Summer's almost here, which means seasonal businesses will be ramping up their workforces. Think ice cream shacks, farms/orchards, amusement parks, garden centers, landscaping companies, construction sites, summer sports leagues, golf courses—the list is seemingly endless.
Some businesses hire the same seasonal workers year after year while others hire new people each year, or a combo of new and old. For college kids, a summer job is an annual rite of passage. For other seasonal workers, the gig might supplement a full-time job.
Of course, summer isn't the only time we see an uptick in seasonal employment. During the winter, ski resorts see their workforces expand dramatically. And retailers hire extra people between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Not to mention we're seeing more interim workers in general—freelancers, part-timers, the so-called "flexible workforce."
[Source: National Retail Federation]
"The long-term trend of hiring contingent workers will continue to accelerate with more than 80 percent of large corporations planning to substantially increase their use of a flexible workforce."
- Intuit 2020 Report
Given the temporary nature of these positions, it's easy to think background checks are unnecessary. But nothing could be further from the truth. The way a seasonal business screens its temporary workforce shouldn't be any different from the way an organization that operates year-round conducts its screening.
Don't agree? Well, consider the following points...
Seasonal businesses face the same hiring risks that organizations operating year-round do.
All businesses need productive and responsible employees in order to be successful. In fact, the cost of a bad hire can adversely affect your workforce—and your bottom line.
With a seasonal business, however, it's easy to think, "Hey, I'm only in business four to six months out of the year. I have to maximize profits. I can't afford doing background checks." But honestly, you can't afford not to. Think about it: if you make a critical hiring mistake, you have even less time to recover (plus, you'll have to fill that position all over again).
So, for example, if you hire someone with a history of pinching cash from the register, the damage that person could wreak on your seasonal business would be even more catastrophic because you have fewer months to recoup those losses. (And itchy fingers don't simply take cash—they also steal products: Employee theft was the second biggest source of inventory shrinkage in 2018.)
Or consider this scenario: if you hire someone who uses drugs, they might end up regularly missing work, which would affect productivity and, ultimately, the bottom line. Again, that's hard to make up under the best of circumstances, but near impossible when you're operating on a tight timeframe of four to six months.
Rescreening is necessary, even if you rehire the same people each year.
If you operate a seasonal business and you already screen new employees, congrats! But you also need to rescreen anyone you re-hire from the previous year.
Think about it realistically. They worked for you a year ago for four to six months. What have they been doing for the last six to nine months? A lot can happen in half a year—car accidents, drug use, poor behavior on Twitter. Sure, most of your former employees will probably sail through the rescreen no problem. But if a bad egg slips through, that person could cost your business.
Seasonal businesses should take advantage of contemporary screenings as well.
A seasonal business might think a criminal background check is the only screening it needs to do. But just as we've been educating companies that operate year-round that a criminal background check isn't enough in the Age of Social Media, we'd give the same advice to seasonal enterprises as well.
Social media screening, in particular, is especially important given the influx of Millennials and Gen Z into the workforce. People from these demographics spend so much of their lives online, where "bad egg" behaviors (such as racist language) can flourish. Every workforce—even a temporary one—deserves better. A compliant social media screening can flag the bad eggs so you can avoid hiring them in the first place.
Remember, your employees represent your company. So you want to ensure that you have the best face on your brand (especially since seasonal workers often interact with the public). Social media screening supports this endeavor.
Drug testing is also important. This is especially true for businesses that employ younger people and/or people who operate machinery or are responsible for people's safety. (Think amusement parks and water parks.) Typically, the younger generations have far more activity around drug use. The last thing anyone needs is a rollercoaster operator who's high on drugs while at the controls.
If you do own a seasonal business and currently conduct background checks, here are three tips to keep in mind.
Tip #1: Compliance still matters! Considering you're likely moving quickly to get people screened and hired, you should work with a third-party vendor that's fast, efficient, accurate, and knows the ins and outs of compliance.
Why? Well, laws can change. During the off-season, you might miss a change that could affect your hiring process in the upcoming season. So now, your once-compliant screening might no longer be compliant. Non-compliance can cost big dollars—a true burden on any business, but especially seasonal ones. A good vendor will keep track of compliance issues so you can always have peace of mind.
Tip #2: As we noted earlier, seasonal businesses aren't the only ones that hire temporary workers. Plenty of other types of businesses hire temporary employees from time to time as well. Something for your HR department to investigate: your organization might have customer contracts that require everybody working for the company (full-time, part-time, temporary, or even unpaid internships) goes through a background check.
Tip #3: Many smaller seasonal businesses (such as your local ice cream stand) hire high school kids and college students. Many states have determined that minors are not capable of consenting to background checks. "The age of majority" varies by state, but a best practice is to always require parental consent for background checks on anyone under 18. Note: in a few states, individuals 18 and older are still considered minors (e.g., under 19; under 21).