Running a group of seasonal flea market stores, my partner and I came to realize that managing seasonal employees involves unique rules. You want your workforce to be well-trained and motivated, but you have to achieve these goals quickly. Here's what we did to find, train, and maintain a strong seasonal workforce.
How We Found Our Seasonal Employees
The best employees came to us by word-of-mouth recommendations from friends or family. As we drew near the busy season, we made sure everyone knew we were looking to hire strong, motivated sales people. We would also consider applicants who came to the store in person. We would have them fill out a short job application, and we would respond the same day (so as to not lose a desirable employee to someone else).
We Learned Not to Trust Too Much Too Fast
One of the first seasonal employees we hired taught us an important lesson. We trained her for half a morning, then left her in our store for the remainder of the day. On our return, she handed us $150 and explained that she made a bulk sale. A large amount of stock was missing, valued at well over $300. This lesson taught us to modulate the degree of trust we place in a new seasonal employee.
Retention Through Shared Profits
Employees will treat short-term employment differently than a long-term career. That's only natural. We encouraged seasonal employees to work hard and stay in our employment throughout the season by offering them bonuses. We set a minimum bar, with progressively larger bonuses as higher bars were met.
Training Is Key to Management of Seasonal Employees
We attached a new seasonal employee to either myself or my partner for the day. As we operated the store, we taught the employee about the product, customer service, and selling techniques. We made the experience fun and grounded in on-the-spot examples to make the training easy and memorable. The next day, we left the employee alone, but returned for spot checks throughout the day.
Provided an Immediate Contact for Questions
We were always just a phone call away. We provided our seasonal employees with a business cell phone (even if they had their own cell phone). "Any question, any time" was our motto. With new employees, we checked the remaining minutes on our cell phone account to make sure the employee wasn't using the phone for excessive, personal use.
We Showed Up in Person Several Times a Day
Though it fractured our work day, we made a point of checking up on seasonal employees throughout the day. We chose different hours for our spot checks to keep them spontaneous. And when we arrived, we spent a little time helping our employee with the job. This gave us the opportunity for more hands-on training, as well as a pat on the back.
We Cautioned Against Problems
By providing our employees with a counterfeit detection pen, we empowered them to deal with bad money, which was not uncommon in the flea market. We taught employees how to deal with shoplifters and difficult costumers and how to implement the premise, "The customer is always right." And, finally, we reminded our seasonal employees that we were always just a phone call away.
We Retained the Best Seasonal Employees Year-Round
Once the season was over, we still had manufacturing, stocking, and office management work that went on throughout the year. We would retain one or two of our best employees on an hourly rate, which we would double come the season. This gave us two expert, trustworthy employees who could help in the training of new workers once the season came round again.
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