Oxbow Bend, Snake River

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Hiring through Low Unemployment – It’s Time to Get Personal

Matt Moore

The tight labor market is hanging around, which brings unique opportunities and challenges. The unemployment rate has been hovering near 3.5%, near multi-decade lows, so active candidates continue to enjoy a job market rich with opportunities as employers compete more and more over every applicant. Rapidly evolving technology, the often misunderstood phenomenon of applicant “ghosting”, and increasing upward pressure on wages are but a few of the challenges that employers face today.

This article won’t focus on tips and strategies of previous years, like revisiting your signing / end of season bonus structure, increasing transparency in your hiring process, or making long term investments in building a culture that increases employee satisfaction and loyalty (although all of those strategies are still critical, and if they sound foreign to you, check out this article for a refresher course).

The theme of this article – and a formula for success for your current and future recruiting and retention efforts – is engagement. To be more successful at attracting qualified talent, helping them succeed and enjoy their season, and hopefully creating an experience they’ll want to return to, employers should strive to engage their current and prospective staff on a personal level at every step of the seasonal employment life-cycle.

Recruiting: Prospective Employees are Your Customers, Too

When you draft you employment ads, are you reposting the same ad copy and bullet-pointed job descriptions you’ve been using for years? Do your recruitment materials contain any information about what it’s like to live and work there, what employees can hope to gain from their experience, both personally and professionally, why they should want to join your team, and why you earnestly want them to? Are your ads missing pictures and descriptive content so that job seekers can visualize what a season at your great place might be like? Too many companies place all of their creative focus and budget on marketing their products to potential customers, but then give half-hearted efforts to create an employee experience that will engage and attract enthusiastic candidates. Your staff are your first customers, and they’re the key to securing long-term, valuable experiences for your guests. By leading with a genuine, thoughtfully crafted recruiting message, you’re communicating to prospective candidates that you care about their experience and want them to enjoy being a part of your team.

Hiring and Onboarding: Keep the Communication Flowing

How do you communicate with candidates after they’ve completed your application process? Do they receive a confirmation that you’ve received their materials with some guidelines and expectations for next steps? Do you follow up on a timely basis with all applicants, even the ones you know won’t be a good fit? We know that processing applications is a time-consuming process, but it is critically important for both the quality of your hires and your reputation as an employer that you strive to maintain regular communication. Even if you know right away that a candidate won’t be a good fit, let them know that you won’t be making them an offer and that you appreciate them considering your company so they can move on and keep looking. For the ones you know you want to move forward with, engage with them quickly even if you do need some time to review and discuss with other stakeholders. Just a quick message – “Thanks for applying, we really appreciate you considering us! We’re reviewing your application now and will follow up with more details in 4-6 business days” – can go a long way in communicating to applicants that you’re interested, appreciative, and a real human being.

And don’t let the communication dry up after an offer has been made or accepted. Keep engaging hires throughout the months leading up to your season to keep them excited about the experience as it approaches. Consider a bi-monthly newsletter that highlights some of the activities they can look forward to in the season ahead, start introducing them to the management team and what they’re up to in the offseason, and give tips and pointers on what to pack and what to be prepared for. You could even set up an online group and invite the next season’s staff to join and start getting to know each other, making travel plans, asking questions of returning staff to get the lay of the land. A lot can happen between an offer being accepted and opening day – including another offer being accepted. Regular engagement makes your offer more personal and conveys that your company is really striving to ensure a great experience. This solidifies the early groundwork of your working relationship and increases the likelihood that if the applicant does end up taking another position, they’ll at least let you know. More often than not, it’s more likely to result in them actually showing up and spending their season with you, because your efforts to build relationships signal that they’re going to be cared for and invested in as employees with your company.

Retaining: Reduce your turnover – and next season’s hiring

Once your new staff has arrived and the doors are about to open for the season, how do you welcome them? And how do you keep communication flowing throughout the season? Some of the best seasonal employers out there treat their newly arriving staff like family members who have come home. For others, it’s a much more transactional, impersonal process. The former enjoy return rates that exceed 50%. The latter – well, not so much. But there’s no reason every employer can’t strive to create an environment that employees want to return to year after year – not to mention the drive to complete that first season to begin with.

Starting from week one, make the training and on-boarding a celebratory event. Set a tone of “Welcome, and thank you for choosing us! We know there are endless options out there, and you picked us, and that means a lot to us – we are excited and happy to have you!” Throw a welcome party. Then get into the nitty-gritty of rules, policies, behavior, tedious training and expectations. Every job seeker knows that a company has rules and expectations – not every job seeker expects to be treated like an honored guest or a family member. Surprise them.

And don’t stop there. Show you care about them from the moment your doors open to the moment they close for the season. Encourage open and honest communication throughout the season through regular evaluations (at least twice a season, mid-season and end of season, and certainly more often with your management staff). Consider providing a way for them to evaluate you and the leadership team via twice a season staff satisfaction surveys, and provide a medium for anonymous communication as well. Be open to giving and receiving feedback, and act on the feedback you receive. This will go along way in demonstrating that your care about their experience is genuine. Acting on the good ideas, observations, and suggestions that your staff provides you conveys that they’re valued, appreciated and contributing.

All those rock-star employees you’d love to have back next year are going to have plenty of options available to them next season, and probably every season. And, they probably have a few rock-star friends who would love to have an experience like the one they had. Make your hiring easier every year by creating an employee experience that people want to come back to and want to share with others.

Regular and genuine engagement is hard work, but it pays handsome dividends and contributes towards creating a culture of enthusiasm and gratitude, which in the long run will establish your company as an organization that cares. It also creates an environment that guests detect (or sense the lack of) the instant they step foot onto your property. Regardless of whether this challenging hiring environment persists, every employer will benefit from establishing that kind of reputation and struggle by establishing the opposite. We wish you the best in 2019 and beyond, and hope that you can benefit by leading your organization to establish a culture of engagement!

We hear this almost daily at CoolWorks HQ.

Job Seekers aren’t expecting seasonal jobs to make them rich, but they do need to know the wages that positions pay in order to determine if they can make it work and if they’re a fit for your organization and for your jobs. Save yourself time, respect the time of potential applicants and prioritize transparency by communicating all the details of your employment package in your recruiting materials.