Seasonal employment defines more than 8% of the labor workforce, which translates to almost 700,000 people in the US. In most cases, retailers view the holiday shopping season, as an example, as their largest and most profitable part of the year. In fact, in many cases, it can stabilize a company’s bottom line for the entire year. Many employers need seasonal employees to help them right-size their workforce for these busy seasons throughout the year.
A big part of hiring seasonal employees is knowing where to recruit them. You should always consider using a job posting site like ZipRecruiter to help. It allows you to post jobs in minutes and share them to more than 100 other job sites with the click of a button. You’ll also get access to free job description templates, so you don’t have to create your own. Start posting your seasonal jobs for free today.
Planning Your Seasonal Workforce Needs
Whether or not you operate within an industry that typically requires seasonal workers, planning your workforce needs throughout the year is a critical part of any company’s strategy for success. It may be that your annual recruitment budget needs to allot for more money spent per hire in order to ramp up quickly and to capture the best talent out there.
Reviewing previous years’ sales performance is a helpful way to determine what this year’s sales or increased seasonal workload may look like. Also, having an offer letter ready that’s specifically for hiring seasonal employees can save you time.
When planning ahead for a seasonal workforce, keep the following best practice tips in mind:
1. Create a Clear Job Description With Highlighted Seasonal Roles
A clearly written job description that outlines what the role does and how its seasonal status relates to other types of employment at the company will help define its purpose.
Seasonal Related Language
Indeed recommends using “relevant keywords” such as “seasonal” and “temporary” or even the timeframe that the job will last for, just so that clarity is also shared with applicants.
Benefits and Perks
Most seasonal jobs do not have conventional healthcare benefits, but may have other perks like product discounts and holiday bonuses. Be upfront with what is and is not offered with the job.
Skills and Requirements
As with any job description, naming the purpose for the role, requirements for the job, and the type of work that will be done are all critical to a complete job description.
For example, if you are hiring seasonal employees to be school ski instructors for youth at a ski resort, qualifications may include PSIA/AASI ski or snowboard certification ratings, as well as the ability to stand for long periods and work at least 10 hour shifts.
2. Begin Seasonal Recruitment Early
Regardless of whether your busy season is in the summer, during the holidays, or when the snow hits at the ski resort, your company has competitors for these seasonal workers. Beginning early in “your” season is essential, as there is not always enough seasonal help to go around. In many cases, your competition will also be chasing down candidates in the same talent pool you are recruiting from.
3. Write a Compelling Recruitment Ad
Once again, the goal here is to attract the best talent you can get for your seasonal work. Your recruitment ad should be compelling and stand out from the other ads offering similar opportunities.
4. Use a Variety of Recruitment Methods to Target Seasonal Workers
Knowing where to find seasonal workers is part of the challenge. You do not usually find seasonal workers by only posting on general job sites like you might with full- or part-time, regular hires. Although you can find some seasonal-related employment ads, job seekers have to work a little harder to ensure that they are looking at “seasonal” jobs and not “regular” or longer-term jobs.
Quickly finding qualified seasonal employers will take a little more effort, as you will want to remove all of the potential candidates who are not looking for seasonal work. Who that leaves are candidates like college students (who desire to work only during certain times of the year), many who work within the agriculture industry, those who want retail jobs during the holidays, and so on.
We have found that there are specific resources to tap when looking for seasonal workers. They are not all the same, and they target different worker groups who have different goals, needs, and earning expectations.
Current Employee Referrals
When we talk about attracting new seasonal employees to your organization, employee referrals can really help. In many cases, your employees have acquaintances that would love some extra hours during the holidays or throughout the summer (as this is when students are also temporarily entering the workforce).
Mobile Platforms for Recruiting (Especially for Minors)
Seasonal workers, much like everyone else, utilize mobile platforms to locate job opportunities now more than ever, particularly minors. Much of the seasonal work is done by minors, and mobile devices are most commonly used with the “underage 18 crowd.” These folks are tech-savvy and primarily use mobile apps and mobile-optimized sites and platforms to connect with would-be employers.
College and University Job Boards
College or university job boards reach thousands of eyes. Job boards include all work types, but one of the largest categories found is seasonal work (of all kinds).
