Holiday Hiring in a Tight Talent Market

The holiday season—which begins at Halloween and concludes just after the New Year—is the busiest time of year for many businesses. Industries swept up in the holiday rush include retail, customer service, logistics, hospitality, and food service. But most companies—and their employees—are crunched around the holidays. This is the time of year when companies finalize client contracts for the coming year, button up their budgets, and rush to meet orders.

Because of this increased business—and busyness—it’s also a time of year when companies compete for seasonal hires and contingent workers who can help stock products, serve customers, manage inventory, and assist with overflow administrative tasks. The competition for skilled temporary workers is always fierce in the lead up to the holiday season, but especially so in the past few years because of record low unemployment rates.

Here are some tips to ensure your company attracts the seasonal hires you need despite the tight talent market:

Get Started Early

Most companies—especially in the retail industry—begin the holiday hiring push halfway through the summer season with advertising and social media campaigns. Across industries, if you haven’t begun interviewing by early fall, your company will struggle to find workers who aren’t already hired elsewhere.

For retail companies, holiday hiring should be a year-round focus. When not in the midst of recruiting for seasonal employees, your Human Resources and recruitment leaders should take time to review the prior year’s strategies in order to determine what worked and what didn’t.

Seek Referrals

Very often, the best full-time, seasonal, and contingent hires come via referrals from existing employees. That’s because your long-term employees understand that skilled, dedicated workers make a difference in their day-to-day work lives, and to the strength of the business itself. They also know their referrals reflect upon them and their judgement.

To get an abundance of referrals, provide year round reminders that you welcome recommendations of friends and family members for holiday hiring. You can also offer a small reward, such as a gift card, to anyone who refers someone who is then hired.

Improve the Seasonal Employee Experience

Even though seasonal employees are with you for the short-term, don’t treat holiday hires as an afterthought. They are a critical part of your workforce through the busy season and should be treated with the same respect given your permanent employees.

A positive experience for peak season hires begins during the recruitment process and continues through the offboarding process. Here are some key strategies and touchpoints:

  • Offer transparency and communication throughout the hiring process.
  • Respectfully inform candidates who are not hired that they didn’t get the job.
  • Discuss with full-timers how seasonal hires support the long-term health of your business.
  • Establish an upbeat onboarding process for contingent and seasonal hires.
  • Ask permanent employees to engage with holiday hires.
  • Spend time learning the names of seasonal hires, and getting to know them as unique individuals.
  • Talk with seasonal hires about what was most challenging about hiring and the position, and what would improve their experience.
  • When possible, include holiday hires in meetings and huddles so they feel part of the team.
  • Give eager seasonal hires the opportunity to build skills.

Offer Competitive Pay and Perks

When your pay is significantly lower than competitors within your industry and region, your business is unlikely to attract the best seasonal employees. Make sure your hourly pay is on par with nearby companies. With social media and news reports, the pay offered by most businesses is easy for candidates to discover before they start applying for holiday jobs.

Also offer perks and benefits for holiday employees, such as discounts on products, gift cards, or transportation reimbursements. Many candidates interested in seasonal positions, such as retirees, stay-at-home moms and dads, and students, aren’t interested in full-time positions. But they do want to earn some extra cash around the holidays and make the most of their employee discounts.

Be Flexible About Experience

When hiring for the holidays, don’t rule out job seekers without previous experience in a similar position. Soft skills, such as a positive attitude, friendliness, and a willingness to learn, are often more valuable than experience, particularly in a retail environment. If a candidate has strong interpersonal skills, determine whether or not they added new skills to their resume while working at other jobs. If they have steadily expanded their skill set in other industries, chances are good you can train them to use the register or inventory management technology.

Focus on the Future

Before the holiday season ends, talk to strong hires about whether they are interested in returning for peak seasons in the future. If they want to return, establish when they should touch base or ask if you can reach out to them prior to the holiday season.

Also, speak with temporary hires about their experiences working for your company, and whether they have suggestions for improving the recruitment, training, and engagement processes. This will give you time to course correct your hiring and contingent workforce strategies before the next season rolls around.

Institute these smart timelines and tactics for peak season hiring and you’ll attract a highly skilled contingent workforce in time for the holiday rush.

For help becoming a company of choice for holiday employees, contact LINK.