An effective, streamlined process for hiring and onboarding employees is essential to any organization’s success – especially those that rely on seasonal help. During peak periods – around the holidays, tax season or over the summer – it’s critical that businesses can easily manage the addition of temporary employees and quickly get them up to speed.
From recruiting and training to offboarding, seasonal employees can put your human resources (HR) processes to the test. Not only do you have to find and hire the right people, you have a very short time to train them and get them connected to your organization. Here, I’ve outlined a few ways to go above and beyond your normal onboarding process to get seasonal employees geared up and ready to go.
Employee Integration: The Heart of Onboarding
During the standard onboarding process, every employee should be integrated into the company on several levels – from connecting with company values and understanding job duties to knowing who to turn to for what. According to Forbes columnist and onboarding expert Emily Bennington, this process is equally critical for seasonal employees – particularly those who interface with customers.
"Your customers aren’t going to know who’s a seasonal helper, and who's not. Every employee needs to feel connected," Bennington says.
That’s why you cannot afford to rely on ad hoc or on-the-spot training to prepare people to represent your organization. You need a process that zeroes in on helping seasonal hires become part of the team quickly.
Because of the time constraints associated with onboarding seasonal workers, you’re going to need a concentrated game plan. The first step is to determine just how deeply integrated temporary employees need to be before they can contribute to your bottom line. How familiar with your products do they need to be to handle the register? How much do they need to know about your history or product line-up to offer good customer service? Take a look at your existing onboarding process, and then adjust and condense it so you can achieve your optimal level of integration.
5 Key Factors of a Strong Seasonal Workforce
When discussing onboarding strategies, some people may assume we’re only talking about training. But the fact is that the employee experience starts much earlier – in the recruiting stage. With this in mind, here are a few key strategies to help you throughout every phase of the process.
Tailor your recruiting strategies. First impressions have a lasting effect, and you’ll want to make the right one when sourcing candidates. Your recruiting efforts should be tailored to meet the specific needs of a seasonal workforce. Whether you are doing the hiring yourself or utilizing a third-party staffing firm, it’s important to make the details of the opportunity clear from the get-go. Make core responsibilities, approximate length of hire and typical schedules explicitly known. This will make it easier to focus on candidates with the right mindset and expectations required of seasonal help. I would also be wary of how you communicate potential for further employment, as you don’t want folks making assumptions.
Perform due diligence. To avoid costly mistakes resulting from labor or tax law violations, don’t skimp on due diligence in collecting legal papers and monitoring employees’ schedules.
“A lot of people short-circuit processes like verifying work eligibility or tracking hours correctly. It should go without saying, but you really need to be sure you’re following the law,” says John Rossheim, a senior contributing writer at Monster.com.
By streamlining your process of tracking and managing important forms and documents, you can better ensure compliance. You could even ditch the endless paper files altogether and move to a paperless solution – such as I-9 Comply.
Provide proper training. According to Bennington, every onboarding process should include conscious efforts to integrate new employees in three key areas – including technical skills, company culture and social interaction with other employees. When adapting this for seasonal onboarding, it’s important to understand how each area impacts your new hire:
- Technical Skills: To what depth of expertise do seasonal employees need to be trained to perform their jobs? And in what areas?
- Company Culture: How thoroughly do seasonal hires need to understand company policies and values?
- Social Integration: In what ways can you connect seasonal employees to your organization so they feel like they are part of the team?
Getting more specific, Rossheim suggests designing your seasonal workforce “to accomplish the task at hand, rather than haphazardly training everyone to do everything they may possibly have to do. Specialize rather than throwing everyone into the same bucket.” Both Bennington and Rossheim agree that online training courses offer a great solution for organizations. Although they both stressed the importance of interpersonal connection and mentoring as well.
Know your capacity upfront. Whether you have a general human resources management system, a fully functional talent management suite or a hodgepodge of spreadsheets and checklists – it’s important to know your capacity. Can your back-office system efficiently handle an increased volume in applicants and new hires? My advice: If you have any doubts, you should explore options for updating and enhancing your system. There are many tools and web-based software solutions available that can help you cost-effectively minimize bumps in the road when hiring and onboarding seasonal help. Applicant tracking systems in particular can greatly reduce the time spent on administrative tasks while recruiting new employees.
Make them part of the team. Seasonal employees can easily feel isolated if an onboarding program doesn’t successfully connect them to the organization. Target – one of the nation’s top three retailers – employs large numbers of seasonal help and has fine-tuned their onboarding strategy over the years. According to Eddie Baeb of Target Corportate Communications, each seasonal team member learns about Target’s mission, vision, values and culture, as well as the basics of on-the-job safety. Team members are then given an individually tailored learning plan for their role and paired up with a trainer to learn the ropes.
From day one, Baeb says, Target is focused on engaging seasonal employees and making them feel just as valued as anyone else.
In many cases, these hires become a regular part of the Target team – with nearly 40 percent (about 35,800) of seasonal team members joining as permanent employees last year after the holidays.
Offboarding Offers an Opportunity for Improvement
At the end of your busy season, you may have discovered a few star performers you’d like to bring onto your team permanently. That’s great! For the rest of your seasonal help, though, Bennington suggests “there’s definitely an opportunity to establish brand ambassadors.” In other words, the offboarding process provides you a chance to make a lasting positive impression, while gaining insight into the worker’s experience with your organization.
Standard offboarding practices include surveying workers on their experience. Did they feel they were equipped to succeed? Do they see any areas that need improvement? But Bennington suggests going beyond surveying, and having one-on-one exit interviews with select employees to get more candid responses. Not only are you showing interest in the employees’ thoughts and opinions, but you can also use this feedback to better your organization’s talent management processes down the road.
What challenges have you faced in hiring and onboarding workers for your peak periods? What tools or strategies have you had success with? Join the discussion, and let us know.
Feature image created by Lincolnian.