HR & Management

Christmas temps: How to keep temporary workers motivated

6 min read

04 December 2013

As the busy holiday season takes hold, many businesses will be hiring temporary workers. But how can you keep them motivated in their work?

Things have been undoubtedly tough in the UK over recent years, both for the economy and for employment. As a result people have had to budget carefully for the celebration of Christmas. 

Despite this, research firm Verdict predicts that consumer spending will hit £88.4bn over the festive period this year, reportedly the highest amount since the recession began and £2bn more than in 2012.

With consumers busily preparing for this holiday and expenditure set to rise, retailers like Argos (that has recently announced plans to recruit 10,000 seasonal workers) must be fully prepared. Especially those that sell homewares and furniture as the housing market is growing. Argos has moved early and we will undoubtedly see many other chains following suit over the next couple of months.

Hiring extra support for the busiest shopping period of the year can be a challenge, but so can motivating and engaging these temporary staff members who may not feel fully integrated into the company. According to work organisation Engage for Success, the most productive employees are the ones who have the highest level of engagement with their jobs and the culture of their organisations.

Managers often make the mistake of assuming that engagement is not important for short-term workers; they become reluctant to invest time and money on employees whose contracts end at the start of the New Year. 

Although seasonal contracts generally only last for short periods, there is potential for jobs to become permanent if vacancies become available after the holiday season. Take Amazon for example, last year the online retail giant hired 10,000 temporary employees and offered permanent roles to 1,000 of them.

Invest in your staff, regardless of how long their contract runs

Talented members of staff are an important asset to any business and worth investing in, whether temporary or permanent. 

Training has a valuable part to play in showing temporary employees that they are really valued for their contribution to the company. The use of technology has completely transformed the cost, delivery and range of training available. 

For instance, elearning offers high quality, on-the-job, bite sized and modular training that can be undertaken anytime, anywhere and tailored to the individual. Rather than sitting through a long video about health and safety, for example, employees can simply look at a module that focuses purely on fire hazards if that is what they need to know about.

Don’t expect a member of staff to flag their own training requirements, think carefully about the career and role of the individual instead. 

When customers come into a shop looking for expert advice they won’t care about whether the shop assistant they speak to is a temporary or permanent member of staff, they will still expect the same standard of knowledge about the product they are looking for. 

In order to ensure good service and repeat business, retailers need to ensure their seasonal workers are as well educated about stock as those who have worked at the outlet for years. Ensuring that temporary employees are fully trained and engaged is crucial for businesses.

Ultimately, a business would not survive without driven individuals, so it is vital that organisations get the most out of all their staff and give everyone an opportunity to hone their skills. 

This investment in staff training and development will also foster company loyalty and a willingness to help the retailer succeed and grow. Measuring the value and outcome of learning programmes is critical to this as it enables companies to demonstrate the value and return on investment and helps to ensure that staff remain engaged by applying what they’ve learnt to their everyday role. As a result, staff feel a greater appreciation for how their skills are tied directly to the success of the business.

Keeping staff engaged is a difficult task for any employer. But for those who get it right, the benefits are plentiful: an engaged team that feels valued and a prosperous business that is reinforced by a skilled and talented workforce. 

Taking the time to ensure that seasonal workers are engaged in the business can work wonders for both reputation and future success. 

Employees leave feeling satisfied, valued and happy with their time at the organisation and, as a result, are more likely to consider returning to the company or recommending it to a friend should an opportunity arise.

Kevin Young is general manager of Skillsoft EMEA.