Operations and Management: Keep Your Seasonal Employees Coming Back

Now that you’ve hired and trained your seasonal operations workers for the holidays, do you have a strategy for retaining them? You should, say most catalog operations experts, because it’s more cost-efficient to retain or rehire a seasonal workforce than to hire and train different workers each year. Christopher Kearney, a Chicago-based catalog market analyst with Arthur Andersen, offers a few quick and easy solutions that can go a long way in easing your holiday staffing crunches.

MAINTAIN AN UPDATED LIST OF SEASONAL EMPLOYEES

Medford, OR-based multititle for food and gifts cataloger Bear Creek Corp. maintains an extensive seasonal employee database, which “we review when we are finalizing our seasonal workforce approach,” says vice president of human resources Kyle Burdick. The company, which mails the Harry and David and Jackson & Perkins catalogs, then encourages employees to return by planning “reserve your spot” events.

COMMUNICATE WITH SEASONAL STAFF ALL YEAR LONG

You can also use that up-to-date database to send season workers catalogs, notices of “friends and family” sales, and company newsletters during the off-season. This helps the workers to feel like a part of the team year-round. Birthday cards accompanied by a discount coupon are another way to engender good will among seasonal workers.

TRAIN MULTITASKERS

Teach seasonal employees to perform a variety of functions. Women’s apparel cataloger Coldwater Creek rotates its seasonal workers across several functions “to provide our seasonal work force with a greater overall understanding of our business,” says Tony Saulino, vice president of human resources for the Sandpoint, ID-based company. “A seasonal employee who started in the call center can rotate to our distribution center to help in fulfillment during the height of our shipping peak” and then move to the returns processing area after the holidays, he says. This will keep workers from getting bored or restless — and gives you added staffing flexibility.

PAY RETURNING WORKERS MORE

Raise the base pay for returning seasonal employees by a fixed hourly amount per year of service. The raise should pay for itself by substantially reducing your training costs, as well as the expense of advertising and interviewing for open positions. Scottsdale, AZ-based food gifts cataloger Fairytale Brownies gives returning seasonal employees not only a pay raise but also a higher bonus — about $100 higher than the bonus received from the previous peak season, says Kim Silva, the company’s human resources team leader.

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