Big Box Companies’ Career Pages
If you are a “big box” employer (think larger chain brands, such as Home Depot, Target, Walmart, Costco, and so on), then your Career Page will be an important tool for you during your peak season. Many seasonal workers will know to check in with larger brands’ career pages to locate seasonal opportunities ahead of time.
Resources That Specialize in Seasonal Work Opportunities (Agriculture and Non-Agricultural)
We will offer two examples here. The first is CoolWorks.com, which is a resource where candidates can find you if your business relates to opportunities such as administrative jobs, educational jobs, jobs with fish, ranch jobs, and even jobs for teenagers who are looking for work experience.
The second resource is the seasonal landing page for job opportunities that the Department of Labor (DOL) maintains.
5. Develop a Seasonal Worker Pipeline
Believe it or not, many employers who hire seasonal workers each year can develop a worker pipeline. This generally means that many of the same employees return from season to season, making hiring seasonal workers easier and much more cost-effective. Not only are former employees easy to rehire, but they are already trained and understand their seasonal roles’ inner workings.
There are ways to court your seasonal workers who you would like to see return to the workplace during seasonal spikes. Here are some ways to entice your seasonal workforce so that they return again and again.
Treat Them With a Spirit of Value
Everyone wants to be treated well, and, indeed, employers should treat each employee with a spirit of value and appreciation. However, many seasonal workers are used to feeling disposable since their average time with a company is so brief. Be the employer that stands out—and they will return.
Offer “Season-Ending” Bonuses
There is not a worker alive today who does not get excited about bonuses. Seasonal employees work their tails off (or you would not have hired them), and they know that up to 20% of a retailer’s money can be made during the holidays. Offering a bonus of any size will be remembered, as everyone wants to share in the company’s success from the team’s hard work (this rule applies to all industries, whether you are managing an orchard, child care services, a construction company, a food service business, or holiday retail!). Everyone should receive a “thank you” so that their interest in returning increases (which pays dividends for the employer many times over whatever bonus you shared with your seasonal workers).
Check in Early
Do not wait until your busy season is about ready to take off to touch base with last year’s top-performing seasonal workers. If your harvesting season begins in mid-July, then by the beginning of June of that year, you should reach out to them to confirm their interest in returning.
Sweeten the deal with a slight pay increase from last year to entice them further. Letting them know that they are one of your first calls is flattering. If you want the top performers out there, you will need to authentically recruit many of them in ways that will result in them picking your seasonal employment over your competition’s.
Inquire About “Next Year”
Before the season ends, make an inquiry about next year. Do not wait until next year to “follow up” with your reliable, top performing seasonal team members. Let them know that you are impressed with their hard work and professionalism and that you’d love to see them again next season. Exchange contact information and thank them again for being so awesome.
Agree to Special Arrangements for Top Performers
If you have identified seasonal workers that you simply cannot live without, then when inviting them back, offer the best shifts or a slight raise for their returning experience. It is also not out of the question that seasonal workers are supervisors and lead workers, which can also be an attractive opportunity for them to return to your operation.
Perform Exit Interviews
As your seasonal workforce begins to peel off, conduct exit interviews with each team member. You can learn a lot about your staff, leadership, the company, and its customers by simply asking your workforce, seasonal or otherwise, their opinion. Opportunities for improvement will be discovered, we promise. Make improvements to your team and company-at-large that will invite your top-performing seasonal workforce back to you year after year.
Onboard Seasonal Workers (Quickly, Efficiently, and Simply)
Everything about your peak (or high) season is fast, frantic, and just crazy. Onboarding seasonal workers is rarely at the top of the list for employers who needed the help a week before the help actually showed up.
We want to suggest, however, that you develop a simple and easy to maintain program that onboards your seasonal workers quickly, efficiently, and simply. Here are the tips that we strongly recommend to make things go smoothly.
6. Develop a Job Description
As has been discussed, have a job description for each position your seasonal workers will work within. This helps them target success and the employer to fairly and consistently measure performance based on what the job description reads.
