Three things every SME should know when hiring seasonal staff

As the summer holidays approach, businesses will be getting themselves ready for a spike in customers and sales. This is also the time that many companies will begin hiring seasonal workers to help handle the extra work.

While additional employees are a great way to lessen the load, there are a number of considerations to take into account to ensure that they’re effective for the business.

Plan well in advance

Small and medium-sized businesses (SME) owners should set a reasonable time frame to start looking for seasonal workers to avoid any last minute rush, advises Pragya Agarwal, creative director at prints and artworks company,

“Start advertising about a month in advance of the expected start date,” she says. “Put flyers in other local businesses and post offices, and on pharmacy noticeboards, or distribute them at local school gates.”

This is especially helpful if you’re looking to hire staff who need to work flexibly, such as stay-at-home parents looking for part-time jobs to fit around the school hours, or students looking to earn some extra cash and gain some experience, she adds.

Planning a month in advance gives you time to find the perfect person for the role and avoids settling for a weak candidate at the last minute. “It gives you the opportunity to fully understand the potential employee’s expectations too, and avoid a mismatch that could be problematic,” she explains.

Ms Agarwal suggests drawing up a list of characteristics and skills that you need from the employee, and prioritise them as essential or desirable. “Although they’re seasonal workers, it’s important that they’re motivated, hardworking and passionate about your business. It also helps if they know about your firm and understand what the ethos is.”

Ensure they feel involved

Although seasonal workers are short-term employees, make-up and beauty brand, Disguise Yourself Pretty, has found that encouraging feedback from them increases their productivity, and can benefit your business in the long run.

“Encouraging feedback ensures that you’re not just repeating the same motions every year and hoping for the best,” says creative director, Emma Louise. Disguise Yourself Pretty gets seasonal hires to jot down ideas, or areas they think might need improvement, and runs weekly meetings with the whole team, where people can provide feedback.

A fresh pair of eyes, and an outside perspective, is a great way to revitalise certain areas of your business. “A seasonal hire once joined us just after we had launched the website, and the first thing they said was that they hated the font,” says Ms Louise. “We were offended, but we ran an A/B test and a font change increased conversions by 110pc and decreased our bounce rate by more than 20pc.”

Ms Louise also suggests that team members take the time to get to know seasonal workers in a social setting. New hires are allocated a lunch buddy to avoid divisions between permanent and seasonal staff. “We do small things, such as showing them where to go in person, or going out to lunch for a chat.”

Communicate entitlements clearly

It’s vital for SMEs looking to hire seasonal staff to consider things such as contract terms (including any probationary periods) and entitlements, says Andrew Weir, employer services manager at payroll and HR solutions company, Moorepay.

Importantly, says Mr Weir, business owners should remember that seasonal employees have the same rights as permanent employees regarding the terms of their contract. This doesn’t apply, however, to apprentices, agency workers, members of the armed forces, employees in Government, institution-funded or supported training, temporary work schemes, and students on work experience schemes.

“But if different treatment between permanent and seasonal staff is necessary, be sure to communicate it clearly”, he adds. For example, if an employee on a three-month fixed term contract does not receive a company car, but a permanent employee does, the justification could be that the cost of supplying a car for that period would be disproportionate, and that the cost of travel can be met in other ways.

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