Getting the best from your seasonal team
When Christmas is an exceptionally busy time for your business this of course presents a huge opportunity for you. But if you’re left with insufficient manpower, or temporary staff who simply aren’t up to the job, this can leave your existing team stretched and unable to meet your normal levels of service.
So, not only do your regulars leave disappointed, but those first-time customers don’t get the fab first impression they need to convert them into returning long term loyal customers.
If you’re taking on extra seasonal staff for the Christmas period (or at any other time of the year), I’m sure you will want them to be as productive as possible, as quickly as possible.
Here are a few ideas, so you avoid them being thrown in at the deep end or not pulling their weight.
Start the induction process as soon as possible; the more you can do before their first shift the better their first day’s experience is likely to be and the quicker they’ll be up to speed.
When confirming the job let them know how much you’re looking forward to them coming to work for you and then start with information that lets them know that they’re going to get a warm welcome.
The easiest way for you to do this is to create a standard welcome pack. This might include:
- A short personalised welcome letter or card from you, the owner or general manager personally signed.
- The background to your business, your service culture, your values and what’s important to you.
- An outline of what they’ll be doing on their first shift – training, briefings, range of work.
- Information about personal safety at work, plus travelling to and from the job. (Particularly important for those who will be working unsociable hours.) This might include information about parking and public transport, even a timetable (download and print).
- For hospitality, leisure or retail businesses a voucher for them to come and be a customer with you so they can experience things from a customer’s perspective.
- A short summary of the Staff Manual with key things they need to know.
- Their terms and conditions of employment so they have an opportunity to read through this before day one.
- Any current topical information, such as your latest newsletter.
- What to wear and what to bring on their first shift.
- Anything else they might need to know in advance such as time keeping, break allowance, staff meals, security, health and safety.
- Avoid being let down at the last minute – Provide out of hours contact numbers and establish procedures for sickness reporting.
Putting all this in a smart folder with their name on it and sending it to them before they start will make them feel more welcome and they are more likely to be looking forward to the first day and getting into their job quickly.
Stay in touch with the new team member, particularly if there is a long lead-in time before they start. This will help to avoid the potential “buyer’s remorse”, and instead help to create a sense of excitement and anticipation.
Apart from the obvious outline of the job itself, cover the following:
- What we stand for: Define your service culture, what is important to you as a business and what is the type of experience you want your customers to have when they do business with you.
- First impressions count. Customers don’t differentiate between permanent or temporary team members; they expect the same service from everyone. Specify your standards for welcoming and greeting customers, answering the phone. including the ordering and/or booking procedures if this is part of their role.
- Help new team members understand your customers’ expectations. Describe your customer profile and what they will be looking for. Why do people come to you rather than your competition, what makes you different or unique. Take people through the key parts of the customer journey and allow them to see everything from a customer’s perspective as far as possible.
- How we do things round here. Every business has its own little routines, habits and traditions. The sooner new-comers get to know these the sooner they’ll start to feel at home. How this translates into the day-to-day role might come better from a fellow employee or their buddy, rather than necessarily coming from you.
- Assign a buddy. Assign someone within their team they can go to for day-to-day questions, so they’re not left floundering or too scared to ask for help. This means when they have what they might perceive as being trivial questions they still have someone to turn to rather than the question being left unanswered. Choose your buddies with care, ensuring that they not only know the standards and your expectations, but they are ambassadors for your business and you’re confident they’ll be patient and supportive when asked.
- Teamwork is key. Introduce new team members to everyone else in the whole team. Defining everyone’s areas of responsibility so there are no gaps and no duplication of effort. Avoid any friction that can occur when someone hasn’t pulled their weight or others are seen to ‘interfere’ with your way of doing things.
- Play to people’s strengths. When you offered them the position, what were the key things that stood out for you about this person? Rather than making everyone mediocre at everything, capitalise on the skills and experience this person displays. Consider allocating a specific task or project that they can get stuck into and for which they have some responsibility and ownership. This is a great way to get them involved and give them something where they can contribute early on.
- Provide thorough product knowledge – People can’t sell something they don’t know exists! What does your business offer – times of service, complementary products, etc. Let your staff sample products and/or services as far as possible, explain what products are normally sold together (e.g. in a restaurant what accompanies each dish) what the price includes and what’s extra. If they have a role in up-selling what are the products you want them to promote, including any future events? If your core team are incentivised, make sure you include seasonal staff in the scheme.
- Establish protocol in dealing with specific situations. Payment procedures, including any security procedures or checks needed; handling customer complaints, and awkward customers. Define the line between handling these situations themselves and when to seek intervention from a manager or more experienced staff member
- Help make them feel like family. If your team (temporary or permanent) have to work unsociable hours, long nights or sacrifice personal social lives, be open to flexibility. Recognise that people may be missing out on family and friends’ events, so help make up for this in some way.
- Recognise their work. Just like permanent employees, let them know that you see and appreciate their efforts. If they’re there to learn (e.g. a student gaining valuable work experience) they’ll welcome supportive feedback. Schedule short weekly meetings to review progress, answer questions, and identify when help is needed.
- This is also a great time to get feedback from them on their ideas and observations. Often a fresh pair of eyes will highlight things we’ve missed, and they bring with them experience and insights on how to do things better.
- Give them something to look forward to and keep them interested for the whole season. Involve them in any after work social activities and maybe some incentive awarded at the end of the season.
Set yourself up for next year or your next busy period by ensuring your temporary team members remember you in a good light and will want to return or at the very least become an ambassador for your business.
How you treat them afterwards is as important as how you treat them during their time with you, especially if there’s a strong likelihood they may work with you again.
- Ask for their feedback on their experience so you can learn how to make your business an even more attractive place to work in future.
- Invite them along to any post season team events. This is not only a good way to say thank you afterwards, but helps embed positive memories of their time with you.
- Maintain communication so you can continue a conversation with potential talent, giving you the ability to hire fast when you need to. You’ll be more readily able to hire people who are already familiar with your business, (or who help find others like them), and can easily slip back into the business with little to no extra training.
- Show them opportunity. Some may be looking to forge long-term careers within your industry. To ensure you’re capturing the best talent, show them the opportunity and growth positions that could arise if they return or stay with your business.
Is all this effort worth it if they’re just a temp?
Treat them well and you’ll be rewarded with improved employee productivity, a happier more engaged team and employee retention, better customer service, and ultimately create advocates for your business.
Maintain your reputation as a good employer; if you treat seasonal staff well, and they will be willing to come back next time you need an extra hand.