Seasonal Hiring

Strategies for Hiring Seasonal Employees in a Tight Market

The holiday season is approaching and with it, the need to hire seasonal staff members. In retail, service and other sectors, businesses are competing for less talent than has been available in recent years. The challenges to build staffing levels will be difficult for most employers this year.

Some retailers are pulling in the reins for seasonal hiring in 2022. Macy’s reported it will be hiring 30,000 fewer seasonal staff members this year, in anticipation of lower sales due to rising inflation. Walmart anticipates it will go down from 150,000 hires last year to only 110,000 for the coming season. Even with these steep cuts, they’re not confident they’ll meet goals. For smaller companies, the competition for seasonals will remain high, even with reduced hires from the larger organizations.

Seasonal workers and businesses are concerned

Management isn’t alone in their concern about the ability to hire. Seasonal and permanent employees are also concerned. A survey from Legion found almost 60% of hourly workers are not confident their company will have enough employees to meet the holiday rush. That may place an undue burden on the workers in place, which can cause them to resign. It can become a vicious hiring circle for employers.

It’s not just retailers that will feel the seasonal hiring squeeze. Hospitality industries will also be impacted. With travel bans lifted, Americans may be interested in experiences rather than gifts for the holidays. They may plan travel to golf and ski resorts, other vacation locales, and stays at hotels. For these industries, seasonal hiring could be as challenging as for retailers.

Attracting seasonal hires

The same Legion survey polled hourly workers about their preferences when choosing a seasonal position. When it comes to making a selection on where to work, over 60% said having a schedule that meets their preferences is their number one wish. If they can’t find what they want, almost half will move to another position that meets their scheduling needs if they can find it.

That’s bad news for employers looking to add as many staffers as possible during the holiday season. Seventy percent of the managers in the Legion survey cite matching employee work hour preferences is the hardest thing about creating schedules. If they can’t meet employee demand, they may be looking at turnover. If they can, they may be short- or over-staffed just to keep employees on the payroll.

For businesses looking to hire, responding to potential seasonal hire’s scheduling preferences may be an advantage over the competition. When posting your vacancy, include that scheduling is flexible, if possible. You may find that comment in your advertisement alone is enough to drive applications.

Hiring faster may not be smarter

In a recent report, Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, cited the challenges businesses face. She notes many companies are speeding up the hiring process by removing requirements and making immediate offers. In some companies, they’re eliminating interviews and background checks, and responding to applicants within an hour with an offer of employment.

That may be a quick fix that leads to long-term problems. Some estimates put 90% of all significant theft losses to businesses from existing employees. Surprisingly, 75% of workers admit to stealing at least once from their employer. More than 37% admit they’ve stolen from their workplace at least twice.

For retailers, over 40% of inventory shrinkage is due to employee theft. A 2021 National Retail Federation survey found the cost of employee theft averaged about $1,500 per case. Compared to shoplifting, at about $450 per case, employees may pose the highest risk for loss to a business.

Businesses lose about $50 billion per year due to employee theft, according to the US Department of Commerce. SHRM reports 40% of employees who steal have had HR ‘red flags’ in the past. Eliminating the background check could be a costly mistake for any business, not just retailers.

Keeping your company safe

It’s estimated retail alone will add about half a million workers during the peak holiday season this year. Tens of thousands of workers in other industries will be needed to meet seasonal demand. Even the US Postal Service is looking for about 30,000 seasonal hires to meet the holiday rush.

In many states and local jurisdictions, asking an applicant if they have a criminal history is banned. In an effort to allow job seekers access to interviews, laws protect their privacy with regard to felony and misdemeanor convictions in the past. For business, access to that information may be critical, particularly for hires that will not be with the company long-term.

Protecting your organization from internal theft is key to maintaining profitability during the holiday season and beyond. While it may be illegal to ask an applicant about any criminal history, background checks are not prohibited. This small step could be the difference between making a good seasonal hire or putting your company at risk.

It’s not just retail

While a good percentage of shrinkage occurs at the retail level, with theft of goods or cash, no industry is immune. More than 70% of data breaches are found to have been perpetrated by employees abusing their data privileges. These can take years to discover, long after a seasonal employee has left the firm. In many cases, the employee’s intent was to get hired simply to access databases.

With so much at risk, hiring seasonal employees must be structured to protect the company as much as possible in a competitive market. Working with a vendor that can provide comprehensive background checks on potential staff members may be key. As hiring for the holiday season ramps up in a difficult talent market, shortcuts aren’t the answer.

Flexibility is key to seasonal hiring

Hiring during difficult market conditions will require flexibility. In past years, you may have required a specific length of experience before hiring: be ready to cut down or eliminate that requirement to reach your head count goals.

Speeding up the hiring process may be necessary as well. If possible, add self-scheduling to your application process to avoid chasing down an applicant to schedule a first interview.  Many seasonal employees are younger and prefer texting to calls and emails. Be ready to respond to them quickly by text rather than by voice or email messaging. Consider video interviews, which can be arranged in minutes, rather than days, to snag talent quickly before someone else does.

When you do interview, look for potential over experience. Does the applicant with no experience seem eager to learn: does the candidate with a large employment gap warrant a second look? You’ll want to adapt to market conditions to meet your hiring goals.

One thing never to miss is the background check for new hires. Whether you’re verifying work history or checking for criminal convictions, knowing who you’re hiring is critical to minimizing risk and making the right decision for your company.

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