How to Recruit & Retain Workampers

Workampers are a hiring resource not easily matched through the local employment population. The life skills they bring to the work place can bring added dimension to the culture of your business.

1. Recruiting and working with Workampers can be a very rewarding experience. Workampers routinely become "part of the family" at many businesses and come back each season, or stay year-round! Besides performing the day-to-day customer service tasks, Workampers are renowned for a variety of skills and experience that can improve the bottom-line of any business. Part-time, full-time, seasonal or year-round, there are Workampers who can cheerfully and productively fill any need, from maintenance to management.

To successfully utilize Workampers it is helpful to understand that they are motivated by many different factors. Some work out of financial need, while others do it simply to feel productive and useful. Some love to be around active adults and children, while others seek quieter locations. In our annual Workamper Survey, the majority of Workampers report that the quality of the "work environment" is just as important as compensation when deciding where to work. Workampers put a very high priority on having clearly defined duties, hours and compensation. Workampers are known for being flexible, but taking undue advantage of this quality is a mistake. Employers who are in tune with the needs and objectives of Workampers are the employers who attract and keep the best Workampers.

2. Workampers come in all ages and have a wide range of income requirements. "Help Wanted" ads should be as specific as possible with regard to hours and compensation. In today's labor market, it is important for for-profit employers to offer a competitive compensation package. What it takes to be competitive in many areas of the country has changed in the last few years. Currently, competitive wages fall within a range from $7 to $12 per hour, depending on the level of responsibility, pace of the work, etc. Jobs that include managerial or supervisory responsibilities should pay toward the higher end of this range, or higher. If you need assistance in determining a competitive wage for your positions, the Workamper News staff is available to help you. Ads in Workamper News that state that wages/salary are paid, will receive the "$$" symbol at the end of the ad. Likewise, ads that state that housing is available will receive the "house" symbol. All hours paid = $$$. Click here to view some help wanted ad examples.

3. Employers should treat applicants just as they would want to be treated if they were applying for a job. Even if you don't intend to interview or hire an applicant, it is good business practice to acknowledge all responses to your ad. A simple postcard or e-mail will suffice.

4. All Workampers are not right for all jobs. Employers must screen applicants to ensure that they are suitable for the position being filled. During the interview process, employers should be certain that all applicants fully understand what will be expected of them. Problems between Workampers and employers are usually a result of miscommunication. Being clear up front can prevent misunderstandings later. For this reason, we strongly recommend that employers prepare a simple "Work Agreement" that includes general duties, hours, starting/ending dates and compensation. Both the employer and the Workamper should sign the agreement, and both should retain a signed copy.

[Note: If you are providing accommodations and/or meals in return for work, you should include a statement equivalent to the following in your Work Agreement: "In order to properly perform their duties, this person is required to accept employer provided accommodations and/or meals as defined elsewhere in this agreement. Per IRS regulations the value of the accommodations and meals will not be included in your gross income." ]

5. Even though Workampers, as a group, are remarkably mature, friendly, dependable, and hard working couples and singles, we still recommend that employers follow standard hiring practices when screening applicants. This includes requesting and checking recent work references.

6. Do not over-value your site! For-profit employers who offer RV sites, hookups and/or other perks in exchange for labor should be certain that their exchange is proper and fair. The following formula can be used to determine the equivalent hourly wage. The value of the site (monthly or seasonal rate, not daily or weekly) including hookups and perks (if any) divided by the number of hours worked per month = equivalent hourly wage. At the very least, the equivalent hourly wage should equal or exceed the applicable minimum wage ($7.25 in most states, higher in some states). If it does not, wages should be added, or the hours reduced. In most cases, Workamper News recommends a maximum of 15 hours per week in exchange for a full hookup site at a for-profit business. In some situations, additional hours may be justified by offering additional perks, light duties and/or an exceptional working/living environment. Workampers at for-profit businesses should never be expected to "pay" more for their site than a long-term customer would be charged. Bottomline: If you want above average Workampers you need to offer above average compensation and working conditions. If you have trouble recruiting and retaining Workampers you may need to reevaluate what you are offering. For assistance in determining a competitive wage, see paragraph 2.

7. Workampers are generally not exempt from labor/tax laws, and should be treated like any other employees. However, there is one notable exception. In cases where an RV site, or other lodging, and /or meals are provided in exchange for work, there is an IRS regulation (irc 1.119 (b)) which allows for the exclusion of the value of these items from the employee's gross income, provided the following three tests are met: 1) The lodging is furnished on the business premises of the employer, 2) The lodging is furnished for the convenience of the employer, and 3) The employee is required to accept such lodging as a condition of employment. Employer provided meals may also be excluded from gross income. (Reference: IRS Publication 525 - "Meals & Lodging").

8. Very Important: Once hired, remember that a happy, efficient staff can be crucial in generating word-of-mouth advertising and repeat business. Maintaining a pleasant work environment and paying a competitive wage will reduce turnover and, thus, the expense and time to re-hire and re-train. Remember: Happy Workampers = Happy Customers!

NOTICE TO ADVERTISERS: Federal laws prohibit employers, with certain carefully defined exceptions, from discriminating because of race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation or national origin in the placement of employment advertisements. Because of the defined exceptions, publishers are not required to screen advertising for the purpose of deciding the exemption status of an employer. Workamper News reminds employers that certain discriminatory advertising could subject them to legal action and possible penalties if the employer is under the provisions of the law.