Making a Seasonal Hiring Plan for Small Business

Many small businesses rely heavily on seasonal labor, employing hundreds of thousands of Americans for short term contracts, all year round. Whether you’re a food and agriculture business that looks to swell its ranks during the harvest, a retail business that needs to staff up over the winter holidays, or a leisure or tourism business that needs students off from school to cope with the influx of other students (and their parents), a detailed hiring plan will help you fine tune and get the most out of the process.

Making a Seasonal Hiring Plan for Small Business

My Plan Is… to Hire People?

You already know that you need to hire people and you may have a good idea of how many, based on how many people you’ve needed to augment your full-time workforce in previous years. But a hiring plan, based on carefully studying your business needs, can help you to hire faster, better, and more efficiently.

Start by thinking about your recruitment goals. Not just how many people you need, but what kind of people would make a real difference on your team. Who’s the perfect candidate for each of your teams? Don’t just go with your gut on this – talk to your managers and team members about what and who’s worked well in the past. If you have performance review documents for seasonal workers – and you should, because exit interviews for temps can be valuable for you and them – or even just notes about past seasons, consult those too. Put all of these sources of information and adjust your initial ideas of what the perfect candidate looks like as necessary.

You can apply the same logic to numbers. Have you been hiring too many or too few people, or directing them to the wrong areas of business? Your employees will again be a valuable resources for this part of your plan because often they know better than you about what’s caused friction in your team.

Finally, take a look at your past job posts, ads and their performance. Are you sharing your job posts in the right places and are they finding the right people? Do a test job search from the candidate’s perspective to see what the competition is up to. Are your job posts and ads effectively communicating the culture and needs of your business?

Hiring and Onboarding

Seasonal hiring often swells a small business’ workforce exponentially. Not only is it a huge adjustment for your business, screening, hiring, and onboarding all those new workers is an enormous investment of time and money by you and your managers. That’s why hiring and onboarding should be part of your seasonal hiring plan. You need to be able to hire quickly and hire right, because the longer it takes to get seasonal workers actually working, the bigger the demand it on your hiring team – and the slower you’ll be able to take on more workers.

Again, consult everyone who’s helped out with screening, hiring, onboarding and even training in the past. Look at how long you’ve completed the process previously, and what problems crept up to slow things down, or disrupt the hiring process. If you haven’t already started tracking key HR metrics like time and cost to fill, now is the time to start. The more data you have about the performance of your hiring team – even if it’s just you – the quicker you can fine-tune its work and minimize time and cost to fill.

If you’re already in the midst of your seasonal hiring, keep an eye on workers as they’re onboarded, trained, and begin working. Who’s adapting best and who’s struggling? Which teams are struggling to adjust? Your hiring plan should be flexible and always in development.

You may have already started your seasonal hiring but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to think about how to do it right. As you go through the hiring process this summer, watch for opportunities to improve your existing or develop your first seasonal hiring plan.

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Megan Purdy

Former recruiter, HR pro and Workology editor. Comics, cheese and political economy.


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