With the holidays here and year-end quickly approaching, many businesses will be looking to ramp up their workforce even more for a final holiday push. At least three key challenges exist for any business facing this need:
- Figuring out how much time and effort to invest in seasonal employees without sacrificing customer service and ongoing activities.
- Motivating seasonal employees to achieve the company’s short-term goals.
- Utilizing these opportunities to further your (and their!) long-term needs and goals.
Read on for five questions to answer to ease the stress of getting seasonal employees on board and up-to-speed quickly. If you’ve already hired your employees, these questions will help you make sure you’ve covered your bases. If you’ve yet to hire them, you still have some time left. However, you’ll need to be efficient and effective in getting them ready. Either way, following the strategies below can help you prepare for a successful holiday season as well as for any high business season.
What’s your reason to hire this season?
Often, employers invest lots of time and effort in building their workforce for seasonal periods of high customer demand, yet don’t fully understand their reasons for hiring the extra help. So, what are your specific needs to be covered during this busier period? For instance, if it’s for a retail rush, what anticipated product or service demand would require specific expertise? If it’s tax season, what type of competency needs to be reinforced for certain clients?
Remember, a quick path to failure is hiring temporary employees who lack a clear purpose and are just sitting around on your payroll. To prevent this, 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 the basis for your 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-guessing their loyalties or starting rumor mills. Ensure each employee knows each person’s role in the company and how to cross-support one other.
What are your top 3 training items?
Knowing what your greatest demands are during busy seasons will be your ultimate guide in identifying the items that are most critical for you to train on. Expecting your new hires to absorb everything 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. What if you’re not quite sure of which top 3 things to train and develop? Then go and ask 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 and have a chance to alleviate some of their stress.
Which seasonal employees are best suited for each role?
Expecting and assigning a seasonal employee to be a jack- / jill-of-all-trades is a very short track to customer disservice. Instead, 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 each type of seasonal employees. Next, match these roles with the best people to take on each particular set of duties. Finally, establish and deploy your specialist teams.
The trick is to only focus 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 or managers to address and handle effectively.
How will you motivate to keep the team in shape?
Seasonal employees can be easily overlooked…and easily become bored. They know their time with you is temporary from the get-go. To give them more of an incentive to work hard, consider adding something extra like additional income opportunities or temporary perks. For example, some employers have come up with ideas like:
- Allowing seasonal employees to take part in special sales bonus incentives.
- Inviting them to a company holiday party or appreciation lunch.
- Have the seasonal hires participate in certain staff meetings.
And don’t forget that a sincere “thank you” really does go a long way! You’re bringing seasonal employees on board to ensure you provide the best service for your customers. Might as well practice what you preach, right? Besides, imagine the free advertisement you’ll get from these highly-satisfied employees sharing their testimonials from working for your company!
Who are your next superstars?
It’s easy to get caught up in a “disposable” mentality. After all, we’re surrounded by disposable things every day. (Disposable shavers, plastic utensils, etc.) Unfortunately, some employers will also see (and unfortunately treat) seasonal employees as “temporary things.” Not only will this prevent them from maximizing that great free advertising opportunity, but it will also cause many employers to miss out on another important strategy during this time: recruiting new talent.
Make time to have individual check-ins with each seasonal hire about their job and performance. During these sessions, take a little extra time for your most promising hires to discuss how their next personal goals could be a valued part of your next business goals. True, not all seasonal employees will stay past the holidays. However, don’t overlook those special few you’d really like to see be a part of your future success.
If you can recruit a seasonal standout to become an ongoing superstar employee, you’ve done a great service for your company. Plus, just letting them know that they’re recognized and appreciated can be a huge boost of confidence. This not only will make them feel good but will also translate into how they treat your business and your customers.
What do you think?
It is extremely important to clearly define your short-term business needs and steps for seasonal employees. By doing this, you gain in being better able to provide quality customer service, to offer helpful stress relief during these times for your staff and yourself, and can see how else your business may be successfully shaped for the long run with your new talent resources.