Whether you hire seasonal employees for the holidays, during the summer, or for any other snapshot in time, working with people temporarily is far from easy. There’s the practical aspect, of course—the bummer of training someone and getting them up to speed, only to lose that investment in just a few short weeks or months. Then there’s the emotional kick in the gut—getting attached and then saying goodbye.
But for many small businesses—especially those in retail—employing seasonal workers isn’t optional. It’s survival. 30% of retail employees worked overtime in 2018, according to a 2019 study of employee time cards. Among those, the average time worked per week was 48.3 hours. Now imagine what that average might have looked like without seasonal help to pick up the slack.
If you’re about to bring on some seasonal employees, here’s how to make managing those hires a little easier on you and on them.
1. Brush up on your labor law compliance knowledge
Labor law compliance isn’t the most intriguing topic. But it’s a necessary one for any small business owner looking to hire seasonal help. It clarifies all those really intimidating subjects like benefits, overtime pay, and starting wages for seasonal employees.
The first step to complying fully is to know where to look. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the country’s federal labor law, and many states have additional labor laws besides. Helpful resources will be your own state’s labor law website, the Small Business Administration, SCORE, and the IRS’s page on employee healthcare coverage, specific to the Affordable Care Act.
The FLSA makes a distinction between businesses that operate seasonally (and thus hire seasonal workers) and businesses that operate year-round but still hire seasonal workers. Mainly, the law gives guidance on hiring youth since so many seasonal jobs are held by teens during their school breaks.
It’s worth knowing the FLSA’s rules for compliance, as well as your state’s labor laws. It can save your business money and stress. Businesses get fined all the time for violating the FLSA. In 2017, employers were hit with 8,261 FLSA lawsuits. And 79% of the cases pursued by the Department of Labor for wage and hours infractions have resulted in back wages being awarded to employees. Additionally, an analysis of FLSA violations revealed that misclassifying workers and following out-of-date regulations were some of the most common errors made by small business owners. Those are easy mistakes to make with seasonal employees, especially.
2. Don’t take ‘shortcuts’ with systems and tools
Spoiler: Things that look like shortcuts sometimes just make more work.
Knowing an employee is temporary may tempt you to take a few shortcuts with your business’s systems and tools. Take the employee schedule, for instance. Say your business uses a digital employee scheduling tool. You may be procrastinating on adding those seasonal employees because you don’t really have the time to sit down and just do it. Then there’s the cost. Adding employees to subscription-based tools may feel like an unnecessary investment in people who won’t be sticking around.
Casting about for alternatives, you might think the easiest solution is just to create a schedule in Excel for seasonal employees. You’ll update it every week, print it out, hang it up, and voila!
But is that easier?
Depending on your software, your scheduling tool may have additional features:
- Notifications that remind employees it’s time to get to work.
- Notifications that tell employees there’s a new schedule.
- Real-time updates that show shift changes or cancelations.
Those are things that help everyone succeed. Employees miss fewer shifts, and managers have fewer no-shows. There’s no reason seasonal workers should be left out.
Then there’s the record-keeping. Scheduling everyone in the same system creates a single source of truth—a written record of employee activity that may come in handy later if your business is ever audited. Months or years in the future, if you need to know who worked on a certain day, for a certain shift, you won’t have to rifle through handmade schedules as well as digital records to get an answer.
Scheduling software is just one tool small business owners use to manage employees. But it represents the many ways that finding a “shortcut” to a tried-and-true system may be more work for everyone down the line.
3. Treat your seasonal employees like the gems they are
Temporary or not, the folks who save you and everyone else from working 50-hour weeks are heroes. Treating them like they’re in a revolving door of short-term hires won’t earn you any favors. But neither will putting them on a pedestal above your regular employees.
Before you bring on your new seasonal staff, have a talk with your regular team. It’s a great opportunity to discuss training plans and expectations and answer questions like
- Is it okay to invite a seasonal employee to lunch? (I.e., do they have a lunch break, and can they take it offsite?)
- How long are their breaks?
- Are there topics related to the business that shouldn’t be discussed?
- How long will they be staying?
- Who is in charge of managing seasonal employees?
And when the questions are done, consider offering encouragement as well Encourage your team to:
- Treat seasonal employees like any other co-worker.
- Make them feel included.
- Not consider the time spent training them to be “lost” when they leave. If nothing else, it’s a fantastic mentorship experience.
Enjoy your seasonal employees
Management—particularly management outside the norm—can sometimes feel like a burden. There’s a lot to think about when you consider systems and tools, compliance, and the feelings of every team member. But seasonal employees are a gift, no matter the time of year, and who knows? Those folks you brought on to help for a minute might come back and stay for good.
Author: Danielle Higley is a copywriter for TSheets by QuickBooks, a time tracking and scheduling solution. She’s been a contributor to MSN.com, FiveThirtyEight, and a variety of HR and business blogs where she can put her affinity for long-form storytelling to best use.