Five Ways to Keep Seasonal Staff Motivated This Summer

Anna Roberts

Apr 2016 ⋅ 4 min read

Photo of a kitchen pass-over with kitchen staff on either side

For many hospitality businesses, seasonal staff are the lifeblood of the company. You rely on them to keep your business running during your busiest periods. Without them, you'd be unable to take full advantage of these lucrative weeks and months that often fund periods where trade is relatively poor.

Even if seasonal staff are essential to the business, many employers fail to treat them in the same manner as permanent employees. Often, employers will skimp on training and engagement for temporary workers.

After all, if they're only working for you for a couple of months, why bother to invest in them?

Returning seasonal staff

One of the biggest problems employers face when hiring temporary staff is that there is little time to recoup training and hiring costs. Even the most productive temporary employees become irrelevant when they leave you at the end of the summer.

The easiest way to avoid this problem is to invite your best seasonal staff back to your business for the next busy period. You'll save time and money searching for seasonal staff, and training costs will be cut, too. Given the huge number of seasonal jobs available, you'll need to give staff a good reason to return next year.

Most employees leave (or fail to return) because of poor managers. Improving staff management at your hotel, restaurant or cafe is perhaps the most effective way to win-over staff.

One important aspect of staff management is motivation.

Motivated staff are engaged with their work. They're more productive than staff who don't care about their work.

It's relatively easy to motivate permanent employees — you can track their performance in the long term, and offer them future perks if they meet targets.

Temporary employees rarely enjoy the same treatment. How can you motivate seasonal staff for a more productive workforce this summer?

Photo of restaurant staff gathered over a large pot of soup

#1 Choose the right employees

Seasonal recruitment is more of a mad dash than a carefully planned process. You're under pressure to secure decent staff before everyone else, in plenty of time for the start of the rush.

However, being a little more fussy about the employees you take on can pay dividends. Prioritise applicants with the following traits:

  • A willingness to return for future seasonal work
  • Adaptability
  • A willingness to learn
  • Enthusiasm and knowledge of your brand

Even if you speak to an applicant who is completely flexible in their hours, don't hire them on this basis alone. If they turn out to be a lazy employee who causes more work than they complete, you'll have wasted your time and will need to look for a replacement from an ever-dwindling pool of candidates.

By starting off the season with the right employees, you'll find it easier to motivate them.

#2 Teach staff about your brand

As well as the standard training that you offer seasonal employees, spend time teaching new hires about your brand. Communicate what makes your company great and what motivates you and other managers.

Enthusiasm can be contagious, and if you can teach staff to care about your brand, they'll be more motivated to succeed.

#3 Social events

Your staff will work harder for your business if they're working alongside colleagues who they can count as friends, yet it's often difficult to integrate seasonal staff with your permanent workforce - not only in the work itself, but also socially.

If possible, organise staff trips out. They don't have to be anything fancy or expensive - a trip to the pub at the end of the working day can be all it takes to start building a team!

However, your goal shouldn't just be to create a strong team at work, but to ensure that some friendships carry over into the real world. In the future, your temporary employees will be more likely to return for your next busy season if they have friends at your business.

Artificially forcing friendship is never going to work, but by suggesting casual outings for staff you can at least provide the right environment for team-building.

#4 Talk about transferable skills

The world's greatest manager wouldn't expect to turn a 16-year-old high school student and temporary summer employee into a loyal staff member for the next three decades. You can't win them all.

Most of your seasonal staff won't have applied for the job because they love the company and care about its future - they're probably only interested in the paycheque and the CV boost.

And that's okay - but you need to learn how to motivate these employees, too.

If you have a temporary employee who matches this description, talk to them about their aspirations. Explain that the job will provide them with plenty of transferable skills and a great reference - but only if they make an effort.

#5 Offer feedback and praise

As with your permanent employees, temporary staff want their hard work to be recognised. You should make an effort to praise your seasonal employees, and offer them opportunities to try new tasks and expand their responsibilities.

In addition, offer further training opportunities throughout their time at your company. Even if these training opportunities are as brief and casual as helping an employee improve their knife skills, they show staff that you want them to continue learning and growing - and that you value them.

Final thoughts

Understanding seasonal employees' motivations is key if you're to win them over and keep them engaged while they're at work. Given that their motivations differ considerably from those of permanent employees, treating them the same way may not actually be as effective as you expect.

However, many of the same management principles can be applied to temporary staff. Open communication, continual development, recognition for hard work, and an understanding of employee motivations are standards that you should always aim for.