As stores enter the full swing of their busiest season of the year, new temporary and seasonal workers also are adjusting to the pre-holiday rush.
To some, seasonal employees mean longer wait times at the customer service counter as new hires learn the flow of the job. But to the companies who hire them, it’s all about getting the best effort from these newcomers.
It’s common to see an influx of hiring activity in certain industries during the last quarter of the year, said Dom Farnan, founder of DotConnect, who was a recruiter for about 20 years. For instance, retail, e-commerce or hospitality sectors all see a higher demand during this time of year.
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“I think a lot of companies right now, the theme I am hearing is ‘doing more with less’ so while we may have seen an influx in seasonal hiring to support surges due to consumer spending in the past, that might not be the case as much this year,” Farnan said. “It has been a challenging year for most industries and companies so we may not see as many seasonal jobs as we have in prior years because consumer spending is down.”
But for those companies that are hiring seasonally for the holiday rush, the ideal time to have everyone in place and trained is by early November, she said.
Seasonal success hinges on training
The most important thing a company hiring seasonally can do is ensure new staff members are well trained, said Phil Geldart, CEO of Eagle’s Flight, a global training company. It’s better to invest that time into staff rather than just “throwing them into the job.”
Farnan agreed this is an essential part of making sure seasonal employees don’t hrut a company’s ability to serve its consumers.
“I would say it’s important to have well-thought-out, well-documented flexible training programs that incorporate both evergreen training modules and a well-documented onboarding workflow,” she said. “Learning objectives, what do they need to know week-over-week, and soliciting feedback are essential in those onboarding periods.”
Geldart said he has the most experience with hiring temporary or casual staff when his company has a project that needs additional staff to help on an interim basis.
“If you can really get it right, it allows me to be far more flexible as an organization,” he said. “If I had to guess, I would say [we are seeing] less of a demand for seasonal or casual because we are seeing more of a demand for good people, and you want to maintain them. [But it] depends on the industry — retail is more tied toward seasonality than regular corporate America.”
Geldart said the two ways companies hire temporary workers most frequently are either by drawing from a pool of candidates, some of whom may already have worked for the company, or by putting out fresh requests for new staff members.
If there are people a company frequently hires on in those times of need, that’s a good catalog to have to draw on, he said.
Why seasonally hire anyway?
Clear benefits for companies hiring seasonally include the flexibility and ability to scale up or down as needed, while drawbacks can be the manpower it takes to train a temporary team, Farnan said.
“Rather than thinking of a body to fill a slot, which is how most people view casual staff, for a short time you become an extension of the values of who and what we are,” Geldart said. “Even though you are only working for a short period of time, maybe four or five months, you are representing the brand and the values. The customers only see you as an extension of that company.”
Most of the time though, he added, most organizations don’t train their leaders to manage casual staff well.
“Casual staff can be an asset rather than a liability or a necessary evil, depending on how you see them,” he said. “We, for example, treat these people really well, and it pays back hugely because we have no problems. We have highly motivated individuals giving us their best work. But that does not work if you don’t value what those casual and contract people can contribute.”