How to Staff for the Holiday Crush

By Princess Jones

It feels like every single year the winter holidays start earlier and earlier. Sometimes it feels like we barely get through the Fourth of July before the Black Friday promos start.

And if your business is dependent on winter seasonal sales, you’re thinking about what your business needs to do to get in shape for the upcoming rush. Staffing your business for the holiday rush is probably right at the top of that list. Hiring seasonal workers for the holidays has a lot in common with hiring permanent employees but there’s also a lot that is different.

Start Early

If your business is affected by the uptick in holiday sales, November is not the time to start hiring extra staff. Your competitors probably have the same staffing plans. Even if you think there’s an unlimited number of qualified candidates in your area, you still want to get the best available before someone else snaps them up. You’re looking for quality workers; not the first warm body to walk into your store the week before you need them.

You should be looking for holiday staff two to three months ahead of time. This will allow you time to train them properly and integrate them into your staffing plan. And you’ll be doing it all at a speed that allows you to make the right decisions instead of the quickest decisions possible.

Acknowledge It’s Temporary

You may think that it might be easier to just hire a bunch of workers and then lay them off after the busy season, but you would be very wrong. Not only would your payroll tax rate go through the roof, you would be doing a disservice to your staff.

When you’re hiring seasonal workers, it’s very important to be honest about the nature of the positions. That starts with being honest with yourself. If you only need help through the holiday season, that’s fine. If you have room to make some temporary positions permanent depending on performance, make that clear. Set clear employment dates with options to extend them at your discretion. And make sure you get everything acknowledged in writing before your new employee’s first day.

Get Some Help

Putting out your own employment ads and asking your current employees for referrals are fine ways to find seasonal help. But you may need to bring in some help from the professionals if you want to get the task done as efficiently and successfully as possible.

Staffing agencies work with temp workers all of the time. They’ve got the resources to advertise the positions, perform background checks, and do pre-interviews to narrow down the worker pool. After they’ve done that, you can take a look at the qualified candidates and choose from there. Pricing may vary but it’s worth looking into if you would like some professional backup.

Don’t Skimp on the Training

No matter how temporary a staffer may be for your business, they still represent your business to your customers. They need just as much knowledge and expertise as your regular employees. Be just as diligent about their training as you would if they were a permanent addition to your business.

If time is an issue, consider looking for ways to abbreviate your training program. Go through your training program with eye toward shortening. If your training sessions are done over several days, consider holding a full-day training session for the seasonal workers instead. Enlist more of your permanent staff to be a part of the training process. And make sure the attitude of the entire process is that you’re giving temporary employees permanent training.

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Princess Jones

Princess Jones is the evil genius behind P.S. Jones Copy & Design, where she helps food and drink businesses speak the language of their audiences. For more talk about copywriting, design, and the tools to pull them off, follow her on Twitter @imprincessjones.


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