Holiday seasonal hiring was for decades a simple process—people needed extra income, and companies needed more employees for the busiest shopping season. But the pandemic has thrown unpredictability into that equation, with retailers anticipating a high need for seasonal employees but also expecting worker shortages.
Here are 10 tips and tricks for holiday hiring in 2021, shared by recruiting experts.
1. Post your job ads as early as September
The National Retail Foundation predicts retail sales will increase by 10.5% to 13.5% to approximately $4.44 trillion this year, so with labor shortages it's important to get ahead on holiday hiring. November might be too late. “Advertising your job needs in September is the smartest move for holiday hiring," Anjela Mangrum, founder and president of Mangrum Career Solutions and a certified personnel consultant, says. This allows employers to finalize holiday employees by November and also offers the option for a larger candidate pool to choose from, rather than having to resort to whoever is available last-minute.
2. Leverage Your Current Roster
Former and current employees can be assets during the holiday season. Contact the same people who work for you during every holiday season. Reaching out to those “former employees for availability can save you a lot of time and effort," Mangrum says. You can also ask current employees if they'd like to pick up extra shifts during the holiday. This setup is ideal because it creates a clear understanding of expectations for both the employer and employees.
3. Set Clear Expectations
It is a good idea to let potential hires know that the work is seasonal and temporary. “Mentioning you specifically want your workers to be available during the holidays and also any odd shifts can set expectations from the beginning," Mangrum says. This will filter any time wasters looking for money-making opportunities over the holidays but are unwilling to be flexible to meet a company's requirements.
4. Factor In COVID-19
All signs point to the pandemic continuing through the holiday season, and this will affect your seasonal hiring. Mangrum recommends a business with more than one branch allow cross-location shift flexibility. “Not only is such an open-shift marketplace attractive for those looking to maximize their holiday earnings, but it's also helpful in covering shifts in case staff members contract COVID-19 and have to self-isolate," Mangrum says.
5. Use Your Employees' Network
Use your current employee network. Linn Atiyeh—founder and CEO of Bemana, a headhunter and recruiting firm—sees success with companies who have offered financial bonuses to any employees who recommend a viable candidate who can work during the holidays. “By looking internally, you benefit from ending up with a reliable team of workers who have been vouched for by people you already trust," Atiyeh says.
6. Prepare For The Worst
Be aware that some holiday workers double-book themselves or end up not showing up for their commitment. “Many managers make the mistake of assuming that everyone will deliver as promised and are short-changed and understaffed as a result. It's important to prepare for the worst by having a larger pool of candidates or training some holiday hires to wear multiple hats," Atiyeh says. Managers of companies should have a contingency plan to prepare for the unexpected.
7. Don't Skip Training
Although it might seem counterintuitive, companies should focus on training seasonal employees. “Since training is an investment in an employee, companies are often cautious about making this commitment to someone who is unlikely to stay with the company for an extended period of time," Atiyeh says. Skipping out on training will cost more in the long run in the form of mistakes, productivity loss, and unhappy customers.
8. Focus On Transferable Skills
Employers would be wise to value transferable skills versus experience in a particular industry. Many different industries saw job losses during the pandemic. “Given the high unemployment rates in some industries, many employees are set to pivot and work in a different industry from the one they trained for.
Smart employers will leverage this talent by assessing applicants based on their transferable skills and not solely their industry experience. Put another way, some workers have excellent transferable skills to help meet your business goals in a different industry," Paul French, the managing director of Intrinsic Search, says
Eliminate Onboarding Obstacles
Make the hiring process seamless for seasonal employees. According to French, many businesses lose talented workers due to a poor onboarding process. “Set your company apart from the crowd by providing new employees with all the tools and resources they need to get started. You will build your reputation and easily attract talent to have a steady supply of workers," he said.
Because of the impact of the pandemic, safety will be something employees use to evaluate work environments. It's important to have a plan to minimize risk during the pandemic, and to enact that plan. Companies stand a “better chance of attracting and retaining seasonal workers by implementing outlined safety standards. Use social media tools and the current employees to spread the word about your organization's health protocol and its commitment to keeping employees and customers safe," French says.