In a conversation I recently had with one of my clients, he expressed his concern about finding employees who he could hire for 12-16 weeks. Due to the nature of his business, it is typically very busy in the first three months of the season, then begins to decline. By the end of June, he cannot justify keeping them on the payroll. So, having some short-term employees would be very helpful to his business.

There are many green businesses like his that face this same conundrum. They have short periods of time where they need additional personnel on their team, but due to weather or simply a slowdown in the flow of customers, they can’t keep these people on the payroll for the entire year.

This creates the problem of people who are reluctant to work for a company that cannot guarantee them steady employment. Like you and me, they want a steady cash flow.

So what’s a green industry owner to do? There are a number of options.

First, look for employees who don’t want to work more than 12 – 16 weeks.

Many business owners do not realize that there are people who only want to work for three to four months at a time. The key is to know where to look and design the job so it is attractive to the right kind of employee.

Colleges or universities that have internship programs are good places to look for short-term employees. Typically, a student who comes to you as an intern only needs to work a certain number of weeks to fulfill the requirements set forth by their curriculum. They get college credits that go towards their degree and when they are able to work, they’ve already gained some field experience. College internships can be full- or part-time, paid or unpaid, a few weeks or an entire year in length.

An intern can give you additional talent to complete an existing project or to start a new one, to expand into a new line of your green business, or to bring knowledge that your current team members do not have, such as working to market your company. They can work with social media or build and maintain your website. The potential is almost limitless. They can help wherever you need someone to fill in or add to your company’s weak links.

A short-term intern can bring fresh insight and possible solutions you have not yet considered to your business. Being an outsider, he or she does not wear the same blinders you and your employees are constrained by, which limit your options for finding a better way to get the job done.

Another advantage of hiring interns to work part-time for your company is that it gives you a chance to evaluate their potential. If you are happy with what you observe, and they like working for your organization, well then, this could lead to hiring that person as a full-time employee.

Contact the college institutions nearest you and inquire how your company can participate in their internship programs.

Another type of part-time employee you should consider is one who is retired. Many seniors want employment and have a work ethic, which sadly, some young employees do not possess. Most are dependable, communicate effectively, have good people skills, get to work on time and have their own transportation.

Most can be quite outgoing and serve as excellent ambassadors for your green industry company. The experience they bring, as well as a calming effect on other employees, can be significant. Every company needs a good balance of industry knowledge and social intelligence, and mature employees can be an answer to that equation.

Consider hiring two or three part-time seniors to cover an 8-10 hour shift. Each could work 2-3 hours per day. You can set up the job to last a certain number of weeks or months, and have no worries about paying unemployment benefits.

Staffing solution companies are another place to consider finding seasonal or part-time help.

Although some of my clients have shared with me their disappointment about the quality of people their staffing agency sent to them, some agencies are better than others, so look around and try different agencies if you do not find what you like with the first one you use.

The key to finding and retaining good seasonal help is to make sure you provide an excellent orientation program for them. No matter what age they are, or where they have come from, make sure they feel welcome, and treat them the same way as your full-time employ ees.

Include them in meetings, lunches and parties. Give them the respect they deserve.

One of my lawn maintenance clients had a practice of simply hiring employees at the last minute.

There was little emphasis put on training and preparing the new employees. This philosophy creates problems.

There is nothing more discouraging for an employee than to be thrown into a job with little or no preparation and instruction. This only sets up the newcomer to make errors and then be ostracized for his or her mistakes.

Of course, you want to fully train them for the position in which they will be working. Make sure you have a consistent training program in place that prepares all of your new hires, so that they can perform as expected.

Another way to help prepare them for successful performance on the job is to use the “buddy system.” This approach ensures that your new hire will have someone to talk to, get the answers and encouragement they need on a regular basis.

When all is said and done, hiring short-term employees is very doable. Use these suggestions, and they will go a long way to help solve this common green industry problem.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom Borg works with small and mid-size green industry companies to effectively and profitably improve customer acquisition and retention. For more information or to ask him a question, contact him at 734-404-5909 or email him at: or visit his website at