How to Manage and Retain Seasonal Employees

Don't overlook temporary workers just because they won't be on the payroll for long.

Seasonal success is critical to the overall financial viability of athletic, fitness and recreation facilities. As another busy summer approaches, here are four suggestions to keep in mind when supervising short-term workers.

Treat them well. For many people, how they are treated at work means more than how much they are paid. A pleasant environment, enjoyable social interaction and a supportive boss all can be powerful motivating tools. Furthermore, employee recognition (both personally and in front of colleagues and patrons) is a crucial factor in retaining good workers.

Be a transformational leader, not a cop. It is easy to fall into the trap of being tough on seasonal employees; after all, they're only around for a short period of time. However, it is important not to dwell on poor performance with discipline and criticism. Rather, in the wake of an on-the-job error or poor performance, find out what happened by communicating effectively and using such situations as teachable moments. Facility managers get what they give, so model the behavior you desire.

Strive to retain strong seasonal employees. It saves both time and money to retain solid employees from year to year, rather than hire new ones every season. One way to help ensure their return is to be flexible with scheduling. Post work schedules at least one week in advance (if not two), so employees can plan around their shifts. If an employee can only work a specific number of hours every week, do your best to accommodate that person. If someone needs time off for personal matters, grant it. Employees will appreciate the flexibility and, come next year, likely inquire about openings at your facility before applying elsewhere.

Train and pair staff members. Facility operators can be reluctant to spend a lot of time training seasonal employees, simply because of their short time on the payroll. However, providing sufficient training will allow employees to do their jobs better; without it, you're just setting them up to fail. When possible, partner a new seasonal employee with a veteran to assist in this effort. The longtime employee will appreciate the recognition and responsibility, and the rookie will receive real on-the-job training.

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