The restaurant industry is hiring an estimated 508,000 seasonal employees this summer, according to projections from the National Restaurant Association, marking the second consecutive year the industry will record more than half a million summer jobs.

With those jobs comes the responsibility for restaurant employers to keep the temporary employees engaged, productive, and focused. 

"[Seasonal employees] are looking for that real-world experience to put on their resume and get them just a cut above the rest," says Deb LaMere, vice president of human resource strategy and engagement at Ceridian LifeWorks, an employee wellness and assistance program. Some seasonal employees are highly involved, she says, looking to make their mark on the company; others view the stint as a simple resume builder, and might be less focused than others.

LaMere says there are three key ways for employers to keep seasonal employees engaged: go beyond a job description and create a set of goals for them to work toward during the summer; engage them from the first day, so they know what the tools and resources are and who to go to for questions; and keep up constant conversations with them throughout the summer to learn whether they are challenged enough or any struggles they may be having.

"We've got goals and objectives [for our summer interns at Ceridian]," La Mere says. "It's a mini-project plan that explains: this is what we want you to work on, this is what we want you to learn, and we want you to be totally engaged with the department and the company, as well."

In the restaurant industry, this goal can be meeting a certain standard of service, getting positive feedback from guests, or becoming extremely efficient in a sector of the restaurant, such as front or back of the house.

Treating temporary employees, whether they are on board for three, six, or even 12 months, like regular employees also de-emphasizes the temporality of their job and makes them feel like they are part of the team. 

"We do an orientation for all of our new employees, and we include the seasonal workers, so they feel part of the workforce," LaMere says. "I've seen in the past where, if you don't engage them from day one and show them the tools and resources that are available to them and are at their disposal while they're spending time with the com pay, they become lost. It starts out on the wrong foot because they're searching for information."

The best thing for a manager to do, throughout the term of an employee's time with the company, is to have constant conversations with the employee. Managers should find out how employees feel about their performance, how comfortable they are doing their assigned tasks, and whether their job is challenging enough. This creates a strong working relationship so that the employee is comfortable in approaching the manager if any problems, questions, or concerns arise, and vice versa.

Finally, the best encourager of engagement and production from a seasonal employee is seeing a full-time workforce that enjoy their jobs and work environment. "Here at Ceridian, it's our initiative that we're here to have fun at work. … And that goes a long way with seasonal employees, that they're included in these things and they're seeing that the regular employee population is engaged, too."

By Sonya Chudgar

Industry News, Labor & Employees