One of the questions which several different employers (particularly in hospitality or retail environments) have raised with me is around students who are only available to work at certain times of the year (summer holidays, and sometimes shorter holiday seasons such as Christmas).
The problems raised are threefold:
- These students are only available at certain times;
- There is a gap between the end of the College or University Year and people arriving in their home town, available for work. So the people who study locally are no longer available and the people who are going home for the summer have not yet arrived.
- The students don’t want to stay and come back every holiday period, so there is no continuity.
I have supported businesses with their recruitment for many years and I think there are several actions which employers could take which might help solve these problems.
Set Up a Recruitment Strategy
You know you are going to have this problem every holiday period and so you need to plan a strategy for dealing with it.
If you include Total Talent Management in your Recruitment Strategy, then part of that will be to consider other ways of getting the job done. This might include thinking about whether some of it be automated. Or there may be another pool of available people who could cover it.
We cover some of the options you could include in your strategy below, but the key point here is to have a strategy in place. That way you won’t need to panic each year about how you are going to fill the gaps.
What Strategies Can You Put in Place?
- Consider different ways of doing the work. For instance, can some of it be automated?
- Give some thought to different groups of people who might fulfil the same tasks as your current student workforce. Maybe you could focus on recruiting some older people (over 60s), or young Mums who don’t want to work full time?
- If the work has to be done by younger people, then can you recruit school leavers who are not continuing in education? Or maybe you could focus on the long-term unemployed?
- Do you just need to recruit more students so you have a larger pool available than you actually need at any one time?
How can you encourage your current workforce to return regularly (or stay longer)?
If you collaborate with your current staff and current student workers, then they might be able to come up with alternatives or suggestions about how you can retain their services. For example, some things which you may not have thought of yourself , such as:
- You could agree to buy their study books for them, if they commit to return and work for you for each holiday period.
- Offer training in some transferable skills, so they get some skills they can use, either for you or elsewhere.
- Linked to the above, think about career planning with them, to map out a permanent career path with you, rather than just a holiday job. It won’t keep all of them, but it might keep a few.
- Make yourself such a good local employer that they are all queuing up to work for you.
- Appeal to the things which make them tick ( for example, show that as a business you care for environment or get involved in the local community, or support a charity, etc).
- Don’t insist on blanket rules which don’t work for them and which you have difficulty enforcing (like no mobile phones….), instead train them in alternatives (like not using mobile phones when dealing with a customer).
I am sure that a discussion with your staff will produce a whole variety of different ideas.
So you can see there are options to try which might either retain the staff you have or replace them with different workers.
The key to it all is planning and giving some focussed thought to the problem – and collaborate with your staff. They will have the best ideas of all.
If you take the time to plan a Recruitment Strategy, then you will have the comfort of knowing you will be able to fill your employment gaps. Additionally, you are making a contribution to society by employing people who otherwise might find it difficult to get work.
Additionally, a knock-on effect will be an improved reputation with both employees and clients.
If you think this article is useful and you would like more advice on dealing with this – or any other people-related issue in your business – please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.