Four Tips to Attract Seasonal Talent While Controlling Labor Costs

Constant change — that has been the theme of the past several years, especially for restaurant businesses. When it comes to finding ways to stay afloat, many businesses have become exceptionally creative. However, right now many companies that need to hire seasonal employees are struggling with the clash of a tight jobs market and the rising costs of doing business.

Finding a balance between controlling labor costs and attracting and retaining seasonal workers can be a challenge, but with a little ingenuity and flexibility, it is possible.

1.   Create an Employee-First Environment

In an industry often laser focused on putting the customer first, shifting your mindset to put your employees first can be difficult. But it’s important. An employee-first workplace retains more staff and attracts more new workers. So what can you do to put employees first?

  • Communication and transparency

Decision making is no longer an opaque, “because I said so” process. It’s ideal to include employees. If that’s not possible, at the very least be transparent about actions and developments that can affect their lives and livelihoods. When in doubt, ask employees what changes would make their job more enjoyable. Be prepared to potentially implement suggestions such as flexible hours or a more relaxed dress code.

  • Invest in your employees

When you provide something for employees that enhances or simplifies a task, that investment often pays off tenfold. Paid trainings, opportunities for advancement and new equipment are all ways to help employees feel valued.

  • Recognition

Work with your employees to set goals and provide incentives for when those goals are met. Recognize when employees are going above and beyond to provide exceptional service, help their coworkers or furthering the mission of the company. Too many employees ask themselves, “Why am I doing this job if no one even notices or cares?” Strive to be the employer who notices and cares.

  • Care and empathy

Compassion and understanding are not typically words that come to mind when you think of seasonal work, but employees are driving your business, especially during the busy summer months. So check in regularly and genuinely on their mental health and potential burnout, ask about their lives and their families and offer assistance, when possible, during times of personal upheaval.

2. Rethink Scheduling

Scheduling can be a headache for both employer and employees to figure out, but rethinking how you schedule can make this regular business process much less painful for everyone.

  • Add a tech solution

Handwritten or manually created schedules, like spreadsheets, are often riddled with errors and can be incredibly difficult to update and communicate. By investing in scheduling software, you can implement new processes quickly to save time and money. 

For example, David Porto, the co-owner of Blue Plate Catering in Madison, Wisc., was spending 15 hours or more each week using a basic spreadsheet to manage schedules and track hours for his 70 employees. After investing in scheduling software, Porto reduced his scheduling and tracking time to only 20 minutes per week. Adding a tech solution also saved his business some $10,000 annually by helping control for unnecessary overtime expenses.

  • Switch to flexible scheduling

Managers want to spend less time on scheduling, and employees want more control over when they work. One solution to make life easier for both sides is using a flexible or self-scheduling model. Managers map out available shifts based on customer demand and other factors, and then employees choose what shifts they want to work.

Allowing flexible self-scheduling gives employees more control of their schedules and cuts out the manager as the go-between and gatekeeper of shift and scheduling information, saving time. Plus, self-scheduling has been shown to reduce no-shows and increase productivity.

  • Be predictable

In a study by Harvard and University of California San Francisco, half of restaurant and foodservice employees received their work schedule with less than a week’s notice. Unpredictable, just-in-time scheduling often means employees are working less hours than they’d like and may struggle to make ends meet . Volatile schedules also make employees more likely to leave for more solid and secure opportunities; the turnover rate is 39% for restaurants and foodservice workers who receive their schedule with less than 72 hours’ advanced notice.

However, when businesses commit to providing more stable schedules with significant advanced notice, they can reduce turnover and have employees who are healthier and more economically stable. Predictive scheduling is also increasingly becoming a legal requirement for businesses who rely on hourly workers. Major cities like Philadelphia, New York City, San Francisco and Chicago have passed Fair Workweek laws, mandating employees receive a predictable schedule with significant advanced notice. When businesses invest in more technology solutions, they can better support their employees and adhere to these laws. 

3.   Evaluate Overtime

When you’re short-staffed and business is booming, you need to ensure you’re as fully staffed as possible. Oftentimes, that means overtime comes into play and can be a significant source of costs.

To start off you need to figure out how often you’re tipping into overtime and what percentage of your overall profits are going toward labor costs. Simply, divide your total sales by your total labor costs (including benefits and overtime). Then look for patterns where labor costs are outpacing sales. Are there certain shifts that are consistently over or understaffed? Are there certain shifts where overtime spikes? With some tracking and attention, you’ll be able to see where small staffing changes may help with big savings over time.

If you don’t already have one, create an overtime policy. This should include how overtime works, who approves overtime hours, how employees will be paid for additional shifts and more. Consider putting a cap on overtime hours – whether it’s how much overtime employees can work per week, quarter or even for an entire year.

4.   Offer Attractive Benefits

In the last year, restaurants have had to become increasingly competitive on pay and benefits in order to attract and retain workers. Here are a few benefits that can have a big impact without breaking the bank on the employer side:

  • Flexible scheduling

According to a recent report from Black Box Intelligence and Snagajob, a flexible schedule is one of the top things restaurant employees look for in a new job.

  • On-demand pay

Nearly three-quarters of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, and hourly employees are more likely to find themselves needing money before payday. Plus, financial strain can trigger anxiety, depression, stress and employee burnout.

On-demand pay, also known as earned wage access, allows businesses to give employees access to a portion of their paycheck right after they work a shift, rather than waiting until the end of the pay period. Giving employees early access to their wages helps relieve stress and the outcome is happier, more productive workers.

Offering on-demand pay can give you an advantage over the competition, especially in such a tight job market. In a study by ADP, 60 percent of employees said they would take a job if they had more flexibility to select pay frequency.

The old adage “treat others how you would like to be treated” holds especially true for employers hiring seasonal talent right now. Being a company that puts their employees first, reevaluating overtime and scheduling practices and truly listening to what employees want is important to creating a human-centered workplace. At the end of the day, an employee-first mindset is better for your business, your existing employees and those you’d like to attract and retain in the future.