The holiday season is going to be busy. Very, very busy.
They’re definitely not a thing anymore. Between Black Friday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, life in retail becomes a blur of choosing holiday music, gift-wrapping, and so many sales and promotions.
Being prepared is absolutely key to surviving the holiday rush – and finding the right staff is a huge part of that.
How to get your seasonal hires right
You might be tempted to think that seasonal staff are bodies on the floor. They’re there to do their job and go home. And sure, that’s true – but countless studies have proven that happy staff perform better and are more productive.
The holidays can be a stressful time both for employees and customers. Tempers can flare and anger can rear its head. Customers making complaints is par for the course, but if a member of staff loses their temper, you could lose a sale – and potentially a customer.
Not a good look for your business – especially at such a crucial time of year.
We know you already know how to find staff – post job ads online, post on Twitter using relevant hashtags, put a poster in your window, and place ads/a notice in local newspapers or on the radio – so instead of giving you tips for hiring, we’re going to focus on getting your new hires holiday ready.
1. Get familiar with employee laws for seasonal hires
The DOL’s Wage & Hour Division (WHD) promotes compliance with labor standards to protect and enhance workers’ welfare. Yes, that’s quite the mouthful but what it actually means is that it’s responsible for enforcing some of the nation’s federal labor laws around minimum wage, overtime, record-keeping and child labor.
One of the more important WHD laws is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which require employers to pay covered non-exempt employees at least the minimum wage, and overtime for any more than 40 hours worked in a work week.
You can check out a list of popular FAQs on everything from minimum wage to when double time is due on the dol.gov website.
Recruitment agency Symplicity offers the following guidelines for recruiting seasonal employees:
- Ensure that the position is for less than six months or 120 days.
- Ensure that every year at the same time, you’ll have the same need to hire for this temporary position. Presuming business remains steady, this is likely a fair assumption to make.
- Make sure you’re compliant with the FLSA guidelines.
- Remember that employment laws (e.g. discrimination, workplace safety, labor laws, etc.) all still apply to seasonal workers.
In short: seasonal employees will likely be with you for less time than your regular staff, but they’re treated the same for taxation and legal purposes.
They also have the same rights around workplace safety, pay, discrimination, leave, etc., as outlined in the FLSA and state law labor protections, so make sure everything is above board – even if they’re only going to be in your store for a couple of weeks.
If you’re not sure about the rules around paperwork, healthcare, insurance, retirement programs and more for seasonal employees, it’s worth it to book some time with a professional.
2. Don’t rush through training or onboarding with seasonal hires
Again, it’s very easy to consider your seasonal staff as being numbers on the floor, but that could prove to be a big mistake if something goes wrong.
Let’s say a new member of staff starts in mid-November in the lead-up to your biggest sales days. You don’t have time for proper onboarding so you talk him through the big points but skip safety and manual handling.
You then ask him to go down to the stockroom to get boxes of products for the shelves. He slips or mishandles the box and puts his back out.
That’s an on-site injury – and it’s one that could have been avoided had your staff member been properly trained.
Even if your seasonal staff are only going to be with you for a couple of weeks, you’ll need to make sure that they’re adequately trained in the aspects of their job and in safety and manual handling.
It may be a case that you just won’t have time to do it yourself, so ensure that any managers or senior staff are involved early on and prepared to offer training in workplace safety and the job they’ll be expected to do.
For the general ins-and-outs of their job, it’s a good idea to implement a buddy system where you pair a new worker with someone more experienced who is doing the same role. They can shadow them for the first couple of days to more actively learn what’s required of them, before going out on their own when they’re ready.
There’s also the option to incentivize learning: perhaps offer further in-store discounts or a partnership with another retailer where new employees get small rewards (it could be as simple as paying for their morning coffee) in exchange for completing relevant training.
While incentivizing learning is a great bonus offering for employees, it’s also worth remembering the value of monetary incentives for all your employees across the holiday season. Set fair goals and if they’re met, be prepared to offer a fair incentive in return.
3. Likewise, don’t skimp on the screening process
If you’ve left it late to start hiring for seasonal workers, or if you’ve been hit with a bigger boom than expected, you might find yourself in a scramble to get cover.
That doesn’t mean that normal hiring practices should go flying out the window. For one, as the employer, you’re responsible for all your employee’s wellbeing – whether they are there for 10 days or 10 years.
And you need to cover your own back too: retailers who participated in the 2018 NRSS say that employee/internal theft amounted to 33.3 percent of inventory shrink in the year prior. That’s not a happy stat for retailers – and you already have enough on your plate without worrying that your staff are up to no good.
Using the same checks you do for non-seasonal employees is a good place to start. Background testing, drug testing, and reference checking should all be carried out as you normally would.
If you intend to use a third party to speed up the process and do the check for you, you’ll need to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the rules of employee screening.
Whether you do it yourself or enlist help, the background check will generally involve information around social security number verification, work history, credit history, criminal records, court records, work references and more.
Running a thorough background check through a third party probably isn’t necessary (and requires the candidate’s permission) so instead, check public records, do a thorough online search, call their references, and run through any public social media profiles or online accounts you can find.
Of course, while a background check and a relevant resumé are important, one of the big things to look out for with seasonal employees is attitude. As the old recruitment motto goes, you can teach skills, but not attitude.
It’s also worth offering a referral bonus to your best/most-trusted employees: if they have friends or peers who they recommend for the job, offer them a small bonus at the end of the holiday season as a thank you for a good recommendation.
No doubt, the holiday season is going to be very, very hectic. You’re going to be working long hours and manning your ship in the face of shoppers who may have less patience than usual. You’re going to need a solid backbone of support; your staff are it.
Taking shortcuts might save you time but could create quite the headache so be prepared to properly train and onboard any new hires. Even though they might only be with you for a short while, your seasonal staff should feel that they matter – so play to that and create an environment where they can flourish.
As we said up-top, happy staff are better motivated and are generally better at their jobs – so it’s worth it to get your seasonal hiring right for everyone from the big boss down to the customer who’s on the hunt for the perfect holiday gift.
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