HR and Recruiting

5 tips for managing seasonal employees

Written by Kate Lopaze

Every year, it seems like the holidays hit retail earlier and earlier—Christmas candy displays mingling with Halloween candy displays, emails reminding us that Black Friday is just around the corner. That means it’s really never too early to start planning around your holiday staffing needs. If you’ll be managing seasonal employees this year, here are some tips to get ahead on your holiday season staffing goals.

Recruit early

If you wait until the last minute, you’ll get … the employees who are still available at the last minute. There could be some diamonds in there, but if you really want to reach the best seasonal candidates, you need to get out ahead of the hiring rush. Before your busy season kicks in, get your job ads written, polished, and posted months ahead of time. It may seem like it’s too early to start planning ahead for the winter holidays, but experts say that starting that early can really get you access to the best candidate pool.

Starting early also gives you more flexibility in your hiring. You’ll have space to properly vet your candidates, find the applicants who will work best on your staff, and train them well. It also gives you time to weed out problematic seasonal employees before you’re in a desperate time crunch.

Treat your seasonal employees fairly

Take the time to review the pay and benefits your seasonal employees will be receiving. Will they be making minimum wage per your state or town’s regulations? Will they receive overtime if working more than 40 hours per week? Seasonal laborers may not be your standard full-time employees, but they’re also not indentured servants, so it’s important to make sure you’re giving them the same protections and baseline benefits as you’re giving to regular employees.

Treat seasonal employees the same as other employees

As someone who made ends meet in school by taking temporary jobs, I can assure you that it kills you a little inside when someone dismisses you as a temp, or somehow less-than because you’re not a permanent member of the team. Sure, we all know that the seasonal employees are there to do a job well, then move on. But creating an atmosphere where you have different classes of employees just sets you up for discord and discontent.

Try to avoid scheduling seasonal employees exclusively for unwanted shifts, or openly giving your regulars perks that aren’t available to seasonal employees. It’s important to make them feel like valued members of the team while they’re there.

Remember that you may not have to deal with these particular seasonal employees again, but you will likely be hiring some seasonal employees—and if word-of-mouth suggests you’re a lousy employer, it won’t help your organization in the future.

Make sure everyone knows the expectations

Seasonal employment can occasionally be a stepping stone to a more permanent gig, so it’s important for seasonal employees to know what they can expect from this role. If this is simply a time-based job with no expectation of permanent hire, make sure they’re aware of this—ideally during the hiring process, but at latest before you train them. If there is a chance of being hired on a more permanent basis, make sure they know what the likelihood of that is, and what the benchmarks will be.

Whenever possible, make it clear how long you expect the job to last by setting a start date and an end date. It may not always be possible to set the end date, but you should still be able to provide an approximate range. Having a lingering, open-ended job may scare off good candidates who can’t be available indefinitely, or who want to be able to make other plans after this job is done.

Keep a VIP list of seasonal employees

At the end of a season, it can be hard to say goodbye to great employees, even when circumstances dictate it. If there are seasonal employees you’d like to have back for future openings, make sure to let them know how much you thought of their work and that you’d like to keep them in mind in the future. Get their up-to-date contact information before they go. Make this outreach part of your early seasonal planning, to see if your rockstars from previous years are available and interested. And even if they’re not, they may be able to refer potential candidates, putting you ahead in the recruiting game.

Just like it’s apparently never too early for holiday cheer in the retail world, it can never hurt to start thinking about your own holiday season as early as possible. Long before the first bits of tinsel and sale ads start going up, the more effort you put into your seasonal recruitment and management plan, the cheerier things will be.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.