Paper Trails

Tips for hiring seasonal workers

Due to the tourist seasons in Maine, many businesses are extremely busy during certain times of the year and slower in other times.  There are also many seasonal employers that only operate in certain seasons.  Either way, seasonal workers are in high demand for most Maine businesses, or those in any tourist destination.  If your business is in this situation, it is important to know the strategies to source, hire and retain these seasonal workers.  Let’s take a look at some tips for hiring seasonal workers.

What is a seasonal worker?

A seasonal worker is an employee that works temporarily around a certain season of the year. Businesses that primarily have more customers during specific seasons hire seasonal employees for extra help during their busiest times. For example, a restaurant in Maine may hire extra workers in the summer months to help with demand.  Or a snow plowing company would hire additional plow drivers only in the winter months.

Employees may prefer to work seasonally for a few reasons.  First, many seasonal workers do this to supplement income. For example, an individual with another position may choose a seasonal position as a second job to bring in additional wages.  Second, students may opt for seasonal work as it often correlates with their time off from schooling.  Finally, some employees may choose to work a few different seasonal position throughout the year when the wages are higher, such as at a restaurant in the summer and a ski resort in the winter.

Tips for hiring seasonal workers.

There are many strategies that will help your business hire seasonal workers. Let’s take a look at a few of the best.

seasonal workers

Start early

Being prepared for the busy season early is key to ensuring successful operations for your business.  Start months ahead of time as hiring, onboarding and training employees can take some time.  You want these employees to be ready to go once the season kicks into gear.  Training new hires after the season has started can lead to headaches including improperly trained employees or high turnover rates.  Starting earlier than the competition can also allow your business to have a larger pool of applicants to choose from.

Write good job descriptions tailored toward seasonal workers

Wiring detailed job descriptions the first time will give potential applicants a reasonable understanding of your open roles and expectations.  This will also save you time later on by allowing you to hire the right candidates the first time around.  Be sure to include:

  • words like temporary, full-time, and seasonal in the heading to ensure applicants know that the position is seasonal
  • the responsibilities of the position
  • length of employment including start and end date
  • expected weekly schedule or amount of working hours
  • the rate or a range of pay
  • any essential and desirable skills

Further, be sure to target your job ads towards those applicants that are seeking seasonal work.  Recruiting students or teachers is a great way to help your business hire seasonal positions in the summer months.  Or for winter positions, target those employees that you know only work in the summer positions, like summer camp or golf course employees.

Here are some tips for writing a killer job ad for any position.

Provide an efficient onboarding process

Once you have hired your seasonal employees, it is important to have an efficient and effective onboarding program to get them up to speed quickly and ensure success in their role.  Even though they only may be with your business for a short time, proper onboarding and training is key to their success and reducing turnover.  Have a separate onboarding process for seasonal workers as opposed to year-round employees.  There may be certain aspects of your business that seasonal employees do not need to know.  For example, if your restaurant offers deals in the winter months only, summer employees may not need to be trained on this information.  This will help speed up the process.

Automated onboarding will help ensure proper paperwork like the I-9 and W-4 forms, as well as the employee handbook, are filled out and filed properly.  Additionally, these systems allow you to customize your process to include specific training materials to be sent to new hires.  Should your business bring back certain seasonal workers, all of their information and paperwork will already be on file, keeping your business in compliance.

Consider offering competitive wages and benefits

Depending on your company’s situation, offering higher wages or additional fringe benefits is a great way to attract and retain seasonal workers.  Often times, seasonal businesses can afford to pay higher wages as this is the time of year when business is booming.  If you can’t afford to pay more, consider other benefits such as flexible scheduling, incentive bonuses, hobby stipends, or discounts on your products/services.  While not all businesses offer benefits to those employees who work seasonally, offering these items can be an added perk and push your business over the edge when it comes to attracting applicants.

Ensure compliance with labor laws

There are many responsibilities that employers have when it comes to their employees.  First, all employees, whether seasonal or not, must be paid at least minimum wage and paid overtime for hours worked over 40 in a given 7 day period according to the FLSA.  Also, it is important to know how to classify your employees properly as either a W-2 employee or 1099 independent contractor.  Just because an employee is seasonal, does not mean you can make them a 1099 independent contractor.  Misclassification can open your business up to potential payroll tax issues, resulting in back taxes and fines.

There are also certain federal and state labor laws that businesses must adhere to based on their employee count.  Federal laws such as those prohibiting employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation apply to all types of employees – including seasonal workers.  Your business may have to follow certain state laws as well.  For example, businesses in Maine with 10 or more employees must follow Maine’s Earned Paid Leave Law.  This includes seasonal employees.  So, businesses that hire seasonal workers that push their employee count over 10 employees must allow all employees to accrue PTO.  Knowing your business’ federal and state obligations is key to ensuring compliance.

Think about allowing workers to return

Finally, consider which of your seasonal employees are strongest and allow them to return the next season.  This will allow you to get a head start on preparing for the busy times the following year.  Even more, these employees may only need a refresher on your policies and procedures, or may not need to be trained at all!  Bringing back your seasonal employees may even allow you to avoid the hiring and onboarding processes altogether.