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Seasonal Recruiting in a Labor Pinch: Tips to Improve Your Talent Acquisition Efforts

Matt Moore

If you‘ve been in a recruiting role for the last few years, you’ve probably noticed a growing trend: Every year it gets harder to attract and hire quality talent. What gives?

It isn’t just you as a recruiter, as a business, or as an industry: we’re in the midst of a nationwide talent shortage. In his recent article The Great Labor Crunch, Barron’s senior editor Avi Salzman reveals that national unemployment, “at 4.1%, is at a 17-year-low (as of March 2018), and wages are rising in a more robust pattern. More Americans say jobs are plentiful than at any time since 2001.”

Competition for job seekers is fierce, and according to Census Bureau projections, the trend isn’t likely to dramatically shift course in this generation. Salzman continues,

Census Bureau projections show the overall U.S. population, a rough proxy for the country’s demand for goods and services, growing faster than the workforce – which supplies those goods and services – through 2030 and probably beyond. From 2017 to 2027, the nation faces a shortage of 8.2 million workers, according to Thomas Lee, head of research at Fundstrat Global Advisors. It’s the most substantial shortfall in at least 50 years, on a percentage basis, according to his calculations.

Regardless of your industry, now is the time to evaluate your entire employee experience to maximize the return on long-term investments needed to acquire great new talent. Beyond introducing regular wage increases (which is already a basic necessity to attract quality employees), here are a few strategies you can consider implementing immediately and in the upcoming years to increase your recruiting success.

Implement a bonus program (or revisit your existing one)

Many companies are introducing signing bonuses to offer an incentive to prospective employees. At CoolWorks, we work with a lot of seasonal employers who offer end of season bonuses. Some employ a fixed structure (e.g. $1,000 for completing your season) while others follow a variable structure ($0.50 for every hour worked paid upon completing the season). Regardless of whether you’re hiring for seasonal or permanent staff, consider offering an upfront bonus. If you budget for a $1,000 end of season bonus for a position, consider front-loading a portion of it (e.g. $250 of the end of season bonus paid after completion of the first week of work, or offered as a reimbursement travel stipend). If you don’t currently offer any sort of bonus, strongly consider implementing a program. A lot of the companies that you’re competing with for talent already are.

Offer incentives to returning employees

As a seasonal employer, your employee return rate is arguably the most important metric you should be aiming to improve. There is a strong inverse correlation between hiring cost and employee return rate: the more employees come back for a second, third, and fourth season, the less you’ll spend on attracting and hiring new staff. There are a lot of steps you can take to improve your return rate. Offer returning employees an automatic raise (5-10% raise over the base wage for the position, regardless of what position they accept), a discount on room & board, and/or an additional end-of-season bonus to show your gratitude for their returning. These efforts may sound pricey, but you’re going to be spending that money somewhere, either on attracting new talent or encouraging your existing talent to stand by you. Investing in the people who do a great job for you is an easy way to see a great return on your investment.

Be transparent in your recruiting materials

Almost daily we receive feedback from job seekers informing us that they will not even consider applying for positions where complete wage and other compensation (room and board, bonuses, perks) are not clearly indicated in the job description and/or recruiting materials (job ads, Enhanced Profiles, etc.). Whatever you’re able to offer, just be explicit and transparent in providing that information. If your materials could be perceived as misleading, the potential long-term risk to your reputation, as well as the time you’ll spend talking to candidates who will end up moving on once they obtain the full information, will wipe out any advantage you might have gained in providing selective information and likely cause serious harm to your future recruiting efforts.

Champion your staff through Culture and Policy

This last one is a big one and will take time and commitment to develop, but will be the most valuable investment you can make in the long-term success of your company. Every employer should be striving to build a culture of enthusiasm, appreciation, and safety. As mentioned earlier, the most successful seasonal employers are the ones who improve their return rate. They don’t just accomplish this through higher wages and bonuses: they achieve this through an ownership/management level commitment to creating a fun, safe, and unforgettable experience.

Define your values and live by them. Instill them in your leadership team through annual management training programs. Acknowledge and celebrate the fact that a wonderful customer experience begins with a wonderful employee experience. Implement zero-tolerance harassment policies and enforce them. If you expect quality job seekers to travel across the country to give a season of their life to your organization, honor their decision by committing to providing a safe and enjoyable experience where their basic human needs and rights are given respect and attention. Word travels fast in the network of seasonal workers. Make sure the stories people share about your company are happy ones by committing to being a champion for your first guests: your staff.

At CoolWorks, we take our position in this greater community seriously, and our goals and mission include helping employers and job seekers to both be their best and get the most out of their experiences and relationships with one another. We are here to cheer and support you. Reach out to us if you’d like to discuss how you can start implementing improvements to your employee experience.