For businesses with significant demand fluctuations, peak season is a critical time — the sales during this period can make or break your bottom line. Hiring seasonal employees is one effective way to cover increased staffing needs during this period.
If you're already relying on seasonal employees to help your company stay afloat during the busiest months of the year, execution is critical. Developing a plan beforehand can set you up for success, giving you an opportunity to leverage the additional workforce to achieve your business goals.
Here, we’ll outline our best practices for hiring and managing a seasonal workforce. But before we delve into this, let’s take some time to consider the advantages and disadvantages of hiring seasonal workers.
Advantages of seasonal workers:
- flexibility, letting you scale your workforce up or down based on need
- access to specialized skills
- less intensive hiring process
- more cost-effective than hiring permanent staff
- opportunities to ‘test out’ potential additions to the permanent roster
Disadvantages of seasonal workers:
- lower rates of engagement and loyalty
- limited time to train and onboard
- reduced retention and related knowledge loss
before peak season
Planning for seasonal work is a time-consuming process. For the best results, start well in advance of your peak season and follow these best practices:
Effective peak-season planning begins with data. Gather all the relevant information you can find from past years: sales data, performance reports, inventory levels and staff schedules. Then, pull up the demand and sales forecasts for your busy months. With this information, you can determine the capacity of your existing staff and estimate the additional labor requirements for the upcoming peak season.
As you look back on past years, consider records such as:
- overtime shifts
- employee sick days
- customer complaints
An increase in any of these categories may indicate a need for more seasonal employees. When your team is overworked, the higher stress levels can lead to increased callouts or conflicts on the floor. A larger seasonal staff helps you maintain manageable individual workloads.
understand labor regulations for hiring seasonal employees
Labor laws for seasonal employment vary based on local, state or province and national regulations. Therefore, it’s critical to have the advice of an experienced HR partner familiar with your industry and location. You’ll want to fully understand the following legal requirements before hiring seasonal workers:
- minimum wage
- benefits, including holiday or sick leave
- overtime rates
- allowable ages
In addition, many countries have legislation in place for foreign labor. One example in the United States is the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act which not only covers wages and benefits but housing and transportation. The European Union also promotes immigrant and foreign work to address skills shortages with country-specific work permits, including the EU Blue Card.
You can minimize your risk of legal complications by thoroughly reviewing and following all required labor laws regarding seasonal employees.
identify skill requirements for seasonal employees
Your organization requires a mix of workers’ skills to run efficiently. You likely have some roles that require highly technical knowledge and expertise and others that rely more on a good work ethic and life experience. When choosing the parameters for your seasonal employees, consider which skills are easier to find and can be quickly leveraged into a productive employee. Typical positions for seasonal employees include agricultural workers, customer service staff and warehouse pickers.
Likewise, you’ll want to consider what skills you should look for in permanent staff to complement your seasonal workers. These will most likely be specialty or leadership skills that provide the foundation for your business operations.
In certain situations, you may need to hire seasonal employees with advanced skills to help with a particular project. This is common in areas like construction or sports competitions. While the skill level requirements are reversed, the process is the same. Carefully consider what you need from your seasonal workers and then determine how they can integrate with your permanent staff to meet your goals
plan for training and onboarding seasonal employees
Once you have a clear idea of how many seasonal employees to hire and the positions they need to fill, it's time to think about training and onboarding. Use the existing training program for each role as a guide. Then, look for ways to streamline the process without compromising safety or productivity:
- complete paperwork digitally before the start date
- combine basic training with a facilities tour
- use on-the-job training to reduce classroom time and boost productivity
With a short training time, the most effective programs prioritize critical skills that employees need to work safely. To maximize value, review incident reports and error rates from past years; adjust the educational content accordingly to head off common problems. Finding the right topics and duration is a balancing act — in some cases, it's better to spend more money on training if it can prevent expensive or time-consuming mistakes and bottlenecks.
Don't be surprised to discover that certain roles are unsuitable for seasonal employees due to the extensive training demands. Jobs that require tricky compliance practices, dangerous equipment or vast institutional knowledge may be better filled with permanent employees.
hiring seasonal employees
Bringing in a large number of seasonal employees requires slightly different tactics than your traditional hiring process. You may not need quite as stringent a vetting process, and you're most likely looking for less specific skills or knowledge. You may also have access to a larger pool of available candidates, like foreign labor, returning retirees or younger workers. Given the global labor shortage, this added flexibility is most beneficial.
