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Six Tips to Help Retain Skilled Seasonal Workers

Scouting for skilled and enthusiastic workers each spring or fall can be a difficult prospect. Scanning through uninspired applications from candidates looking for any summer job to pay next year’s tuition is not always the most rewarding venture, but with a shrinking youth labour market, this is the reality many face. However, having staff who will impress your customers is an essential HR strategy.

A particularly efficient way to employ talented people for a season is to retain your employees from the previous season. Keeping your best staff members year after year allows you to save on recruitment and training costs, and ensures you have a qualified, experienced and committed staff. Here are some tips to ensure the return of as many of your seasonal employees as possible, and strategies to hire new ones as necessary.

  1. At the end of the summer season, ask employees whether they would like to return the following year. Consider conducting exit interviews to find out why some employees are keen to return while others are not. Some will be leaving for legitimate reasons such as a school work placement or a move after graduation, but others may wish for a workplace with more benefits or training. Use these results to strenthen weak HR policies. The results will not only boost seasonal retention, but also make your longer-term employees more committed as well.
  2. Keep in touch with employees you would like to re-hire. Sending a quick email to say hello, a holiday greeting, or an invitation to a staff party will keep your operation top-of-mind when they start thinking about summer plans. Consider creating a social networking group where current and former employees can chat with each other and you. Also, encourage seasonal staff to swing by and have a meal when they are in town – a discount or freebie is a great gesture and could even encourage new business if they bring along family or friends.
  3. Offer extra incentives to returning employees. Whether it’s a higher wage, a promotion, non-monetary bonuses, or training for a supervisory role, they will feel encouraged to come back. Make sure the incentives build with each year employees return.
  4. Be an employer of choice. This is the most effective way of encouraging employees to return. Providing a fun, flexible, and positive workplace will have seasonal staff looking forward to returning the following year. Make such issues as work-life balance, training, teamwork, and communication a priority. You’ll earn a reputation as a place people want to work, resulting not only in repeat seasonal employees but also in other qualified workers hoping to gain a position with you.
  5. If your top seasonal employees are not returning for reasons unrelated to the job, ask if they have family members or friends who would be interested in coming on board. If they genuinely enjoyed their time working for you, they will not hesitate to recommend hardworking individuals to take over the role they are leaving.
  6. Expand your focus from the typical student-on-summer-break to other labour markets. Retired individuals may be looking for new experiences and extra income; their maturity and varied work history can bring an added dimension to your team. Winter employees will need to find work until the snow falls again; as many have prior tourism experience, they possess a great range of customer service skills suited to other sectors. Some summer employers even have reciprocal agreements with winter operations to hire off-season staff. This benefits both employers, who retain experienced workers who are less likely to have forgotten skills in the offseason, and the employees, who are provided continuous employment and opportunities for cross-training. Also consider targeting international workers with the appropriate visas, as many are looking for short-term work and may offer hospitality experience and additional language skills for your overseas guests. And don’t forget untapped labour pools such as people with disabilities, new Canadians and Aboriginal persons. While you won’t be able to retain all your best seasonal workers year after year, being an employer of choice who offers a great work environment and perks to returning employees will go a long way to ensuring that a high percentage will happily come back.

Reprinted with permission from RestaurantCentral.ca. By Heather Kennedy, Manager of Marketing and Communications for Tourism HR Canada, a national organization that addresses labour market issues and promotes professionalism in the Canadian tourism sector.

This article may not be republished without the express permission of the copyright owner identified in the article.