7 ways to make the most of your summer hires

Summer’s here and with it a desperate need for help in many Missouri industries. Some applicants will be fresh and energetic high school or college students, others older and experienced workers. But whatever their age or skill level, providing them with a positive working experience while still getting the quality of work you need can be tricky.

H-E-L-P

Here are seven ways to make the most of seasonal hires, be they aged 16 or 67.

  1. Pick the right people. Seasonal workers or interns may be temporary hires, but they can still impact your firm in a big way. A worker that’s unmotivated, unproductive or unhelpful can not only undermine your morale and efficiency, they can actively hurt your bottom line, as anyone who’s ever been served by a bored or hostile employee can tell you.
    Take the time to determine what qualities you look for in a seasonal hire before you place an ad or begin interviews. Do you want passion and initiative? A genuine interest in your industry? A sparkling personality? Dedication and focus? Problem solving? All of the above? Interview these applicants almost as carefully as you would for a full-time, permanent position. If you know exactly what kind of seasonal help your company needs you can then target colleges and universities or job placement boards that specialize in that field. Almost every institution of higher learning has a career center these days, and job boards are usually quite eager to send you top quality candidates. See jobs.mo.gov/employer to help get the word out statewide.
  2. Plan ahead. Few things are worse than idle hands. Not only will the owners of these hands be bored and less attentive, you’ll be constantly trying to figure out what to assign them next, leaching precious hours from your day. Instead, try to prepare work assignments well in advance to make sure they have enough to keep them busy. Outline the tasks they will be responsible for, skills they must learn and projects you’d like them on now and down the road. If you don’t know where your business needs help the most, ask your regular employees. They almost certainly do.
  3. Welcome them. Everyone needs to feel welcome and accepted, even short-time employees. A great way to do so is to send an email welcoming them to the team, introducing them in a staff meeting or taking everyone out to lunch then introducing them. And when the summer’s over, recognize their contributions, especially if they are students. You may be asked to write a letter of reference; if they have performed well enough, do so. Students need to build resumes. Being recognized builds goodwill throughout your entire organization, certainly, but also ensures these departing workers will think of you first when they need more seasonal work and recommend friends and family, too.
  4. Challenge them! If you’ve picked smart, capable people, why have them perform the same mundane tasks day after day? Try giving them some of the same challenges you would trusted people (under a mentor’s watchful eye — see below). Leverage their strengths. Include them in staff meetings, too, to make them feel like valued members of the team. Summer help may not be expert in your field, so they can easily be transferred to different departments to lend a hand as needed. This will help smooth the workflow during summer vacations and give them a broader understanding of the company as a whole, too.
  5. Find them mentors. Everyone has experienced employees who don’t mind sharing their knowledge. Pick a few friendly and patient employees to act as mentors your seasonal helpers can learn from, answer their questions and generally act as a go-to resource. Just make sure these long-timers are patient and have adequate time, because acting as a big brother or big sister can be frustrating and time-consuming. Having someone seasonal helpers regard as a friend will reduce their stress and allow them to work more efficiently, too.
  6. Set expectations. Outline exactly what a seasonal employee will be responsible for and how their performance will be assessed. Then, throughout the summer, schedule weekly or bi-weekly meetings or have a trusted employee do so, to review and stay on top of these expectations. After a worker has been with your company for a few weeks, invite them into your office for a little chat. Give them feedback on how they are doing. A little positive reinforcement may brighten their outlook for future projects. And who doesn’t love to be complimented? As Mark Twain said, “I can live on a good compliment two weeks with nothing else to eat.”
  7. Pay them! Seasonal employees have to be paid — maybe not quite as well as regular employees, but try to pay them a fair wage for your area. No one likes to feel exploited. Interns and students don’t have to be paid, and paying for interns and students isn’t an option for all companies, especially startups. But even a small stipend can make the workplace seem more like a real job, which will provide a better experience for them and usually a better work product for you, too.

Finding the right seasonal workers, even if it means interviewing a dozen candidates, is worth it in the long run. If your hire turns out to be sub-par, you’ll have to clean up their mess. But the right seasonal hire might just contribute a new perspective to your business, and could become your next great hire.