How to Motivate Seasonal Employees

When new workers know their position may only be temporary, it’s important to onboard them correctly and make them feel like part of the team

How to Motivate Seasonal Employees

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The temporary employee is a necessary evil in our industry. We desperately need them to take on our routes, clean our restrooms and sell to our customers. But then wintertime comes, business slows down, and you don’t have work for those people. So how do you motivate someone who knows there is a short life span to his or her job?

The most important thing you do with a new employee, whether they are temporary or not, is onboard them properly. Not sure what I am talking about? Onboarding is a new term to me as well. Andrew Connolly from Shift345 brought the term to my attention this year. He explained that when we bring on new employees, we don’t have a standard procedure. Employees in the office are treated differently than those in the yard or garage. The procedure is handled differently, and because of this, we also weren’t getting our company culture across to all new employees. This was a huge mistake on our part and something we are actively trying to change.

The basic thought behind onboarding is that you are bringing someone new into the group. They have to know the ins and outs of your company. So you give them an employee handbook, you explain the dress code or you give them a uniform, and you give them a space to work. They also have to fit in with the group, so they have to understand the culture, how your employees work, and so much more. 

But onboarding can cover much more than that. For example, when you join the staff at Warby Parker, famous for their eyeglasses that are purchased online for much less money than an optical shop, you are given a novel. Every new employee is given a copy of Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac because the name Warby Parker comes from two early Kerouac characters. This is a clever and relatively inexpensive way to onboard new employees. It shows them the culture of their new company.

When onboarding temporary employees, it is important to make them feel like they are part of the team. Even if they will only be with you for the season, they deserve to be treated like everyone else. Give them a uniform; make their office space inviting and colorful. Basically treat them the same as a new full-time employee.

In the office, figure out the new employees’ favorite color and buy fun staplers, a wireless mouse, and notepads for them. None of these things cost much but it can make someone’s day better to come in to a bright and cheerful desk. In the yard, we periodically buy everyone lunch or I stop by on a hot day with a box of popsicles. Spending $5 on popsicles can take you surprisingly far. Show that you care and that you recognize how hard they are working.

Finally, every temporary employee should know that there is always a chance to become a full-time employee. Each season there are a couple of superstars. They come in on the weekends, they stay late to finish an order, and they go the extra mile. If you see that performance in a temporary employee, then it is worth it to keep them on. 

It is always a little tight in a small business, and finding room in the budget for another salary is really hard. But if this person frees up your time to sell another event or to go after more work, then they are worth the stretch. 

About the author: Alexandra Townsend is co-owner of A Royal Flush, based in Philadelphia.


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