Three ways to strengthen your seasonal worker strategy in 2020

Three ways to strengthen your seasonal worker strategy in 2020

 by Jan Schwarz

Well, here we are. 2020 is well and truly upon us. 

With the mayhem of the festive period now behind us, I’m going to wager that your strategy for engaging seasonal workers is quite possibly the last thing you want to think about right now. But bear with me, because challenging how your organisation makes the most of seasonal hires is one resolution that’s well worth keeping.

We might have entered a new decade, but many organisations still face the old challenge of needing to hire vital, seasonal contract workers to keep things moving over the holidays–but also finding a way to integrate them more effectively into the business.

The UK’s economy depends on seasonal workers–and not just Christmas period hires to keep supermarket shelves stocked and to get those last-minute gifts delivered to our door. In fact, according to the latest Labour Force Survey data, approximately 86,000 seasonal workers are employed across the UK at any one time.

This booming seasonal labour force comes at a cost. Rapid turnover, employee disengagement and lost productivity already cost UK businesses just shy of £500 billion each year. The impact is keenly felt in industries such as hospitality, retail and food services, where seasonal contract workers are most prevalent.

Organisations of all sizes are waking up to the fact that to attract and retain seasonal contract workers they need to go beyond merely offering competitive benefits and move away from “transactional” seasonal hiring. Instead, they need to make seasonal workers feel connected to the business and valued for their integral contribution to operations.

Easier said than done though, right? Well, here are three ways organisations can do this.

Get more serious about training

Regrettably, companies with a large seasonal and contract workforce tend to deprioritise their training or fail to address the perception amongst managers that it is not their responsibility. After all, why should a manager spend their own time and resources on employees whose tenure might not extend beyond the season?

It is exactly this type of attitude combined with a lack of adequate management investment that contributes to seasonal worker turnover, which knocks-on to low customer satisfaction and even toxic work environments. Businesses need to invest in supporting managers to train and empower seasonal staff. Rest assured, the cost of not doing so will ultimately be more than training itself.

Provide a “permanent” experience

Companies know that benefits, independence, work-life balance and career development opportunities are vital ingredients in keeping permanent employees motivated. So, it should come as no surprise that pulling on the same levers can yield positive results with seasonal workers, too. 

Whether it is working remotely, access to the office bar or free coffee and snacks in the kitchen, these simple pleasures signal to seasonal staff that they’re valued, and the business is concerned for their comfort and health–no matter where they sit in the company’s hierarchy. Likewise, providing staff with the appropriate technology, such as laptops or mobiles, so they can better control their schedules strongly impacts morale. Additionally, creating opportunities for socialising and inviting seasonal staff to attend the Christmas party, or other team-building activities, generates greater social cohesion and is a strong predictor of retention and productivity.

Lastly, irrespective of whether a seasonal worker has an end date, managers should still be encouraged to sit-down with contractors to actively discuss their career trajectory. This not only helps businesses potentially fill in vacant roles with quality staff, but also increases attachment and loyalty amongst seasonal workers to work with your organisation the next time you need them.

Capture and analyse their data

Naturally, it’s hard to improve seasonal employees’ happiness without understanding what they want–let alone need. This is especially true when most company’s basic data, feedback, and insights, make such staff seem dispensable. Conventionally, data captured to measure productivity, staff satisfaction, and turnover has been reserved for permanent employees and exclusively for the eyes of the C-Suite.

Frankly, this is no longer an adequate strategy in 2020. Not investing in analysing seasonal worker performance is the definition of a false economy. It will tell you a great deal about them. And it will tell you even more about the fabric of your company.

Businesses must extend data collection to include seasonal workers. From my own experience it has been extremely valuable, yielding unexpected insights on sub-par managers, absenteeism, over servicing, client satisfaction, burnout, and other spillovers.  

Investing in a modern data analytics tools, ideally with a heritage in HR, can monitor contract employees across seasonal spikes as well as put a spotlight on managers who are most effective or need further training. Pulling demographic, engagement, and performance insights on all employees, and linking this critical data across a company’s various departments, can help organisations address issues they didn’t even know existed in the first place.

They say it’s the season to be merry. But how merry were your contract workers, their managers, and your customers?

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