When hiring seasonal hourly employees, don’t think of them as temporary, i.e. a “seasonal fling." Instead, recruit for retention.
Rosemary Haefner, Chief Human Resources Officer at CareerBuilder, told SHRM in a recent interview:
"Like employees, employers shouldn't look at a seasonal job as a temporary placement. Think of it as a three-month-long working interview. Many seasonal workers will not be candidates for permanent positions, but some of them may be, either now or in the future."
American unemployment is at an all-time low, at certain points as low as 3.9%, the lowest its been since 2000. For many reasons though—like the gig economy and proliferating remote work—it’s harder to recruit now than it was back in 2000, even for seasonal hourly workers.
According to Monster.com:
“Hourly employees comprise more than 60% of the US workforce, yet many employers are unsuccessful in their efforts to find qualified candidates in sufficient numbers and fall short of retaining top employees long enough to realize a return on their investment.”
If you’re among the American employers who’d like to lower employee turnover (i.e., everyone), then don’t think of the seasonal hiring bump as simply patching a busy-time hole. Think of it as a springboard to supercharge your workforce year-round.
Employee retention is a two way street
Early on, keep close tabs of new hires’ performance and assess who’s fit for full-time and/or long-term employment. Also, understand that many of your seasonal hires are doing the same to you. After all, they’ve got three months to interview you as well.
This is not a staff to churn and burn. As with all of your employees, your seasonal staff will constantly be weighing the pros and cons of working for your organization. As you assess them, make sure you’re ready to be scrutinized yourself.
According to a Snagajob survey, the three top on-the-job perks that hourly workers look for are:
- Flexible scheduling (36%)
- Bonuses (27%)
- Benefits (separate from health insurance) (13%)
These facts can offer insight into how to approach retaining those seasonal workers who stand out.
Provide seasonal employees with flexible scheduling options
In an expansive study by WFC Consulting in conjunction with Corporate Voices for Working Families, the authors discovered that flexible schedules are:
- Effective means of managing personnel costs, in particular overtime costs
- When planned for, cost and resource neutral
- Helpful in avoiding the personnel and productivity costs of unscheduled absences
- Correlated strongly to productivity gains
For seasonal hires, flexibility is even more important.
There are many types of work flexibility setups, but for hourly workers, the three most common are:
- Compressed workweeks — in which the same number of hours are worked in fewer days
- Shift-switching capability — allowing employees to customize their schedule among themselves
- Flexible starting hours — letting employees’ non-working life have a little influence on whether they clock in at 6 a.m. or 10 a.m. or whenever.
Your managers and current workforce will be the resource to turn to for learning which flexibility solution to start with. Trying to incorporate all three at the same time could be a little too chaotic for managers to deal with.
You can also experiment by surveying interviewees which of these three they would find most valuable.
Find the right scheduling software to accommodate the change. Monitor results based on how managers perceive the change. You can even send out a targeted eNPS-style survey to measure shifts in employee morale.
And whatever you choose, be sure to advertise it loud and clear in job postings and notice if there’s an effect in response rate!
The power of offering employees bonuses
For hourly workers, the most common type of bonus is a productivity bonus, where output and personal efficacy is tied to company profits and thus rewarded. As we talked about previously, recognition is a strong driver of employee retention.
But are bonuses the best way to do this?
A recent study from management advisers Willis Towers Watson found that only one in five employers believe merit pay is effective in driving performance.
Speaking with FastCompany, Kris Duggan, CEO of goal software provider BetterWorks, argued that performance bonuses discourage teamwork in favor of individual quotas, which also negatively affects learning and growth on the job.
In other words, maximizing one widget is done at the expense of greater long-term goals.
Another point is that, while an annual 10% bonus for someone making $100,000 per year may be pretty enticing, for lower-earning hourly workers, the effect is much weaker.
Take for instance AT&T’s recent bonuses, as reported by the Chicago Tribune:
Dea Polchow, 57, who works at an AT&T wireless call center in Rantoul, in east-central Illinois, received her $1,000 bonus check — minus about $400 in taxes — just in time to pay off some holiday shopping bills.While happy to lower her debt, there isn’t money left for much else. "It’s $600," she said. "By the time you get a couple of bills caught up, it’s not much."
So are we saying that employees don’t know what they want?
Yes and no.
By indicating a desire for bonuses, we believe that job seekers are actually asking for something deeper: a life vest from financial stress. Which leads us to…
Creative employee benefits (separate from health insurance)
And now we tie together what we think the first two bullets actually indicate:
By asking for flexibility, job seekers and employees are asking for a reasonable work-life balance in the form of time.
By asking for bonuses, hourly workers are indicating that every now and then they would like a leg up on their finances, a reasonable request for work-life balance in the form of money. If anything throws life out of balance, it’s financial stress.
According to an Aspen Institute-EPIC Study called “Payroll Innovation: How Smarter, Faster Paychecks Could Mitigate Income Volatility,” median-income households experience, on average, a 29% month-to-month expense variation over the course of a year. It’s likely that this volatility—not the new iPhone—is what makes the idea of a bonus so relieving.
What’s the result of this expense volatility for hourly workers?
A median overdraft fee of $34 on debit card transactions of $24 or less, typically only three days before payday. That’s the equivalent of taking out a loan with a 17,000% APR.
If you think that’s not too bad, consider the fact that :
- 8% of customers at the nation's largest banks incur nearly 75% of all overdraft fees
- In 2017, big banks racked up $34.4 billion on overdraft fees
- And that overdraft fees are the second-largest income generator for the country’s largest banks—pretty much making them payday lenders.
So if there’s one extra benefit to extend to your employees, a flexible payday option would be it.
Rather than a nominal bonus, you can give your workforce control over their finances by giving them access to their earned but unpaid wages.
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Job seekers want DailyPay
Recently we ran our own survey to find out what job seekers really want.
We posted three sets of virtually identical job postings on the same online recruitment website to measure the difference in applicant behavior for jobs that offered daily pay versus weekly pay.
The ads were posted in large cities across the United States (New York City, Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco). In all cases, we ran the ads for the same duration of time.
Applicants were 1.9 times more likely to apply for the job with daily pay versus the job weekly pay. While it is not surprising that the daily pay ad garnered more interest, we were surprised that is was almost twice as much.
Applicants were willing to take on average a 13% pay reduction for the job that paid daily versus the job that paid weekly.
For jobs that offered a signing bonus, applicants were 1.5 times more interested in the job that offered half the signing bonus and daily pay than the job that offered the full signing bonus and weekly pay.
With the job market as competitive as it’s ever been, your ability to attract talent year-round is crucial. Your ability to retain talent can make or break your bottom line.
If yours is among the seasonal-hire-hungry organizations, consider giving job seekers what they really want: work, life, time, and money.