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Summer has officially ended in Canada. We’re warming up to our Pumpkin Spice lattes. We’re resurrecting last year’s plaid wardrobe. However, for some Canadians, it’s the end of our seasonal careers — or for some, the beginning of another.
Seasonal employment is a staple for many workers in beautiful landscapes. Normally associated with agriculture or hospitality, this type of career structure offers a unique form of flexibility of the individual — but also comes with its own challenges. I live in an area of Ontario called Prince Edward County. We have some wonderful attributes, mainly the largest cluster of wineries in Canada with over 29 independent wine businesses, and an accompanying growth of craft beer manufacturers sitting at around 15, with another 19 being established by the end of 2017.
For wineries around here, spring and summer is the only time they can operate. Between planting, growing, and harvesting the usual time frame means the usual months for the best travel conditions. PEC, as well as the surrounding areas is a different type of place — we’re not cut off from the cities, yet still a good hour and a half to Toronto and the same to Ottawa. We have the great access of the 401 to help us grow this gateway yet still smack dab in the middle of farmland and conservation paths on either side.
If you live here, the main and largest employers are the wineries — the hospitality industry mirrors this seasonal change as well. Frankly, tourists generally don’t want to drive during the winter months on a highway when a massive snow or ice storm could hit at any moment.
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Seasonal Workers Are Looking for Some Stability
Employers have a huge challenge in this area. Employees want stability, when it comes to a routine cycle in work, and being assured a spot on next year’s staff helps a lot when alternatives to seasonal work are minimal. Many employees also work double time, even triple time in the summer to account for “down” months — employers and business owners also recognize this and usually try the best they can with the limited 7 months to create big revenues.
The employees especially need to know the game. While the abundance of students may be attractive, when dealing in speciality tourism you need a staff that’s experienced in the area, in the product, and in the flow of the seasonal business. This limits the ability to add again, to that talent pool. Employers are more likely to hire through someone they know or another winery. As a new comer to this place two years ago this was right in my face — I wasn’t from around here, never grew up here, nor knew the wine business. Trying to find a place where I could apply my talents in marketing and branding did not exist. And if it did, the level of knowledge in such areas ended up being based on how budget friendly the agency was — not at all based on prior experience.
When you live in an area that’s akin to Martha’s Vineyard in the summer and the Arctic in the winter, travel even becomes and issue for both employers and employees. You could live 20 minutes away from your work, but when in winter large portions of county roads close due to snow or ice, assuring staff or even customers daily is unlikely. Again, that talent pool has to be local, and locally known.
Seasonal employment itself happens all over Canada. Anyone accustomed to these attraction-quality level businesses know that there’s only a certain amount of time they can operate. As a seasonal employee you have to organize yourself around these businesses — and if you aren’t versed in Snowboarding or hate the winters, there’s little or no chance you can find more than a restaurant job.
Reward Loyal Workers and You Will Be Rewarded
Now why am I focusing on the employee over the employer? Well, because as the employer the down months are your vacation time. For the employee, it becomes a challenging time living on savings or freelancing.
If you are the owner of a season business, you have to do more than look at your overall expenses or revenues. Generally seasonal businesses may have a mix of students home for a break, or experienced “lifers.” Either category needs to be considered when allocating enough for wage or projected income of your team. Sure, anyone will jump at a chance to make $14 per hour plus tips; but these individuals depend on it and you to get them through the months where you’re living in Panama focusing on other investments.
Those team members of yours working at your seasonal establishment, are loyal to you. Give them a chance and open up other opportunities to them, they become full-time corporate employees. This is what seasonal work individuals crave: a chance to find annual work, and a steady income. These individual establishments maybe only open in the summer are rarely the staple business of the owners whom operate them. They are a piece in a greater puzzle, and frankly, a chance to capitalize on the human capital you have — and sometimes teams actually do have more interest than greeting visitors all summer long. Being able to utilize or take from a seasonal talent pool in one location, and have employees given a chance to work remotely for another aspect of a business, then makes an economical shift not only for you but for the area. There becomes a stable employment interest and normally that means more money for everyone.
So while the leaves fall, and the cottages are closed up, seasonal hospitality staff party so they can forget the stress of the summer and welcome the new situation of winter, reflect on what that seasonality means for the area you are located in. What it does for your business, and especially how seasonal staffing becomes easier when you don’t have to close up shop and start all over again.