In a tight labor market, it takes more time to find satisfactory seasonal workers. Companies across the world are struggling to hire regardless of industry, location and unemployment rates. By starting earlier than usual, you can mitigate losses and get a jump on the competition.
Using your seasonal hiring strategy for direction, update the company website, job postings and print materials with the latest information. If your team will be attending career fairs to recruit workers, order brochures and signage. Meet with the HR staff and hiring team to review this year's strategy and brainstorm ideas. When everything is in order and the team is on the same page, the hiring process moves smoothly and efficiently.
use accurate job descriptions for what a seasonal job entails
Think back: When was the last time anyone refreshed the company's seasonal job descriptions? Many companies reuse the same text year after year — but if it's been too long, there's a good chance the posts don't reflect the current realities of the position.
A compelling job description is honest, accurate and brief. At a minimum, it's important to include the core responsibilities, salary and work location. Keep in mind that seasonal employees aren't necessarily looking for a career, so a long list of duties and requirements can feel overwhelming.
When you lay out exactly what job seekers can expect from a position, it enables them to make an informed decision about whether to apply. The candidates that self-select into the hiring process will do so with a clear understanding of the job, making them less likely to drop out before the offer stage.
reach out to former employees
Past employees are ideal candidates for seasonal work; because they already have a certain level of company knowledge, they can get up to speed with less training. Go through employment rosters from past years, and identify the people who might be interested in temporary work. Past seasonal workers are a good place to start, but you can also include people who worked on a part-time, full-time or temporary basis. Run the list by managers and the HR team, and eliminate anyone who departed on poor terms.
Once company leaders have approved the list, send out a mass email announcing your seasonal positions.
look for soft skills in seasonal job applicants
Seasonal hiring is always less rigid than traditional hiring, but when competition for talent is steep, you may need to be even more flexible than usual. The easiest way to adapt your existing strategy is to focus on soft skills, which are the intangible abilities that help candidates succeed. Most applicants can learn to operate machinery, but it's harder to train them in the attention to detail and time management skills that are critical for a safe, quality-focused production line.
Focusing on soft skills instead of specific qualifications provides access to a wider pool of job seekers: new graduates, career changers and people with transferable skills, just to name a few. When other employers ignore these groups in favor of people with technical abilities, it can reduce both competition and costs.
expand your reach
Make the most of a soft-skills-based hiring strategy by putting job descriptions in front of more people. When you're not seeking hard skills, there's no need to limit yourself to industry job boards and career fairs — branch out to new websites and locations. If the company offers housing for seasonal workers, make a point to attend recruiting events in other parts of the country. You can even apply for special visa programs to bring in seasonal workers from abroad.
If your busy season coincides with summer breaks or holiday weeks, recruit directly from community colleges and universities. Seasonal jobs provide extra income and resume-building experience that college students need.
work with an HR solutions partner
For some businesses, the seasonal workforce is three or four times bigger than the year-round staff. When this is the case, it makes sense to bring in an HR solutions partner. Outsourcing seasonal hiring ensures that you have an adequate workforce, all while leaving permanent employees free to focus on current projects and prepare operations for peak season.
At Randstad, we specialize in both permanent and flexible staffing. Contact us today to find out how we can help you meet seasonal hiring demands. We've also created a checklist to help you plan for peak season and hire seasonal employees.
read our guide to mastering peak season success.download the seasonal hiring checklist
seasonal hiring FAQ
how long can seasonal employees work?
The length of a seasonal contract depends on the labor code in your region. In the United States, the IRS defines a seasonal job as one that lasts for less than 12 months and recurs each year. In France, seasonal worker permits can last for up to 6 months in any consecutive 12 months.
do seasonal workers get holiday pay?
Some seasonal workers receive holiday pay, while others do not. If your country's laws require employees to receive paid holidays, you must provide it. In the United Kingdom, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that seasonal workers are entitled to the same holiday allowances as full-time staff. Otherwise, it depends on company policies and the terms of the contract.
do seasonal employees get overtime?
In some areas, seasonal employees are exempt from legal overtime compensation requirements. When overtime rules apply, many companies simply set workers' schedules to prevent excess hours.
can seasonal workers get unemployment?
Unemployment laws vary by location. Benefits can depend on the type of employer, duration of the contract, an employee's work history and the assurance of future seasonal employment.
do seasonal workers get health insurance?
As with other benefits, health insurance terms vary by location. The United States mandates employer-sponsored insurance based on company size and contract length. In countries with national health care systems, coverage typically depends on citizenship and contributions. For example, companies in Germany are required to provide private coverage for seasonal employees who don't have social insurance or another valid policy.