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Updated: Jun 22, 2017
For some, summer is synonymous with lazy afternoons by the pool, endless beach trips with the kids, and catching up on your booklist. But for small business owners, it’s often a different story: you may be in the middle of your company’s busy season! And with seasonal businesses, there’s no time to lose.
Make sure you don’t get caught understaffed and unprepared. Assemble a small but savvy team of temporary or contracted employees to meet your unique demands for the busy season, and disband when school is back in session.
Focusing on lean, efficient teams can help you maintain cash flow and top-line growth, especially when you consider the increasing costs of full-time staff (like healthcare, disability insurance, and vacation time)!
Here are 6 simple steps to making a great seasonal hire come June:
What are the different employee roles you might need to staff up for? Common summer gaps might include serving customers on the sales floor, responding to customer inquiries online or via phone, filing and organizing records in your office, or fulfilling orders in distribution centers.
Pro tip: don’t limit your planning to day-of situations! Plan ahead for the rush by determining what marketing, design, or technical expertise you could use to make sure your website and marketing campaigns are up to snuff, too.
In short: this is not your grandparents’ job market. It’s easier than ever to hire high-quality employees on an independent contractor basis.
For example, consumers are more savvy (and mobile) than ever before: it’s no longer acceptable to just have a basic (or nonexistent) website. Do you need a web designer? Or maybe it would behoove you to hire a part-time social media specialist throughout the summer season to engage online shoppers? What skill set would make the biggest impact for your business?
If you’re looking to plump up certain areas of your staff on a temporary basis for the holidays, keep track of how those skill sets benefit your business: if you decide a certain role is particularly valuable in an evergreen way, you can always hire for that position full-time after the summer comes to a close!
So now that you know the type of seasonal employees that you’ll need, how exactly do you find them?
The first step: rethink your preconceptions about what work actually needs to be performed onsite with you! Roles traditionally performed in person, like administrative support, bookkeeping, or public relations, can now be completed remotely with ease.
If the work you want to accomplish can be performed remotely (think: website updates, marketing copy, etc.), you can find professional freelancers via online platforms like Thumbtack or Upwork — or send targeted messages to people whose profiles appeal to you on LinkedIn.
If you’ll need folks onsite, post ads on your local Craigslist page and in your local paper, or reach out for referrals from friends, family, and industry colleagues on Facebook and LinkedIn.
When you find the right folks who are intelligent, hardworking, and excited to help your business succeed, there are two major steps you may need to consider before signing any offer letters.
First, it might be wise to acquaint yourself with state and federal fair hiring practices and job discrimination laws — and know how to implement them. For example, to comply with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, have policies in place that clearly define and prohibit racist, sexist, or other impermissible types of discrimination and unlawful harassment in the workplace, among other things. If you have questions about any employment laws related to seasonal employees, make sure you talk to a lawyer.
Second, make sure you’re correctly classifying your seasonal employees according to state and federal laws (think: part-time vs. full-time, or contractor vs. employee). For example, you can’t treat a worker like an independent contractor for tax purposes, and then use that person like a full-time employee in practice. You could end up being held liable for payroll taxes down the road if you’ve misclassified any workers.
Before you let any new seasonal employees lift even one finger, make sure to get all employment agreements in writing! A lack of written contracts, including Work for Hire or Consulting agreement forms, is a common small business mistake, and a little effort upfront can save you a lot of headaches later. Specify the terms and conditions of their employment with an Employment Offer Letter that confirms their position, title, start date, salary, benefits, specified probationary period, a statement of the at-will nature of employment, etc. Don’t forget to differentiate between a full-time employee and an independent contractor!
If your business has any vital intellectual property (like a signature recipe, product design, or other trade secret), considering asking your temporary employees sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) to protect your proprietary information. An NDA is a legally binding contract that carefully outlines and defines any information you do not want your employees to share with a third party. If your employee breaches the NDA, you can take legal action in court.
After you’ve signed the dotted line on your new seasonal employees’ contracts, an employee handbook is a useful tool to help guide them through the busiest of days, and set clear expectations for the professional relationship! Any good handbook should cover benefits provided to your workers, company policies (ex. social media rules to prevent bad branding!), and reporting structures so there isn’t any room for confusion.
Need more hands but don’t have enough cash to cover the hires? Find out how a Funding Circle term loan can help your business beat the heat.
Paige Smith is a Content Marketing Writer and Senior Contributing Writer at Funding Circle. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and specializes in writing about the intersection of business, finance, and tech. Paige has written for a number of B2B industry leaders, including fintech companies, small business lenders, and business credit resource sites.