February 23, 2022

Seven ways to better engage temporary, seasonal, and gig employees

Engaging your temporary and freelance talent is important for both your business and your brand. Here, our VP Employee Experience Deb LaMere offers some tips for managers to boost engagement with these employees.

The goal in human resources is to ensure employee retention and productivity with every worker. You want high performers to stick with your organization for a long time and put in high-quality work.

However, some types of positions weren’t designed for the “long haul.” A brief tenure – usually just a few months – is typically what’s expected from seasonal or gig workers. This is especially true in industries like food service and retail that regularly employ seasonal staff, host in-store events, or use freelancers as brand ambassadors. Employers can use the gig economy to their advantage by filling the gap on retail jobs that are hard to fill or one-off design projects for your ecommerce campaign.

The gig economy is also quickly expanding, due in part to the pandemic. The number of workers taking on gigs – either as side jobs or as full-time freelancers – is growing. Upwork reports that freelancers represented 36% of the American workforce as of 2020.

Engaging temporary, seasonal and gig employees is important. Why? Just like a great customer experience creates repeat customers, a great employee experience motivates returning employees.

To inspire your temporary workers, you need to motivate them, and focus on how your employee experience engages them. Here are some tips for managers to help boost engagement with your seasonal, freelance, and gig workers.

Trident Seafoods reels in a seasonal workforce

"They come back season after season because we take such good care of them while they're working for us" says Beth Scoble, Trident's HRIS Manager.

Watch their story

Make inclusion core to culture

The ideal workplace culture is welcoming to everyone, not just employees with long tenures. Many people choose freelance and gig work because it’s more inclusionary of their preferred work-life balance. Temporary and seasonal gigs allow people to choose when they work and achieve a more comfortable work-life balance that could include caretaking responsibilities, a greater variety of work, and breaks for health.

Seasonal, temporary, and gig workers are part of your team no matter how long they are there. If going to work feels inviting for everyone, then everyone will be more likely to stay engaged. Including gig and seasonal workers in communications, team meetings, and events can help them feel more valued.  

Ceridian’s Employee Resource Groups offer some tips on promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace, including being aware of unconscious bias and mixing up teams.

Don’t pack all training into employees’ first days or one session

Author Matt Heller says in Forbes that front-loading training can stunt growth of seasonal workers. “First, it gives employees very little to look forward to. Second, rarely do employees truly learn and absorb all of the material covered in a few days or hours of orientation.”

It’s true that many organizations do make the training load heavy at the beginning because they’re keen for employees to hit the ground running, and because temporary employees have a limited time with the organization.

Research shows that the best learning with the greatest retention happens on the ground and in practice, so build this approach into your seasonal and gig worker training strategy. Create more social onboarding opportunities that allow temporary workers to interact with the rest of your team and build rapport. Embedding learning opportunities as part of employees’ daily work lives is also a great strategy for engagement and improving retention rates.

Related: The five keys to ongoing employee engagement

Set clear goals for what success looks like

Sometimes, seasonal and freelance workers feel like they aren’t really working toward anything – they’re just ready to complete their contract and leave in a few weeks or months. Giving employees goals can improve their focus and motivation, even in the short term.

Regardless of how long an employee’s term is with your organization, it’s important to show them how their contributions impact your business and your culture. This will help them feel connected to their work and that they are a valued member of your team.

Recognize and celebrate workers’ successes

When you set goals and your seasonal employees achieve them, be sure to let the employees know that they’ve done a great job and deserve to be praised.

Effective employee recognition can simply be saying thank you and recognizing good work when it’s done. In addition to improving morale, 82% of employees that received appreciation once a month reported a stronger bond with their boss, compared to 63% who received recognition less frequently. In some cases, it might even be time to dole out rewards as tokens of your appreciation.

Related: Three tips for effective employee recognition

Get feedback on your employees’ experience

At Ceridian, we believe in facilitating a culture of open and honest feedback – and that includes establishing ways for employees to provide feedback on an ongoing basis, whether through pulse surveys or informal conversation.

This is true for all employees, whether they are freelance, gig workers, or full-time. What do they think about your organization? What’s it like to work there? What do they think can be improved on? You can’t pursue further engagement initiatives unless you’re aware of what you’re trying to address.

Empower employees with technology and a flexible environment

Employees today look for environments that encourage personal and professional success – and that includes employers offering flexible schedules. Many people choose freelance and gig work because they want the flexibility. Temporary work allows people to choose their shifts and determine where they’ll work, which helps them to accommodate their unique schedule.

To manage their new workforce ecosystems, more organizations are turning to technology to empower their people, boost their productivity, and provide them with greater flexibility. Mobile HR applications allow employees to easily access up-to-date schedules on their phones and make real-time decisions about upcoming tasks and trading shifts.

Rethink your compensation strategy

There’s one thing that employees of all kinds value, and that’s a paycheck. Particularly in a tight labor market, if you’re willing to offer more competitive compensation for your temp workers, they may decide to stay.

There are also ways to be more competitive with compensation beyond wages, such offering other benefits and perks. It’s important to be aware of how competitive your compensation strategy is, and get creative to energize and engage employees.

Related: The new compensation strategy: Be more creative

Ensuring that you engage your seasonal, freelance, and gig workers is good for both your business and your brand.

Build a pipeline of great talent that already knows your organization and is motivated to continue working with you in the future. From an administrative perspective, you’ll have fewer headaches when you welcome these employees back, while strengthening culture.

Remember that your employees are your greatest advocates. Putting just as much emphasis on engaging temp workers as you would with your full-time workforce contributes positively to your brand perception, and builds your organization’s reputation.

Deb LaMere

Deb LaMere is the Vice President of Employee Experience at Ceridian. With 17 years’ experience in human resources, Deb is responsible for employee engagement, talent management and performance management for Ceridian.

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