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How to Retain Your Seasonal Employees

We’re reaching the end of the summer, and at this point, most seasonal hiring campaigns should be over as recruiters begin considering the fall and winter seasons and focusing on retention.

The competition for talent has been fierce, especially in the past few months as wages rose across various industries and job seekers looked for pay and flexible hours as the top motivators of their workplace decision.

How will you work to keep your top talent around, even as the seasons change?

Why is it Critical to Retain Your Seasonal Talent?

Let’s start by addressing why it’s important to focus on retention. While the competition for workers rages on, especially in industries like restaurant & retail, workers who were hired to fill the summer rush may soon be let go.

Though no one knows what the future of employment will be, 2021 has already been very different from years past, with pent up demand from post-lockdown consumers going through the roof and employers struggling to staff up enough to meet it. Workers everywhere are leaving their jobs in droves, while some industries are coming to terms with facing the full effects of a talent shortage. It’s as important as ever to work hard to keep top hires around.

Here are the two main reasons you should focus on retaining your seasonal talent, rather than letting them go.


Investing in and growing existing talent is far more economical compared to the time and cost it takes to recruit, hire, and bring newbies up to speed. After all, the existing talent has already been invested in with time, money, skill development, knowledge transfer, and more. When that person leaves, that investment is lost.

Employee turnover costs way more than many businesses and HR leaders realize because of hidden cost variables. Those include recruitment advertising expenses, lost productivity due to hours of application review and interviewing time, and new hire training and onboarding time. There could also be a trickle-down effect. If someone leaves for a higher paying job, that could cause remaining staff (who are still friends with that ex-employee) to consider interviewing for their own higher paying job elsewhere.

Additionally, with new hires, there is a drop-off in the level of service and productivity since they are still new to the company and do not have the requisite knowledge and training yet to be as effective as their predecessor. This drop-off in knowledge and service impacts customer satisfaction, sales, and total team output.

Employer brand and company reputation

The best companies all share one common understanding that makes their culture great: employees are their most powerful brand promoters. Employees are the “public face” of their company to their friends, social networks, family, alumni groups, etc. Happy and engaged employees will spread the word about how proud they are to work there. They will refer other top talent to join their team. They are more likely to give glowing reviews of their company.

If there is no focus on retaining and growing that talent, then they will gladly move on and be somebody else’s brand promoter. This not only causes a loss of that singular talent, but it also can negatively impact morale of the remaining workforce, who in turn may become less engaged and less likely to put extra effort into being good brand ambassadors for the company.

Strategies for Retaining Seasonal Employees

Focusing on retention is an important strategy to take, even in times when we’re not facing a talent shortage. Here are six strategies you can use to retain your seasonal employees.

Cast a wider recruiting net

Some companies typically recruit high school and college students to fill seasonal openings each year. This can be very challenging due to their availability and other factors. However, posting openings online and at local workforce centers can make your response rate and applicant volume increase significantly. This allows you to be more selective in who gets hired to ensure the you get the best of the best in that crop of candidates.

Related: How to Localize Your Recruiting Outreach for Hourly Roles

Out-offer your competitors

Each season, be sure you know what your competition is offering for wages, benefits, perks, and other compensatory factors for seasonal employees. This will ensure you remain competitive and will help strengthen your company’s reputation. This is especially important right now, as establishments are competing across industries for talent, and wages have risen in various industries (regardless of no $15 federal mandate).

Seasonal employees talk to each other as well as to people in their networks, social groups, families, etc. They will know which companies pay more and offer more benefits. Be that company.

Boost your employee appreciation efforts

Many businesses view their seasonal employees simply as expendable, short-term assets.

Instead, show seasonal employees that they are truly valued by getting to know them, talking with them, sending birthday cards, inviting them to staff parties, and showing them the same level of respect that you give to the rest of your workforce. Get feedback from your employees about what it’s like to work for you, and what they would enjoy being additions to the company culture.

By doing this, those seasonal employees are more likely to want to return the following season and work for you. This means fewer vacant positions to fill and less training of new workers each season.

Offer incentives to return

For seasonal employees that you can’t keep employed between busy seasons, you can still feel out their interest for returning at some point in the future – with incentives, of course. Because a return employee is already familiar with your business and processes and will be cheaper to rehire than someone who needs training, offering an incentive to return can be a smart strategy for making easier (re)hires.

Need ideas for incentives? Try these:

  • Pay raise
  • Better benefits
  • One time “re-sign” bonus
  • Swag bag, with high-ticket that your employees might enjoy
  • Extra time off

Consider your turnover rate

With the short nature of seasonal jobs, many companies might not give turnover statistics much thought. This is a mistake, as seasonal employees are less loyal than your permanent employees and can often leave mid-season. Staying on top of the what and why as it relates to turnover can help you adapt to improve seasonal employee retention.

Be a flexible employer

One thing that the pandemic taught us? Work is almost no one’s top priority.

Many part-time workers have multiple jobs or family situations to attend to back home. Even those that don’t have extenuating circumstances value flexibility as a top feature of a workplace, especially in today’s market.

Offer flexible scheduling options to stay competitive and attractive to new hires and seasonal ones. Additionally, work with your store leadership to ensure that seasonal hires understand expectations and are available on times when needed (e.g., nights, weekends, holidays) to help reduce call ins, unexpected losses, and stress on your employees caused by lack of communication.

Becoming the Company that Seasonal Employees Want to Stay At

While there’s not one simple answer to employee retention, recruiters and managers alike should keep it as a top priority.

You worked hard to make these hires. Doing your best to keep them around – via employee appreciation efforts, upskilling, offering incentives, and following other top recommendations – will be better for your reputation and your bottom line than letting them go and having to make all new hires upon the next seasonal rush.