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Strategize your summer staffing

Strategize your summer staffing

While the holidays mean marquee hiring for retailers and related businesses, summer staffing can be the season of many a hiring manager’s discontent. That’s often when business spikes, just as workers’ hearts and minds turn to sun and fun.

Summer is frequently a period when demand for contingent workers outstrips supply. “It’s going to be a rough, tough summer,” says Nicole Klein, a recruiter of temporary light-industrial and logistics workers at staffing firm HireLevel. “There are more and more jobs to fill, and the same number of available candidates.”

So, as a recruiter or hiring manager, serving clients’ summer demands may be the ultimate opportunity to prove your value. Here are some key strategies that can help make the difference.

Avoid the summer vacation freeze

Project managers or senior executives often mandate a freeze on summer vacations, says James Proctor, director of professional services at The Inteq Group. “This sounds good in theory, but it doesn’t work in practice, and it can have negative fallout ranging from staff burnout to untimely attrition,” he says. It may seem like a quick-fix way of avoiding the need for summer staffing, but it’s not worth it. Instead, focus on recruiting.

Start recruiting at least two months in advance

Assess your staffing needs now to establish a date when summer recruitment will begin. “Ask full-time staff to submit vacation requests at least 60 days out,” and start recruiting for summer help at that time, says Proctor. For more skilled occupations, build in an additional two weeks for onboarding and knowledge transfer.

Help your clients fine-tune their opportunities to the summer talent pool

“It’s a different talent population for summer,” says Megan Trzcinski, director of office services for staffing firm LaSalle Network. For one thing, there are more new college grads. “You often have to educate new grads on the benefits of taking on temporary assignments, because naturally they’re focusing on finding a career position.”

One way to do this is through a well-written job description. Include an explanation of ways a summer staffer can acquire valuable skills, connections, and potential opportunities down the line, even though the job itself is temporary.

Overhire to prepare for attrition

To better assess summer staffing needs, staffing firms and hiring managers can help create staffing forecasts based on current business conditions and data from previous summers. In some cases, employers need to overhire to avoid a staffing crisis if employee turnover accelerates before the summer business wanes, says Roberta Matuson, a human resources consultant and author of The Magnetic Leader.

This is especially true during phases of uncertainty with regard to immigration. For example, when immigration is restricted and the requirements for work visas tightened, “the seasonal hiring environment is very unsettled,” Matuson explains.

Overhire even more, to account for no-shows

“We anticipate a 70 percent show-up rate,” says Klein. This means that if the client needs 100 temporary workers on hand for summer, they’ll need to hire about 150, just for day one.

To reduce pre-summer no-shows, keep in touch with your new hires. After a candidate has accepted an offer, “touch base with them once a week, to make it real for them,” Klein says. “If these people don’t hear from you, they’ll take another job.”

For highly skilled contract workers, create a talent pipeline

For positions that require more advanced skills, anticipate urgent staffing needs. “In IT, because of tight interdependencies among tasks and deliverables, if a resource goes on vacation for a week or two, there’s a significant impact on many aspects of the project,” says Proctor. So, serve your clients by building up a reserve of talented short-term contractors to ensure timely completion of work.

Build a case for paying market rates

Show your client or hiring manager that they’ll regret it if they skimp on expertise. “There’s an entire subculture of premium people who are really good at stepping in and quickly getting up to speed,” says Proctor. “The premium price you pay is far less than the cost of the chaos it prevents. Short-term contracting should be built into the project’s capital budget.” While it’s tempting to cut corners and pinch pennies, it’s not worth it in the world of summer staffing.

Simple perks may be effective for summer work

Catered lunch on Fridays, a casual dress code, incentive prizes and raffles—these are the sorts of lightweight perks that may be more effective in retaining summer workers than they are with employees on a career track. It’s worth the time and money to experiment with these free or relatively cheap embellishments.

Sell the benefits of completing a summer gig

“Retention is where we really, really struggle,” says Klein. Making better hiring decisions up front can help avoid the headache of lost workers later. “You don’t want to get people who would take any job. You want people who need the flexibility.” Work with clients to establish stay bonuses, seniority benefits for workers who complete their summer commitment and return a year later, and, if applicable, a shot at a permanent job offer.

Reward summer returnees

Persuade your clients that rehire bonuses for returnees can be a good investment. Pay should be increased for each summer that a worker returns, even if only by a small amount. “Returning workers will feel like they’re getting some movement,” Matuson says.

Improve your recruiting all year long

Improving your summer staffing techniques can have huge benefits for the continuity of your business. But chances are, your overall recruitment strategy could use some fine-tuning as well. Get started with Monster Hiring Solutions where you’ll receive expert recruiting advice and the latest hiring trends.