The holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year. But if you are a business owner, it can also be the most stressful. Business picking up during the holiday season is great, but days like Black Friday can put a strain on the employees who are left doing the extra work.
Many small businesses combat this by hiring seasonal help. However, there are some important things to consider, as regulations for hiring short-term workers differ from hiring regular full-time employees. No matter what stage of growth you're in, here are a few things to keep in mind when looking for short-term workers.
1. Start the hiring process early and stick to a deadline.
Carisa Miklusak, CEO of tilr, suggests creating a seasonal hiring strategy, just as you would for other business initiatives.
"It's easy to get behind with a seasonal hiring strategy and having a timeline of who needs hired by when, but holding your internal team accountable to the strategy can define your success," she said.
It's important to start the hiring process early, because you want adequate time to train your new employees. For example, if you need extra staff for the holiday season, start advertising for it as soon as summer is over, said Steve Pritchard, HR consultant for giffgaff.
"You need to be realistic about how long your seasonal staff will need to get to grips with their responsibilities, and it's better to be safe than sorry," he said.
2. Decide if you need an employee or a contractor.
Worker classification is an incredibly important part of taking on any hired help. Depending on the type of business you run, you may have a choice between bringing in a regular employee and an independent contractor.
"Whether it's long- or short-term, judge your demand and decide which [type of worker] you need," said Steve DelVecchia, founder of online staffing platform Adaptive Professional Solutions.
A worker's status is usually dictated by the level of control the employer has over the individual's daily tasks, as well as the worker's overall contributions to the business. The key difference is that employees are listed on payroll and covered by a company's benefits and insurance, whereas contractors are not. This can make a huge difference in the time and money you spend bringing a particular worker into your business. [Are you familiar with these important business labor laws?]
3. Recruit with social media and word of mouth.
Companies increasingly use social media to find the best and brightest full-time talent. C.J. Reuter, advisory board member for social recruiting solution Work4, said that social media can also be a great recruiting tool for employers who need seasonal help.
"Leverage what your marketing team has already done to market yourself as an employer on social media," Reuter told Business News Daily. "Social media shows [candidates] what it's like to be there. You can publish photos on social networks showing the behind-the-scenes, day-to-day culture. It's more believable, especially to the younger generation."
Since seasonal hiring tends to be very geo-specific, you can use social media to find qualified candidates in your local area and reach out to them throughout the year, Reuter said. This will put your company on local workers' radar when they're looking for a part-time seasonal job or internship.
Patrice Rice, CEO and founder of Patrice & Associates, advises using social media and word of mouth to find potential seasonal employees. "Do not underestimate the power of word-of-mouth recruiting," she told Business News Daily. "When recruiting candidates, be clear on the length of the assignment as well as the responsibilities that come with the position."
4. Don't forget about insurance coverage.
Since seasonal hires are frequently part-time and will only spend a few months with you, it's easy to forget what this means for your insurance policy. Don't assume all your workers are automatically covered.
"It's important to look out for all workers, regardless of employment status," said Steve Carlson, vice president of select workers' compensation for Travelers Insurance's small commercial department. "Think about what insurance coverage you need and don't need, and what the cost will be [if you don't have it]."
Carlson advised speaking with your insurance agent about the types of employees you're taking on – part-time, full-time, paid interns, volunteers, etc. – and finding out what that means in terms of your local labor laws. Depending on their status, employees may not be covered by your workers' compensation policy, so you'll need to research the proper steps to take should they be injured on the job.
5. Treat seasonal workers like your regular employees.
Although they will only work with you temporarily, you and your seasonal hires should get the most out of that time. Once you've hired the right people for the position, train them efficiently and well so they can do the best job possible.
"Bringing someone new on is about training them and making sure they understand what's involved in the job," said Scott Humphrey, director of technical services in Travelers' risk control department. "They're eager to do a good job and get something done as quickly as possible, but as an employer, you want them to take their time and do it right. Supervise them and give them feedback about what to do and not do - the same way you would treat any employee."
6. Create a positive work environment.
It's important to keep a positive work environment because it keeps employees happy, and cared-for workers are more productive.
"Keep in mind that successful temporary hires may return to the business next season, turn into customers and/or be a good referral sources for the future," Rice told Business News Daily. "Be sure to build a positive relationship between the business and employee. Think about the different ways that you can value their hard work, such as offering perks like discounts and/or a competitive wage."
A way to create a positive work environment is to include seasonal help in events and competitions going on in the company to make them feel part of the team, Miklusak said.
"Including seasonal employees in company events that happen during their time with the organization, competitions and/or simple office building practices can go a long way in helping seasonal employees feel acclimated and included," she wrote.
At the end of the season, have an offboarding program, which allows seasonal employees to give valuable feedback.
"Make sure that you have an offboarding program, including exit interviews," said Miklusak. "Having exit interviews allows you to recruit for the next season, learn how to improve the experience for next season's workers and provide departing resources."
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.