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Don’t short seasonal workers

  • Neal Glatt, CSP, ASM
- Posted: February 18, 2016
Every snow and ice management company is now in full operations mode. The time for sales, planning, hiring, procurement and training have passed. Now it’s time to execute and respond to issues that will arise. For many companies, this includes managing seasonal employees. Whether they are shovelers, operators, drivers, managers or administrative staff, each signs up with the understanding that their time at the company is limited. With that understanding can come many challenges.

Employers tend to focus on the negative assumptions about seasonal workers: they have no motivation to be responsible with resources; they don’t care to improve their skills; they can’t understand the full functions of the job or the “big picture;” or they simply are putting in their time for a paycheck with no regard for the company’s well-being. Assumptions like these can quickly create a toxic work environment and practically guarantee limited success. By providing the right motivation, recognition and vision, seasonal workers can be transformed into a cohesive team in no time.

Motivations for seasonal workers and full-time employees are the same. They want to improve their skills, feel like they are valued as part of a team, and be recognized for their accomplishments. To deliver on these needs and reap the rewards of a motivated workforce, snow and ice management companies need to provide a culture that embraces seasonal workers as an indistinguishable part of the company staff. Temporary staff should complete the same training, attend the same meetings and team-building activities, and be eligible for the same rewards and recognition available to full-time colleagues. If it isn’t possible to fully integrate seasonal workers into those programs, offer special programs to compensate.

The best way to shape employee behavior is through recognition. By rewarding good behaviors in the workplace, a clear example is set on what to replicate. Rewards should be specific, timely and genuine to be meaningful, but they don’t have to be complicated or extravagant, or require a significant financial investment. Something as simple as a small gift card to a local coffee shop or buying lunch for a day can encourage employees and reward great work. Managers should praise publicly through a group e-mail or team announcement. By recognizing wins for the team that are due to one individual, everyone’s morale will get a boost. If a seasonal employee is recognized, any notion of “us vs. them” is erased.

Seasonal employees are likely to lack vision for their future within a company since their job essentially comes with an expiration date and opportunities for growth in such a short time might be limited. Employers must create the vision for them by laying out a path for success. As companies grow, more full-time employees may be required. Seasonal workers serve as a great resource to audition future employees in a limited capacity.

Employers should have an open discussion about future possibilities and the potential career path for seasonal employees. While making promises that can’t be delivered on will cause major problems, by openly discussing the skills, attitudes and behaviors of an ideal full-time employee and the potential careers available, seasonal employees may decide to work harder to earn that opportunity. This also helps to immediately establish expectations and avoid the pitfalls that a lack of company experience can create.

Start now
It may seem too late in the season to start a seasonal team initiative but one company meeting can completely shift gears in the right direction. The agenda should have a single, straightforward goal. Explain that culture is not where it should be and that a conscious effort to change it is going to be made. Affirm that the company survives or fails as a team and that every employee contributes to that effort. Recognize those who go above and beyond regardless of tenure or employee status. Unify the team in appearance with company jackets or hats. Finally, enjoy the success that comes with everyone working together. 

  • Keep an eye on those who show the most promise in the event you need to expand your full-time labor pool.
  • Recognize their successes as you would with a full-time employee.
  • Share your vision with seasonal workers to help them better serve the company, even if for a short time.
Neal Glatt, CSP, ASM, is an account executive with Case Snow Management. Contact him at
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