7. Make a New Hire Paperwork Checklist
As with anyone you bring on to payroll, ensure that you have the legal documentation before anyone begins the job. Here is a quick new hire checklist:
- A copy of the job description
- Form W-4
- Form I-9
- Confidentiality Agreement
- Payroll forms
- Offer letter of seasonal employment (which needs to specify the fact that this is seasonal employment generally not lasting longer than XX day/weeks/months)
- FCRA Summary of Rights and Disclosure/Criminal Background Check Authorization form
- Professional conduct policy
8. Set up Workers’ Compensation
Do not forget to adjust your workers’ compensation coverage to accommodate seasonal workers. At the very least, contact your agent and let your insurance carrier know the following information:
- How many seasonal workers you are hiring
- For how long you plan on employing these workers
- What their job functions will be (each job class has a workers’ compensation code)
- Their average pay rates
- What states they will be operating in
9. Classify Seasonal Workers and Their Overtime Eligibility
Ensuring that you are classifying your seasonal workers properly is every bit as important as classifying your regular employees properly. The DOL requires proper and accurate classification, seasonal or temporary or not. For example, as with all positions within your company, you do not want to classify a nonexempt seasonal position as exempt, which—among other things—generally precludes the employee within the role from earning overtime.
10. Establish Healthcare Benefits
Although most seasonal workers will not qualify for healthcare benefits, we thought we would mention this detail, since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has truly changed the landscape of employers’ responsibility to offer healthcare benefits to employees.
The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) helps us out here. For the purposes of determining if ACA coverage should be offered, it is helpful to understand what the ACA considered “seasonal employment.” The ACA and the IRS consider a “seasonal employee” as “an employee who is hired into a position for which the customary annual employment is six months or less and for which the period of employment begins each calendar year in approximately the same part of the year, such as summer or winter.”
Utilizing the most common tool of measurement to determine ACA eligibility, the 12-month look back, most seasonal employees who are working six months or less for the employer would, most likely, not have to be offered healthcare benefits coverage. In most circumstances, the employee would not average 30 hours or more per week during the 12-month period being measured (since the employee is not employed for six of those 12 months, the employee would have zero hours).
Child Labor Laws to Consider When Employing Minors
This section is more or less just a precautionary note. Many seasonal workers are actually underage, or minors, who are eligible to do most of the work that is offered through seasonal employment with some exceptions.
Employers need to know the dos and don’ts of hiring minors. Although this list does not cover all industries, such as some of the more detailed restrictions found in agriculture related jobs, the list helps us out in quickly understanding what we can and cannot do when employing minors.
Some, not all, of the rules you should keep in mind are:
- Minors aren’t allowed to work in hazardous jobs.
- Minors under 16 can only work three hours on a school day.
- Minors under 16 can’t work before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m. on a school day.
- Workers who are at least 18-years-old aren’t subject to labor laws.
Why Companies Use Seasonal Workers
Companies that can be referred to as “seasonal employers” generally require a flux of employee headcount throughout their year. The nature of their business demands that when seasonal work spikes, they are able to hire quickly and temporarily to cover the needs associated with the seasonal spike. When workers are no longer needed, they are let go of. This practice, in adjusting your workforce size, can result in savings for companies, including lower payroll and insurance costs.
Typically, seasonal workers are hired for a few months at a time (e.g., four months during the summer or two months during the holiday season). This planned fluctuation of employment results in lowered payroll costs, reduced insurance premiums for the business, and an overall reduction in liability for things like workers’ compensation and benefits.
There are other savings related to the utilization of augmenting seasonal employment with a company’s regular staffing practices. When hiring seasonal workers, seasonal employers generally offer lower pay rates, which must still meet minimum wage laws. Although this is not a recommended practice, it is, in fact, how some employers acquire quick labor for lower costs.
Many industries commonly utilize seasonal workers each year. Although they differ greatly in the type of work that is performed, the goal is the same—increase the workforce to meet the demands of the “busy season” and then, when the spike in work has dissipated, the company’s workforce is reduced again to its “regular” size.
Examples of industries that commonly utilize seasonal workers:
- Child care
- Personal care and services
- Food services
- General office/administrative
- Seafood processing
- Warehousing, transportation, utilities
- Federal government
- Ski resorts
- Summer camps
Seasonal workers can greatly enhance your ability to harvest and process product and staff for heavier workloads during your busiest time of year. Knowing how to find seasonal workers and how best to onboard them can give your company an advantage over your competition.
Start early, keep in contact with top seasonal talent, and make sure you have all your bases covered before putting people to work and you will make the most out of your busiest and most profitable time of year.