Retention: Keep Applauding If You Want An Encore

Mel Kleiman

How do musicians behave when their audience continues to applaud after the concert ends? They usually return to the stage for an encore—and more applause. How should you behave when the employees you hired to help your business through the holidays leave? If you want your good seasonal employees to come back and work for you next year, keep applauding all year long.

Applause is a way of showing appreciation, of praising others for a job well done. And you don’t have to keep clapping your hands to continue applauding.

Staying in touch is a form of applause. It’s a way of saying, "You did such a great job that I’m still thinking about you." If you’ve gotten to know the people who’ve worked for you even a little, it is easy staying in touch in a way they’ll appreciate.

It’s just as important to hold exit interviews for your departing holiday help as it is for your non-seasonal employees. Aside from giving you an opportunity to express your appreciation, exit interviews are great ways to take stock of how smoothly your business ran during the holidays.

Key Questions to Ask Your Seasonal Workers

  • What did you enjoy most about working here?
  • How did you hear about this job? (Use this for marketing next year.)
  • What made you take the job? (If they came from referrals, use that to start building a referral program for next year.)
  • What could we have done better or more efficiently?
  • How would doing that have helped you do their jobs more easily?
  • What problems do you think could have been avoided?
  • What do you think we could do to avoid them next year?
  • Was the training you received sufficient?
  • Would you come back to work for us in the summer or at this time next year?
  • Who was the best fellow employee you worked with over this holiday?
  • Do you have any friends you would recommend we contact to work here?

Be sure you double check employee’s contact information during their exit interviews and make necessary changes. You undoubtedly have college students’ local addresses, phone numbers and e-mails. However, obtaining the same information while they’re at school will make staying in touch with them easier.

Above all, ask them about their plans for the future. Ask if the employee is interested in coming back to work for you. Ask the employee who plans to enter a work/study program if a letter of reference from you would help. Find out how the one who expects to graduate in June plans to spend the summer.

Get creative about finding ways to stay in touch. Enter departing employees’ birthdates into a software program that reminds you when it’s time to send a card. Check out e-card sites for free cards you can e-mail. Touch-base every couple of months, even if you just send an e-mail that says, "Hi, how’s it going?" And be sure you send them a copy of the company newsletter. If the employees are students, offer a small scholarship as a bonus for returning and discounts on merchandise or free meals to keep them as a customer.

After all, whom would you rather come back to work for—the employer who consistently shows they care or the one who just says, "Goodbye?"

Mel Kleiman, CSP, can be reached at 713-771-4401 or at