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How to Effectively Onboard Seasonal Employees

Tis the season. Many organizations are in the midst of hiring and training the employees that will help to scale up their workforce for the holidays. This year, we’re seeing more modest hiring due to conservative predictions about consumers’ holiday shopping habits. However, although market pressures are putting a ceiling on seasonal hiring, many organizations are still scaling up to meet demand. Additionally, there is a need to hire temporary and seasonal employees year-round to as a strategy to increase agility.

For that reason, now is a great time to share our expertise on building onboarding training specifically designed to meet the needs of organizations hiring temporary employees – whatever the time of year. In the following article we’ll share best practices, design tips and insights from our experienced leadership at AllenComm.

The following is an excerpt from a conversation had with AllenComm CEO Ron Zamir, who provided some thoughts on best practices for onboarding seasonal employees.

Question: What is the difference between onboarding a seasonal employee, and new (permanent) employee onboarding training?

The primary difference, of course, is that you have less time to prepare your new seasonal employee to perform to capacity. Therefore, while you may be tempted to use your existing onboarding training content, you’ll want to curate your materials and add microlearning and digital options to enhance your training, when possible.

Beyond that, the level of investment may be different. If you intend to expand your employee base only temporarily, you will only want to focus your training on specific skill sets.

 However, if your intention is to keep some of your seasonal employees – based, perhaps, on performance or to have personnel available for an upcoming need – then you’ll want to put more effort time into cross-skilling or laying the foundation for later training.

Question: What are the best practices for onboarding seasonal employees?

There are a few best practices you’ll want to incorporate for onboarding seasonal staff. First, as stated previously, you’ll want to curate your existing onboarding learning content to only include relevant materials. That way, you can reduce overall seat time.

Additionally, you’ll want to make use of any microlearning and digital training you have available. Even if you don’t have those options at the ready in your current learning content, you can tailor what you have to some best practices. For example, shorter learning modules are easier to incorporate into a workday and provide opportunities for immediate practice to enhance learning retention. Because seasonal employees have less time or capacity to learn on-the-job, you’ll also want materials that can be accessed during work time (when possible) as a reference resource or refresher.

Finally, you’ll want to look for every opportunity to create motivation. Do this by making learning collaborative, when possible. Provide opportunities for coaching, mentorship, and synchronous learning to help new employees to feel part of the team.

Question: How do you set your organization up for successful integration of seasonal and temporary employees?

Overall, you should have content ready ahead of hiring. Keep your training focused on only the most important skills, to avoid overloading new employees and wasting time. Try to break learning into easy to access and process modules. Provide ample time for practice. Be sure to make learning collaborative and engaging, to create motivation.

person signing contract before completing onboarding training

Section 2: A Roadmap to Accelerate or Expand Seasonal Training Capacity

An outline of steps and recommendations was provided by AllenComm Chief Learning Office Anna Sargsyan. You’ll find those notes condensed and summarized below.


For an accelerated onboarding, we suggest narrowing the curriculum and timeline to approximately 1-2 weeks of training.

Here are some best practices and considerations:

  • Focus your training on the “what” and “how” employees will do their job, rather than the “why.”
  • Put the emphasis on training for tasks that are simple and easily repeated. You want new hires to learn the basics and simplify it so that they can perform in just a couple of days without much need to make decisions or ask for help.
  • For more nuanced tasks, new employees may need to understand how they impact the process at large so that they care about getting it right. (However, you want them to know that they aren’t being asked to make judgement calls.)
  • Depending on the learning audience and the tasks they will be responsible to complete, you can decide whether you can combine On-the-Job (OTJ) training with Instructor-Led Training. The combination of the two modes is an effective way to shorten seat time and enhance learning retention, as learners will get to try out new skills right after seeing a demonstration.
  • The most effective approach is to use temporary workers and contractors to complete simple tasks, freeing up your full-time people to do the more complex work. By keeping training and tasks simple, new hires won’t need to rely on help from full-time employees. In some organizations, having a full-time employee provide quality control is part of the process. If that’s the case for you, build it into your process.
  • The onboarding training should prioritize localized learning and task-oriented processes, with repetition for retention and experience.
  • Provide new hires with easy and visual job aids and resources, so they have a reference to draw from before escalating any questions. Make how to escalate a question – who to get information from, how to find what they need, and when it’s necessary – part of the training. This is particularly useful for customer service employees.

Here are some sample frameworks L&D professionals can use to develop an accelerated onboarding program for temporary employees:

  • Ready – Set – Go
  • Connect – Learn – Act 

In both of these models, you have new employees meet the team and receive clarification of their new responsibilities. That lays the foundation for you to show employees the skills they need to be successful in their assigned tasks. Finally, you check their work and have them ask questions – including when to escalate a question to a full-time employee.

If you have any questions about the information included in this blog, or would like to speak to an expert, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact us.