Glossary of HR Terms

Looking to brush up on all the latest HR acronyms, buzzwords, and common terms? This glossary is for you, sort of like the ABCs of HR. It's everything you need to know in the realm of employee experience and human connection, defined in easy-to-understand language.


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Seasonal Employment

What is Seasonal Employment: Addressing HR Challenges for a Fluctuating Workforce

What does seasonal employment mean?

First things first. How do we even define seasonal employment? Seasonal employment, in essence, is a lifeline for businesses that see frequent, significant fluctuations in their demand for workers. 

This could be based on the season, holidays, or specific projects. A seasonal employment model gives organizations a pressure valve that lets them scale their workforce up or down efficiently, avoiding paying people during slow times and aligning labor costs better to operational needs. 

As great as seasonal workforces are for business, it can prove a challenge for HR professionals and the organization as a whole. Navigating seasonal workforces well is not just about filling positions temporarily but creating an ecosystem that sets expectations clearly, embraces all workers, and supports both the organization’s and employees’ growth and satisfaction levels.

Characteristics of Seasonal Employment

Seasonal employment is marked by its temporary nature, tailored to accommodate short-term spikes in business demand, often following predictable annual patterns influenced by factors like holidays, tourism seasons, and agricultural cycles. 

And seasonal work can be a real benefit. Unlike permanent roles, seasonal positions may offer varied hours and greater schedule flexibility, making them particularly attractive to students, retirees, or those seeking supplementary income. 

Predominantly found in industries such as retail, hospitality, agriculture, and tourism, these roles typically come with limited benefits, reflecting their temporary status.   Employers must also navigate specific legal and tax considerations when hiring seasonally, ensuring compliance with labor regulations like minimum wage and overtime pay. 

The Difference Between a Seasonal Employee and Seasonal Worker

At first glance, the terms might seem interchangeable, but understanding the nuances is critical for HR compliance and strategy. The terms carry different seasonal employment meanings and implications for business operations and compliance. 

A seasonal employee typically works for a short stint during peak periods annually, with a clear expectation of employment duration and recurring nature — such as the manager of a summer camp, or a ski-lift operator. In many places, these employees can work full-time hours without mandating health insurance coverage, provided their role is genuinely seasonal. 

Contrastingly, a seasonal worker is defined more by the duration of employment rather than the seasonality of their role, crucial for determining an organization’s status under certain labor laws. This kind of worker might also be called a “temporary” worker and could comprise a sales associate hired for peak shopping periods or additional help brought in to fulfill a large contract order. This distinction is pivotal for HR leaders in planning workforce strategy and ensuring legal compliance.

The Strategic Value of Seasonal Employment

Seasonal employment isn’t just a tactical necessity; it’s a strategic asset when managed effectively.

Cost-Effective Workforce Management: 

  • Employing a seasonal workforce allows businesses to align their staffing costs directly with revenue-generating periods, optimizing labor spending.

Reducing Overtime Expenses: 

  • By bringing in additional staff during peak times, companies can avoid the higher costs associated with overtime pay for regular employees.

Adapting to Business Cycles: 

  • Seasonal hiring provides the agility to scale workforce capacity up or down, matching the ebb and flow of business demand.

Testing and Innovation: 

  • Seasonal roles offer a unique opportunity to trial new initiatives and roles within the organization, with a lower risk and commitment level.

Strategic Staffing for Special Projects:

  • For projects with a finite lifespan, seasonal staffing ensures that the right skills are brought in without the long-term overhead.

Challenges in Managing Seasonal Workers

While seasonal employment offers numerous benefits, it also presents unique challenges that HR professionals must navigate.

Recruitment and Onboarding: 

  • Finding and integrating seasonal workers efficiently into the organization demands a streamlined and engaging onboarding experience. Effective recruitment and onboarding software will be essential to quickly integrate seasonal hires and ensure they are productive and aligned with company values from day one.

Ensuring Quality and Performance: 

  • Maintaining high standards of work quality and performance from a temporary workforce requires clear communication of expectations and ongoing support.

Communication and Integration into the Team:

  • Facilitating the seamless integration of seasonal workers into existing teams is crucial for maintaining everyone’s morale and productivity. Onboarding software can play a crucial role in fostering a sense of belonging and ensuring seamless team integration not only for full-time, on-site employees — but also for deskless workers and your seasonal hires.

Cultural Fit and Engagement: 

  • Ensuring that seasonal employees connect on a human level with their coworkers, and align with and contribute to the company culture, even when working  in short stints,  is important. It supports a positive work environment for all — but can be difficult to manage in a shortened time frame.

Scheduling and Shift Management: 

  • Seasonal workers might be juggling many commitments. Balancing the availability of a new and diverse workforce while meeting operational needs can be a logistical challenge.

Feedback and Performance Management: 

  • Collecting and acting on feedback from seasonal workers can drive continuous improvements in your seasonal employment strategy and enhance your attrition rate positively — ensuring that people stay on for the length of their contract, and return season after season.

Enhancing the Seasonal Employee Experience

Creating a positive and engaging experience for seasonal employees is essential for leveraging the full value of a seasonal workforce model. From the moment they are onboarded, seasonal workers should feel as valued, supported, and integrated into the organization as permanent, full-time employees. And with a short work season, this needs to happen swiftly.

This includes providing clear expectations, meaningful work, and opportunities for connection and feedback. By focusing on the employee experience, organizations can not only improve performance and satisfaction but also build a pool of talent that returns season after season.

Understanding and leveraging your seasonal employment effectively can provide your organization with a competitive edge, allowing you to adapt to market demands while maintaining a committed and engaged workforce. Rolling with the unique characteristics of seasonal employment can also inject consistency, flexibility, and resilience into your HR strategy in a way that levels it to new heights.

We hope this guide has given you a clearer idea around the strategy for and meaning of seasonal employment. Ready to dive deeper into crafting exceptional seasonal employee experiences? Watch our webinar: “Company Culture: Building Connection and Belonging in the Hybrid Work Era,” for insights and strategies on fostering a thriving workplace culture that embraces seasonal and all employees.