slot in your seasonal employees wherever you need them, like floating wild card puzzle pieces who can just work anytime to fill your needs. That’ll burn them out faster than a 5-cent sparkler. Give your seasonal people a consistent schedule, but also understand that they’ve probably got other stuff going on. The more they like you, and know you can work with their schedules, the more likely they’ll be to seek full-time employment. So while you should give them regular shifts so they can plan accordingly, ask them when they can work and move people around when it’s necessary. Objectives and recognition are also keys to keeping your seasonal staff motivated. With no goals, many seasonal employees can lose focus and not feel like part of the big picture. So create a contest or a very clear, specific sales objective for the holidays, and even if they’re gone let them share in the reward. It’ll go a long way towards that first thing we talked about: making them feel part of the team.
Maybe giving them a Christmas card signed like a 7th-grade yearbook isn’t the best strategy to use, but you definitely need to let your seasonal employees know that you’re still interested in their services. First, because many seasonal employees are between 16-24 years old, you should utilize social media to stay in touch. This doesn’t mean Snapchatting them pictures of your lunch, but perhaps starting a Facebook group like “I Survived Working Winter at Irv’s Rib Shack” could keep your former employees in touch, and still thinking about being part of your team. They will complain about you, though. Just embrace it. Also, don’t be afraid to send a text or email from time to time checking in to see how they’re doing. Or invite them in for a meal if they’re in town. The graciousness of a free dinner is lost on few people, and if you show you’re an employer who cares employees will be interested in coming back. Obviously, giving more money to returning seasonal employees is going to encourage them to come back. But you might also look to give them more responsibility and more-impressive titles for a second go-round. And most importantly, always schedule exit interviews with seasonal workers. Even if they’re not coming back, sit them down at the end of their term and find out what worked and what didn’t. Ask relevant questions like what they liked about working at your company; what you could have done better; if they get enough training for the job; and what are their plans are for the future. But like that that summer fling from 1995 you still look back on fondly and smile, sometimes a great employee can only be yours for a short time. The best you can do is create the right work environment, make them feel valued, and maintain contact even after the peak holiday season is over. There are no guarantees, of course, but by following these tips, hopefully, you can turn a seasonal employee into a valuable, long-term member of your team.
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