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An Employee For All Seasons: Seasonal Help For Your Small Business

Shot of a young man working in an organic vegetable garden plot in the late afternoonhttp:// According to the 2017 State of Small Business Report, more than 50 percent of small businesses plan to hire new employees in the coming year. While the focus of this plan may rest more on permanent employees, SBOs would miss out if they overlooked the potential of seasonal personnel on their businesses. You see, seasonal hires can make up half of last yearly quarter’s new employee hires! And while the peak season for retail work ended once Santa landed from his one-night delivery spree, other industries pick up. Landscaping renews with spring time. Pool maintenance and summer camps start to pick up before the end of the school year. Lawn care gets a fall boost to prepare for winter. And in each of these spurts, seasonal help can ease the extra workload. When could your business benefit from a few extra hands? What kinds of legal steps or preparatory measures would you need to take when you decide to add on a little seasonal help?

Do You Need the Help?

Before you look to bring in any temporary personnel, ask yourself: Do you really need the help? Does your business volume warrant any additional personnel? Could your currently staff manage the workload? If you decide you need seasonal help, how do you find it? Can you handle it the same way you hired your regular staff or would it be easier to contact a staffing agency? Could social media prove a fertile hiring ground? Would your staff happen to know anyone in need of a little extra cash or with free time and an ability to quickly learn the ropes? More on this a little later. sid-free-consultation-0516Another factor is “when”: How early should you start to look for this help? Generally, the rule of thumb is between two to three months before your peak season. Home improvement businesses can take advantage of the end-of-retail peak in time for spring and the beginning-of-the-year yard maintenance. Camps and amusement parks can use spring jobs fairs in local high schools to secure summer time student help. These gaps allow time for the hiring and training processes. Yes, training. Remember: These newcomers, temporary they may be, will still need at least a basic understanding of your business methodologies. Your regular staff can help to indoctrinate their seasonal coworkers and mentor them as they would a full new hire. When a full-time position opens, you may already see a prime candidate from your seasonal list!

Definitions and Their Implications

Before we go any further, let’s discuss two types of seasonal personnel you may encounter: Employees and workers. While the terms seem similar, if not interchangeable, their impact on your standing under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could not be more different. A seasonal employee is someone hired for a period of no more than six months. Each period of employment occurs at roughly the same time of year. If this employee works more than 30 hours per week during employment, he is placed into an initial measurement period. Once this period ends, if his hours remained consistent, he is considered a full-time employee under the ACA. This means he counts towards the minimum 50 FTEs that requires mandatory healthcare. A seasonal worker works on a seasonal basis for a period of no more than 120 days. The work in question can only be performed during certain times of the year, like harvesting. Workers play a role in your status as an Applicable Large Employer: They do not count toward your 50-FTE total under the ACA’s Play or Pay mandate. So, if:
  •  The position last six months or less, and;
  •  The position begins at approximately the same time each year, your new hire would be considered a seasonal employee.
However, if:
  • You remain below 50 FTEs for the preceding year and;
  • Anyone employed for no more than 120 days over that magic number (50), you must consider him a seasonal worker.
Don’t forget: you must withhold taxes from all workers, including your seasonal people. Check your state laws about unemployment benefits and workers’ compensation requirements. Male senior citizen getting ready to trim his bushes in South Africa.

What's In It For You?

Does your business stand a chance for long-term benefits from short-term employment? The immediate impact can be easily seen: These employees (or workers) offer a measure of flexibility to your workforce and can help keep your budget in the black with a reduction in overtime paid out. You could also strike gold and find your next long-term employee. This is known as a seasonal position test drive: You can observe someone actively in the job and see his or her performance in the position. Once the temporary position ends, you would keep the record of this time and employment on file. When the time comes to bring on a new full-time person, you could pull from a proven talent pool. Keep your eyes open for these qualities:
  • Go-getters who offer help before asked, especially with your customers
    • 60 percent of employers said this looked favorably on a seasonal person
  • Ask for more responsibilities (favorable to 46 percent) and contribute ideas (44 percent)
  • Someone who states upfront that he or she wants a full-time job (favorable according to more than 50 percent of employers)
Depending on how you acquire your seasonal help, you might build another useful long-term relationship: One with a staffing agency that introduced you to your seasonal personnel. And on that note…

How Do You Find These People?

It almost seems like more work goes into the hunt for seasonal personnel than regular, doesn’t it? So many regulations and specifics, guidelines and paperwork, and effort for a position that might not last six months! But isn’t the extra help when you need it, not to mention the boost to your reputation, worth the work? The best place to start in your search is with the people around you. Ask your current staff if they know anyone who would fit in well with your business and its ways. These referrals can reflect back on your employees, which may help to encourage them to make honest recommendations. Just make sure to be upfront with your people: You don’t want to replace them, just give them a little help when things get hectic! Why not use a little content marketing to showcase your business and what it offers? Take to your company’s social media platforms and show off a little. Let your employees take part and film short videos on their time with you (which can reinforce that you don’t want to replace them!). Write blog posts on your business and insights you picked up over time. Upload some pictures from company functions (tasteful, of course). These same platforms could also offer you a means to set up but not conduct interviews unless no other alternative in available. Online media offers convenience to start the interview process, and can even help speed it up.  They can also hide key factors about your potential employee. When the option to conduct face-to-face interviews exists, take it. Remember that staffing agency mentioned earlier? Think of it as a timesaver if you can’t afford to take time away to search for prospects yourself or if you need them trained from the start. These companies maintain databases of people who can be contacted, interviewed, and connected with your seasonal employment with a short series of exchanges between you and the agency. If needed, you can provide the agency with your training regime and your seasonal personnel will arrive ready for the floor. Even payroll and paperwork can be handled by your staffing agency! While this comes at a price – estimates range between 12 to 50 percent of an employee’s hourly rate, typically dependent on the skills required and job location – a good relationship with such an agency can easily repay the costs with quality people in a timely manner. How does your business handle seasonal peaks? Do you hire seasonal workers? Employees? How do you hire: In-house or through an agency? Have you found full-time people from your seasonal pool?