The holiday season will soon be upon us, and that may mean its time to expand your labor pool. The hiring of temporary or seasonal workers to bulk up your talent team during the busiest time of the year is becoming more common. While hiring additional workers can solve many problems, some challenges come with it, too.
Recruiting seasonal employees can be taxing on HR departments to solicit, hire, and train workers – especially in the time it takes to make them proficient for the job. Since the holidays are often a relatively busier and more stressful time to work, it can be hard to onboard in the manner needed to get them ready for the hustle and bustle of back-to-school, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Black Friday.
Thankfully, seasonal workers aren’t a new thing. Here are some tips from companies who have been doing it successfully for years.
1. Make it Legal
While the federal government doesn’t set all the rules for hiring seasonal workers, federal guidelines do exist for all workers – and these also apply to temporary help. Get familiar with the basics of hiring seasonal help, from how overtime works to whether children can be safely employed in your industry. It’s important to comply to avoid expensive fines from the government or lawsuits from your workers. Follow the same general rules you would for hiring anyone from checking documentation to having appropriate paperwork filled out. Whether you use employees or independent contractors, seasonal workers are still workers; don’t skimp on important HR tasks like having them sign their handbook and employment contracts. Keep an eye on state and city law changes, too.
2. Start Now
A strong employment outlook and a robust economy are contributing to more options for workers, who are having an easier time finding jobs and realize they are in a good position to shop around. For that reason, it’s best not to wait on hiring and training. Even JCPenney, which made headlines in recent years for its financial difficulties, hired approximately 18,000 seasonal workers for back-to-school and is expected to continue the trend into the winter holiday season. To compete for the best talent, you needed to start yesterday. Begin your search now to lock down that ideal worker for your business.
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3. Adapt to Learning Styles
Most companies have a pretty standard training regimen for new workers, but it’s wise to make even your most structured training a bit flexible. Not everyone learns the same, and auditory learners that enjoy spoken presentations won’t absorb the same info well by reading it in a training manual. Repetition is effective, as well, so get the information to your seasonal workers often in their initial training period, through videos, hands-on practice, and take-home packets. Workers appreciate having their learning style represented – even if they aren’t fully aware that they have one.
4. Check for Understanding
It can be frustrating for a new employee to be thrust into the busiest time of year. There is an overwhelming amount of info to learn, and many companies take a “one and done” approach that can easily backfire. Even after the initial training period, take time to check in regularly and make sure the training sticks. Get daily updates at first, then move to weekly. Never assume that a worker is doing OK just because they appear to be fine. People aren’t usually very forthcoming about their insecurities, and an uncertain worker is more likely to make costly mistakes.
5. Encourage Cross-Training
Most seasonal workers are in retail, specifically doing customer service roles. It stands to reason that they would need to know everything about the customer they are serving and how to do those common tasks that make a shopping experience fantastic. The more workers know about the entire business operation, however, the better they will be at their own, specified role. Encourage front-line employees to know how products are made, the history of the store, and why the company’s mission is important. Give them some reason to be invested in their role beyond just the paycheck, and share insight into how the other departments work. Even the smallest amount of cross-training makes a more informed worker and increases overall buy-in and company loyalty.
6. Get Real
The holiday season is stressful for shoppers, and this frustration can easily pass to your temporary employees. Don’t sugarcoat the realities of working retail or customer service during these intense times. Equip workers to know what to do – even during the craziest moments. If you’re worried that you could scare away employees by being honest, you’re not giving them credit, and you are risking a hire on someone who is not built for the stress of seasonal work. Since the job market is in favor of the worker, and it would be easy for a disappointed hire to walk and find work elsewhere, guard your hire and time spent training by being transparent about what you are asking.
7. Discuss the Future
It very rare that a seasonal worker comes onto the job thinking “I can’t wait to leave my family to work on Christmas, grab my paycheck, and get outta here!” Many see seasonal work as a stepping stone to other things. It’s the foot in the door to a steady job with the promise of regular hours and possibly even benefits. Treat each seasonal worker as a member of the family and stress what’s in it for them for the long term.
Will a certain number of seasonal workers be kept on after the holiday? Are you looking at your temp pool to fill future positions within the management training program? If there isn’t any room for seasonal workers to stay on this time around, will their info be kept so that they can easily reapply for future positions? Answer these burning questions from seasonal workers before they ever start the job. Even if you can’t promise them a long-term commitment being upfront with your goals makes for more trusting relationships and helps employees focus on their job – on what they may be missing out on down the road.