Hiring Tips for Small Businesses with Seasonal Workers

Date: April 30, 2019

Your guide to securing temporary employees in a competitive labor marketplace.

More and more small business owners are having trouble finding qualified workers to fill job openings—in fact, according to NFIB’s April 2018 Jobs Report, this is the top issue facing small businesses. And as the summer hiring season draws near, employers may struggle to obtain all the seasonal help they need from a limited pool of candidates who wield more leverage in seeking competitive wages and flexible schedules. Here’s how to overcome this challenge.

Build a Large, Quality Pool of Potential Employees

“Having the most options when making a hiring decision allows both employers and future star workers to find the best fits for their needs,” says Karen Harned, Executive Dir. of the NFIB Small Business Legal Center. “It relieves the pressure of having to hire someone out of necessity, as compared to hiring someone that will help someone grow their business.”

To do this, Harned recommends:

  • Starting early—don’t wait until the season is upon you to start looking and advertising openings.
  • Using multiple tools to get out the message that you’re hiring, including placing a help wanted sign in your window, posting a job description on social media and your website, and sharing the openings with your personal contacts.
  • Being honest and encouraging the same from candidates. Don’t sugarcoat company standards, goals, and expectations in favor of highlighting only the best features of a job. This can lead to wasted time in interviews and high turnover if the job doesn’t end up meeting the new hire’s expectations.

RELATED: Infographic: Job Openings and Small Business

Get Creative with Compensation and Benefits

In a labor market with low unemployment rates, competitive wages are a must, but there are also other ways small businesses can rise above the competition.

First, Harned says, get to know the goals of your potential hires. Some may be looking to supplement their income or secure work during their industry’s off-season, while others may be students, getting ready for a move, or in transitional stages in their professional career. Knowing this information—as well as articulating what’s unique and attractive about your business to prospective employees—will help you identify and isolate the best fit for their needs.

Second, find nonmonetary ways to compensate seasonal workers. “Small business owners have great flexibility that many large corporations and government agencies find impossible to achieve,” Harned says. “These types of compensation can include letters of recommendation, help with networking, and even mentoring employees, both within and outside the work environment.”

Become the Employer of Choice

NFIB member Daniel J. Beekhuizen, President of Keesen Landscape Management in Englewood, Colorado—which employs approximately 200 seasonal workers between March and November—recommends working to become the employer of choice in your industry. Do this, he says, by thinking outside the box and offering perks that may not have been available to this category of employee in the past, including paid holidays; vacation time; and bonuses for signing on, staying on, and helping recruit new employees.

“Your existing employees can be a tremendous asset in recruiting new employees, and offering them a recruitment bonus for bringing in new employees is a win-win: You get a new employee, and your current workers get an immediate cash bonus as a thank-you,” Beekhuizen says.

NFIB member Hugh Morrow, President of Ruby Falls, a Chattanooga tourism destination with historical caverns and waterfalls that hires about 100 seasonal workers in the summer, says his business has prioritized flexible schedules.

“We offer a tremendous flexibility on schedules without putting a hardship on the business,” he says. “It’s extremely important for small businesses to impress upon potential employees that actual work experiences enhance a resume more than ever, and it’s important to learn firsthand communication and business skill from part-time and seasonal work.”

RELATED: Small Business Staffing: Tips for Hiring Interns


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