For sectors that experience predictable, seasonal peaks in trade – retail, hospitality and transport, for example – recruiting temporary staff is often the most efficient way to handle the extra workload. But with such a short tenure, how much training and onboarding is appropriate to get them on the job as quickly as possible?
While it may be tempting for employers to expedite this process, they must strike the right balance between effectively equipping temp staff to do their jobs well without over-investing resources into employees who won’t be with the company long-term.
Your duty of care as an employer will pay dividends
Health and safety training for all new employees is worth the investment. Whilst a legal requirement, it’s more than a box-ticking exercise. Creating a positive work environment with health, safety and wellbeing at its heart is conducive to a happy, productive workforce. An employee who feels valued, supported and well-equipped to do their job, with an employer who takes their duty of care seriously, will ultimately be more confident and competent at carrying out their role.
Your permanent staff will thank you
Effectively training your temporary staff also benefits your permanent team, who are likely already bracing themselves for the intensity of peak season. The last thing they need is new staff who require constant hand-holding while already trying to carry out their own duties. This kind of additional strain can not only impact their physical wellbeing, should an accident happen, but the increased workload, stress, and anxiety may take a toll on their mental wellbeing too.
With this in mind, here are our five top tips to ensuring your temporary staff slot straight into your positive health and safety culture, from onboarding and for the duration of their employment with you:
1. Comprehensive onboarding and health and safety training
Your onboarding processes should include a general health and safety component, covering all the universal basics like fire safety and workplace hazards. If you don’t have the tools or resources in house to generate this training in house already, there are plenty of ready-made, comprehensive health and safety courses that you can choose from. For example, this IOSH Working Safely certification is suitable for everyone working in the retail sector, and ensures everyone is working to a good standard.
This training should be supplemented with role-specific training. For example, if an employee will be working in a stockroom, subsequent ladder and manual handling training is essential.
Any resources used for training should be provided in the session and made accessible afterwards, so employees can refer back to them if they need to. This could be through access to the company intranet or hard copies.
Training should also outline what provisions are available to staff to support their wellbeing. Give an overview of any relevant wellbeing policy, how to access mental health resources and outline any perks they’re entitled to during their employment, like staff discounts.
2. Give employees the tools and equipment they need to do their job well
Each employee will need to be given the correct equipment to carry out their role. This can range from general safety equipment like hand sanitiser and gloves, but also role-specific equipment like hard hats and high-vis clothing.
In addition to this, guidelines and policy documentation should be easy to access, including a straightforward process for reporting incidents, accidents and even preventative reporting of safety concerns.
It’s also important to highlight and reinforce key messages prominently in busy areas like staff rooms. Posters or signs can be an effective visual aid and keep health and safety front of mind.
3. Consistently reinforce health and safety policy
Health and safety is not a ‘one and done’ task, it should be a living, breathing function and therefore requires regular reinforcement. This could include regular audits of workspaces to make sure they’re ergonomically suitable and ensuring everyone knows what breaks they’re entitled to. These preventative measures can help minimise low level injuries such as RSI, strains and fatigue.
4. Facilitate regular, two-way communication
There should be regular briefings that include any updates and in particular changes that affect their work like adverse weather, heat waves and snow. As well as these one-way updates, it’s important to foster a culture where feedback is welcome, valued, and if possible, acted upon. It’s important for employees to see that when they raise concerns, their employer will listen to them and take action if it’s feasible and reasonable to do so. If no action can be taken, then explaining why will close the feedback loop with the person that raised it. That way, employees feel empowered and as a business you could be valuable getting insights from frontline staff to improve the way you do things.
5. Allocate dedicated mentors to temporary staff
To really help embed the health and safety culture of the business, an ongoing mentor or dedicated ‘buddy’ system can be efficient and effective. Permanent, more experienced staff can shadow, train and provide feedback to new employees as they’re settling in, both from a compliance and a wellbeing perspective. Another option could be to have a dedicated point of contact for each team that staff can go to with any questions, concerns or feedback.
Even though temporary staff are working with employers for a short amount of time, it’s always worth investing in training. You’re protecting yourself as an employer, and safeguarding your permanent staff to make sure that they’re not feeling the pressure of inexperienced or ill-equipped colleagues during peak season. Better yet, should they need a temporary role next season, they’ll come straight to you.
Browse our health and safety courses to find the right fit for your employees.