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For companies whose business depends on fair weather, spring is high time for hiring. Industries like construction, retail, hospitality and tourism look to seasonal employees to support their operations during the spring and summer surge.
Larger companies may have more resources and bandwidth to dedicate to implementing massive seasonal hiring campaigns, but what about small businesses? They can’t compete with larger companies when it comes to reaching huge candidate pools, but they have some advantages over big business.
Gallup surveys for the past two decades have shown that Americans have more confidence in small businesses and consider them one of the most popular U.S. institutions. As the lifeblood of cities, towns and communities across the country, small businesses are uniquely positioned to leverage their reputations and community connections to attract seasonal employees.
Here are five ways small businesses can use that leverage to recruit and retain the best talent this summer.
1. Create sources of referrals.
Sometimes the best place to start to find outside talent is inside your own walls. In fact, you may find that some of your best hires this summer are referrals from your current employees. Gallup research shows candidates from internal referrals are 40 percent more likely to interview successfully and be offered a job than those who apply through the company’s media channels. This is likely, the study says, because current employees already understand an organization’s culture and know what it takes to be successful there. Therefore, they may be more likely to recommend a former colleague or classmate who fits the company culture.
Your employees are a vital resource, so ask them whether they know others who would be great additions to your team. Better yet, offer a referral bonus for anyone who refers a candidate who is hired and stays through the end of the season.
2. Compete for college hires.
Many college students returning home for spring break (and then again in the summer) will be in search of a little extra cash, plus a gig where they can be engaged and learn. Remember, Millennials are the skills-seeking — not just the salary-seeking — generation. They want the opportunity to progress at a company, and they tend to gravitate toward jobs that provide attention, support and purpose. This is a great opportunity for small businesses to use their size as an advantage. Small businesses can emphasize the collaborative, close-knit qualities a smaller staff offers these candidates.
3. Make onboarding interactive.
One advantage small businesses have is that employees quickly get to know one another. Here, again, small businesses have a unique opportunity to foster relationships that go beyond mere orientation. Seasonal hires, like full-time, year-round employees, need effective and efficient onboarding to feel comfortable in their roles.
One onboarding strategy to consider is a mentorship program or buddy system, where new employees are paired with longer-term workers so they can ask questions, learn the ropes and ramp-up on the job.
4. Cultivate employee engagement all summer long.
Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report released in January found that only 33 percent of employees are engaged in their jobs. The key to better work is better engagement, the report found, and suggests that investing in employee recognition, feedback and learning programs may increase engagement. This is closely tied to the mission you lay out for employees.
Are you treating your seasonal hires as valued employees or as lesser-skilled help? Are you simply telling them to sell more shirts? Or are you encouraging them to get creative, ask questions and bring their own personalities to their work? You might consider regularly checking in with your seasonal employees to see if they are enthusiastic about fitting in, if their needs are being met and if their questions are getting answered. This may cultivate a positive and productive culture within your business.
5. Assume an open-ended relationship at the end of summer.
While many seasonal hires will only be with you through September, don’t discount that some may be great candidates for future full-time employment. Part-time summer work can act as a litmus test for full-time positions, so keep a close watch on those employees who have potential to stay past the summer season or might be a viable candidate after graduation.
Small businesses are the trusted backbone of communities across the country. That can be a tremendous advantage this spring as you plan for any impending summer rush. Now may be the time to tap your current employees for referrals, rev-up your onboarding and engagement programs, and plan for future staff expansion. This is one instance where “small” is powerful.