Seasonal employees can help keep your small business humming along during some of the busiest days of the year. But seasonal and full-time staffers don’t always integrate seamlessly. According to Deb Spicer, author of Power Teams: The New Square Root Model That Changes Everything, bringing in new people for the holidays can lead to some negative workplace dynamics, such as cliques or competing factions.
Spicer offers these five tips for managing seasonal employees and avoiding personnel problems:
- Maintain high standards. “Some employers will hire [anyone], just because they need x-number of bodies,” Spicer says, “but you should look at the same qualities as you would with a major hire.” Although your seasonal staff may only work for a month or two during the holiday rush, they represent your company and your brand during a hectic time, when customers are often rushed or stressed. “Sometimes a stellar holiday employee could become a long-term employee down the road,” she adds, so it pays to hire wisely.
- Invest in training. Don’t just set people loose on the sales floor and hope for the best. Even if your seasonal staff members have prior experience, they need training to understand your company’s brand and to maintain it their interactions with customers. Spicer suggests training seasonal workers in pairs and creating a mentoring system, so that new hires can get help from regular employees instead of creating an “us vs. them” environment.
- Don’t play favorites. Tempers can flare when regular employees notice that seasonal staffers are getting more hours, or vice versa. Try to keep hours equitable, so that one person isn’t working every weekend or holiday unless they’ve traded with another employee for those hours. Spicer also suggests extending employee discounts to seasonal staffers to help send the message that “we’re all in this together, and we’re going to work hard together.”
- Address issues early. If you notice cliques or bad habits forming, don’t assume that they will self-correct. “Conflicts not only affect the business and productivity levels, they affect co-workers and the employee themselves,” Spicer notes. If there’s an issue with a supervisor, it’s even more important to address it quickly, before it trickles down to others. Spicer suggests taking employees aside to find out what’s bothering them. “Maybe they have an issue that really is of concern,” she says. “As soon as you’ve listened, you need to provide direction and feedback to get them back on track.” Remind everyone to focus on customer relationships and avoid gossip. In fact, you should do this yourself to model a positive, customer-focused attitude. Try to create an atmosphere in which everyone is happy to work.
- Let go of problem employees. If one of your seasonal employees isn’t working out, it’s better to let them go immediately than to wait until the end of the season. “Resentment will build from everyone else having to pick up the pieces,” she says. “It’s far better to cut them loose than keep them around; 99.9 percent of the people say, ‘Thank goodness.’ I have found that it can raise morale when you cut the dead weight.”