How to Hire the Best Seasonal Employees This Holiday Season

The holidays are around the corner.  More customers and more sales are around the corner, too. To surpass your sales goals from last year, you’ll need to hire more helping hands. In the retail sector alone, the National Retail Federation predicts that business owners will hire 500,000 – 550,000 temporary employees this upcoming holiday season. Your small- or medium-sized business might not be hiring in the thousands like Target or Macy’s, but ensuring that you hire the best seasonal employees will put you on the right track to closing out the year strongly.

Even if you’re just hiring a handful of seasonal workers this year, you’ll want to make sure that you pick the cream of the crop before they get hired by competitors. Here’s what to look for when hiring seasonal employees.


See if Your Current Workforce Can Take on More Hours


This holiday season, Walmart made headlines for choosing not to hire seasonal workers and instead is giving their existing part-time employees more hours. There are many lessons small business owners can learn from Walmart’s move.  Your existing employees have a wealth of knowledge. They know your products, customers, and competitors inside and out. Before going through the long process of interviewing and training new employees who might only be with you for two months, ask your current team members if they’d like to take on additional hours this holiday season. If they have trips planned with family that you’ve already approved or have other commitments, then it’s out of the question, but it’s certainly worth the ask. When it becomes clear that you need to hire more employees to handle the holiday rush…


Get Referrals


Asking your employees to refer their hard-working friends and family members is always a good idea, but this is especially true around the holidays. With customers looking to check everything off their holiday list, having employees you can trust to handle the rush courteously and efficiently is key. Referrals come with an added layer of trust. Your loyal employees will likely only refer candidates that they know will do an excellent job, just like they do. Adding a small referral bonus can be a way to incentivize employees to refer people they know. Since the holiday rush will mainly occur over the course of a month or so, make sure you pay the bonus out to them once the seasonal employee completes the holiday season. This way, you get access to a high quality pool of new candidates that are vetted by your top performers.


Make Sure Employees Are Aware of Schedules


To make the most out of the holiday rush, sometimes your business will need to open early and close late. Make it clear what days are required and what the potential hours will be. For example, many small businesses require seasonal employees to work weekends because that’s when foot traffic is highest.  Small Business Saturday, in particular, is when businesses should be prepared for an influx of customers, since consumers will have an extra reminder to visit their local businesses. Make these requirements front and center on applications and in training to avoid confusion as the holidays get closer.

On top of that, employee communication will be paramount to your success this holiday season. Beyond regular shifts that employees expect, shift swaps will likely become more common. Flu season is here and as some employees get sick, seasonal employees can be incredibly helpful in picking up those shifts to keep your business properly staffed. Put an employee scheduling tool to work for you to centralize employee communication, automate scheduling based on robust demand forecasts, handle time tracking, and facilitate easy shift swapping.


Hire Candidates with Permanent Potential


You wouldn’t want your star employees of several years to leave you, so why would you want that to happen with seasonal employees who prove to be great assets? If you have room on your team, make sure that you hire employees for the holidays who you would want to stick around after the New Year. After all, you’re pouring resources into training them, and they will have a crash course in what your business is all about over the busy holiday period, so why not get a full return on your investment and bring them on as a regular employee? Ask in the interview process if candidates would be open to being a part of the team after the holidays. It doesn’t have to be a deal breaker if they aren’t interested, but keep track of sales numbers and other metrics for those seasonal employees who have expressed interest. The highest performers could be the newest members of your regular staff once the New Year arrives.

These are just a few ideas of what businesses should look out for when hiring seasonal employees. What do you keep in mind during this process? Feel free to share your tips for other small business owners.

Once you hire the best seasonal employees, you’ll need to get your scheduling and time tracking system in order. Sign up for Homebase’s free employee scheduling tool to automate the process.

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