Tis' the Season... of Seasonal Employees

Brittany Hink

Many retailers and other businesses increase staff during this particular time of year to accommodate for the holiday shopping season and the influx of in store visits. Recruiting and training seasonal employees can be a challenge for any organization and for those that are unaware of the laws and federal regulations; seasonal employment can be somewhat of a headache. However, many benefits come with hiring part-time and seasonal employees.
The term seasonal employee is typically associated to retailers and Black Friday shopping deals however; there are many other organizations and industries that go through yearly cycles of seasonal employees. The Chief Human Resources Officer for the YMCA of Greater Rochester, Fernân Cepero, is a regular when it comes to hiring seasonal staff. In both the winter and summer, the YMCA of Greater Rochester hires part-time, seasonal employees to work as lifeguards, childcare associates, camp counselors, along with many other positions.
Cepero faces several challenges when it comes to seasonal employees, but the benefits heavily outweigh those few hiccups. Summer and winter produce different obstacles and for the winter season, "I think some of the biggest challenges are having them (seasonal employees) come back because we are competing with other seasonal employers during that period of time." Accommodating unconventional schedules is also a bit of a hurdle for seasonal employment at the YMCA. "Schedules might be different. Their schedules could be semester to semester. It’s not just year to year and season to season."
While children are out on winter break from school during the holidays, many parents and guardians are still working. The YMCA has a Fun Club that is a seasonal program and runs only when school is out. Primarily seasonal team members are the leaders of Fun Club and many of those same team members were employed as summer camp counselors. Children look forward to Fun Club because of particular staff members that lead the programs and "that is another added plus that we realized after doing this for a couple of years. This is an important factor for parents to want to come back and for their kids to want to come back. For parents it actually makes it easier for them to tell their children ‘you are going to go to this program’ because the children are looking for that particular staff."
Keeping connected with the seasonal staff can be a challenge for many industries. Cepero mentions that "with a staff of typically ‘the social media generation’ we have internal Facebook and Twitter accounts where the program directors and supervisors stay in contact with them (seasonal employees) throughout the year." Both generations Y and Z are very active on social media and since the YMCA’s seasonal staff members are traditionally from the younger generations, the engagement with the staff has been thriving. "I have been with the organization coming up on my 14th year, and 14 years ago the way we would interact with them; it was a limited use of email or phone calls or a letter asking if they would like to come back. Now, with this generation there is a constant communication and back and forth through Twitter and Facebook where they are checking in to see what the kids in the programs are working on now" and keeping in contact with the program directors. The more engaged the employees are, the likelihood of that individual returning drastically increases.
The seasonal staff members are part of the YMCA community. Even when a person is gone for two or three months, members are asking when they will be returning. "The big benefit for us is, it provides-I want to say continuity, but it is a little more than that. They begin to build relationships with members…It’s a buzz that is created. So that is really special for us when they develop that type of relationship that people are looking forward to having them back again. That really speaks to the commitment they have to the organization and the quality of work that they do. That is one of those added benefits that I really just can’t put a price tag on."
Staffing seasonal employees continues to be a focus area for many organizations. While some organizations are becoming pro’s at it, others are just starting to venture into the area. Seasonal staff members can be a huge asset to any organization and to keep the influx of returning seasonal employees growing, the engagement with those part-time individuals should be similar to your engagement with full-time employees. The YMCA of Greater Rochester does a great job of keeping all of their employees engaged and in return, they see a steady number of employees returning from season to season.
Do you have any tips or tricks for keeping seasonal employees engaged?