With the holidays here and year-end quickly approaching, many businesses will be looking to ramp up their workforce even more for the final holiday push. At least three key challenges exist for any business facing this need: (1) to figure out how much time and effort to invest in seasonal employees without sacrificing customer service and ongoing activities, (2) to motivate seasonal employees on the short-term goals, and (3) to utilize these opportunities to further your and their long-term needs and goals.
In this article, you'll learn five ways to ease the stress of getting seasonal employees on board and up to speed quickly. If you've already hired your employees, this article will help you make sure you've covered your bases. If you’ve yet to hire them, you still have some time left, but you'll need to be efficient and effective in getting them ready. Either way, following the strategies outlined in this article can help you prepare for a successful holiday season as well as for any high business season.
Often, many employers invest lots of time and effort in building their workforce for seasonal periods of high customer demands time yet not fully understand the specific reasons for hiring the extra help. So, what are the specific needs you have to have covered during this heightened business period? For instance, if it’s for a retail rush, what anticipated product or service demand would require a certain expertise. If it’s tax season, what type of competency needs to be reinforced for certain clients?
Now, a quick way to failure is having temporary employees lacking clear purpose and just sitting around on your payroll. So, first build a list of 3 to 5 items of expected, surging business needs for which you want your seasonal employees to take responsibility and action. Upon defining these expectations, clearly communicate them to your staff and use them as a basis for a more relevant training program.
Ideally, your communication would involve both regular and seasonal employees. The last thing you need is to have any of your regular employees second-guess loyalties or start dreaded rumor mills. Ensure each employee knows every person’s roles for the company as well as how to cross-support each other.
Knowing what your greatest demands may be during certain seasons will be your ultimate guide to knowing what’s most critical to train at that point. Expecting someone to absorb all knowledge about your business without much turnaround time is a waste of time. In essence, creating “specialists” allows seasonal employees to focus more deeply, manage related information updates more easily, and gain a greater sense of ownership. Let’s say you’re not quite sure on which top 3 things to train and develop; go and tap into your regular base of employees for ideas and suggestions. By doing so, you build rapport and valued involvement from your seasoned employees to help shape your seasonal employees (while thankfully alleviating some stress).
Assuming and assigning a seasonal employee to be a jack- / jill-of-all-trades for only a short time period is a very short track to customer disservice. Consider areas involving critical competencies, prime product knowledge, inventory management, maintenance / clean-up, administrative tasks, etc. Pinpoint a set of no more than 5 key tasks and duties designated for certain types of seasonal employees. Match the best people to take on a particular set. Then, establish and deploy your specialist teams. Just focus only on a few key, quickly learnable, and manageable items to get the seasonal employees up to speed.
Also, recognize and designate likely sensitive or complex situations (i.e. customer service, complaints, returns, etc.) that are better suited for your regular, experienced staff to address and handle effectively.
Seasonal employees can be quickly overlooked…and be quickly bored. They know their time grows short fast right from the get-go. Consider adding something extra to their likely self-motivation of extra income and temporary perks. Ideas some employers have adopted include making seasonal employees eligible to take part in special sales bonus incentives, inviting them to a company holiday party or appreciation lunch, and having them participate in certain staff meetings. Also, please remember the sincere “thank you” that really does go a long way.
You’re bringing seasonal employees on board to ensure you provide the best in service for your customers; mind as well practice internally what you preach. Besides, imagine the free advertisement you get from these highly-satisfied employees sharing their great testimonials about working for your company!
It’s easy to get caught up in a “disposable” mentality—disposable shavers, plastic utensils, etc. Some employers will simply see (and unfortunately treat) seasonal employees as…temporary things. Not only will they miss out on maximizing that great free word-of-mouth advertisement opportunity, many will miss out on another very little practiced strategy during times for seasonal employees—recruiting new talent.
While making the time to have individual “checkpoint” meetings with each one about the job and his or her performance, take the extra time for those standouts to understand how their next personal goals may be a valued part of your next business goals. True—some seasonal employees may simply be meant for the short-term. At the same time, keep aware and keep notes of those special few you’d really like to be a key part of your future success. If you can recruit a seasonal standout to become an on-going superstar employee, you’ve done a great service for your company.
Moreover, simply letting them know they are recognized and appreciated can be a huge boost of confidence in not only for themselves but also in how well they ultimately treat your business and your customers.
If you're hiring an employee, or think you might be soon, check out our comprehensive resource page, Employee Onboarding - A Complete Guide. This is a handy, tightly-packaged outline that presents all the critical hiring and onboarding elements in simple, chronological order.