How to Hire and Train Seasonal Staff for the Holidays

Being the busiest shopping season of the year, retail sales during the holiday months can represent as much as 30% of annual sales. That’s a lot of revenue — and it takes a lot of additional work to achieve. That’s why the holiday season always brings about a spike in temp hiring.

If you’re one of the many merchants looking to hire seasonal employees in the next few weeks, it’s high time that you start looking, vetting and training people. Remember, you’re competing with a lot of other retailers for talent these days, so the sooner you get started, the better.

Below are a few tips that you can use in your seasonal staff-hunting efforts this year. Check them out and see what you can apply in your business.

On finding great hires:

Everyone is familiar with the usual hiring routes of posting to job boards and using sites such as Monster, Indeed, and CareerBuilder. So rather than rehashing these points, this section will shed light on tactics beyond traditional job ad posting. Have a look at the following employee hunting tips you could try:

Turn to your best customers or fans

You’ll want to hire people who are naturally enthusiastic about your brand or products. The best way to find these individuals is by looking at your customer or fan base.

“Who would be better to represent you and your business over the holiday season than a enthusiastic customer, vendor, or fan?” says business consultant Jennifer Martin of Zest Business Consulting. “Contact any cheerleaders personally with a special offer just for them.”

One example of a retailer is doing this vape shop (and awesome Vend customer) Good Guy Vapes. Owner Shoaib Iqbal shares that they regularly hire existing customers as their employees. In fact, when they decided to expand their business, their first hire was one of their patrons.

“Our first employee was a customer and we’ve continued that tradition ever since. We mostly hire enthusiastic customers.”

See if you can go down the same route in your business. If you’re looking for new staff members, get in touch with customers and fans and see if they’re interested in working for you.  

Use social media and email

Another way to get your job listings in front of your fans (and beyond) is to leverage social media. Send a “We’re hiring” announcement via all your social channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and your email list.

Doing so will help get the word out, and since you’re talking to your existing fans, followers, and subscribers, you have a higher chance of attracting applicants who are already familiar with what you do.

Check out these examples of retailers using digital channels to find candidates:

Apparel retailer Buckle, shared a photo on Instagram that says “Love your job,” along with an easy-to-remember URL for their careers page.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Love where you work! Apply online today at buckle.jobs! #buckledout #buckle #councilbluffs #careersthatfit

A post shared by Buckle Metro Crossing (@bucklecouncilbluffs37) on

Meanwhile, Fox and Hart, a wedding and design studio, took a more direct approach and posted a “We are hiring” images to Instagram.

On the email side of things, take a look at this message from Gymboree, which went out to their subscribers in mid-October. The email had the subject line “We’re hiring for the holidays,”  and the body of the message contained more information on the open positions as well as the steps that applicants should take.

Talk to your existing employees

Having trouble finding new hires outside the company? Consider asking your existing employees for help.

Doing so won’t just make staff hunting easier, but it may also make onboarding and training faster and simpler for everyone. As Jennifer puts it, “A new hire may also enjoy working with someone they know and their ramp up time to train might be faster because they’ll be more engaged.”

Just be sure to set boundaries, she adds. Retailers should lay out rules for “what is acceptable and what is expected when hiring friends and family.”

Get in touch with past employees

Think back to your previous employees, identify individuals that you enjoyed working with, then get in touch to see if they’re willing to come back to work this season.

Again, this will make prospecting and training a whole lot easier. Since these employees already have experience working with you, they’re already familiar with your store’s policies and processes and will require less training.

Get creative with your job descriptions

Remember, you’re not the only retailer looking for great seasonal hires, so you need to find ways to stand out. One of the ways to accomplish this is to write compelling and creative job postings.

Check out what FUN.com is doing. The company, which also owns HalloweenCostumes.com, hires around 1,500 temporary workers during the Halloween season.

And because of the large number of people they need to hire, the company has to write job posts that stand out. FUN.com’s VP of Marketing Troy Eaves, told us in a previous article that they do this by getting “really, really creative to attract such a large number of potential employees” and by writing job posts that “create a sense of overall joy from the company and people.”

Have a look at this sample job description that they posted a while back:

Consider emulating their tactics when you’re hiring new people. Ditch the generic job posts and write something creative. Publish a job post that not only shows off the personality of your brand, but also makes applicants feel positive about working for you.

Be proactive and creative with your staff-hunting efforts

Speaking of creativity, you’ll also want to think outside the box when staff-hunting, advises Jennifer. Rather than just going with traditional hiring methods or waiting for people to come to you, why not be more proactive with your efforts?

“If you have a few key employees and you want to find others just like them, then learn about them just like you would with defining your ideal clients,” she adds. “Find out what their hobbies are, where they spend their down time, and what they do for fun. If you find that a number of your ideal workers take yoga, then guess where you’ll find more people like them? Yup, at yoga classes.”

On training and motivating seasonal hires

Once you’ve found the right employees, it’s time to train them for the season ahead. Now, having seasonal hires poses a challenge for retailers because some of them may not be as motivated as full-time employees who are in it for the long run.

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to train, engage, and motivate them to fully exert themselves on the job. Here’s how:

Use multiple training methods and materials

Utilizing multiple training methods and materials can facilitate learning and help your staff pick up and retain information more effectively.

According to Jennifer, it would be ideal to have your systems or processes documented in a variety of ways. “For example if you want to teach someone how to ring up a gift card, have ready not only written instructions but pictures or videos showing the dos and the don’ts so your new employees will know when they are getting it right.”

The same goes for operating your equipment and software. In addition to showing your staff how it’s done in-store, prepare a written or recorded tutorial that they can refer to later on.

Pair seasonal hires with regular employees

Melissa also recommends that you let your old-timers mentor your seasonal employees. Not only will this help them get up to speed faster, but it’ll also minimize having an “us and them” type of environment.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Seasonal employees may be working limited hours, but this doesn’t mean that your communication and interactions should be limited. When staff members aren’t in the loop with what’s going on in your store, they’ll end up feeling less engaged.

Prevent that by constantly communicating with your team — regardless of their employment status.

Michael Patrick, founder, and president of MOHR Retail told us previously that retailers shouldn’t assume that managers have communicated everything to employees, particularly those who work part-time.

See to it that no information falls through the cracks by communicating (verbally and non-verbally through checklists and memos) with your team on multiple touchpoints. According to Patrick, these could include:

  • Where they sign or clock in
  • Employee spaces or break rooms
  • Behind the counter and by the cash register

As for what to impart, Patrick advises sharing highlights such as:

  • What are the five things you need to know?
  • What’s changed?
  • What’s moved?
  • What’s new?

Further Reading


Need more staffing tips and insights? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Training and Motivating Retail Employees, an in-depth resource packed with actionable takeaways for motivating employees and boosting staff productivity. In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • How to empower your workforce to maximize happiness and productivity
  • What tools and methods to use when educating your staff
  • How to motivate your staff to bring their best selves to work

    Learn More

Be appreciative

Never forget to tell your employees (seasonal and otherwise) how much you appreciate them. Jennifer Robin, co-author of the book No Excuses: How You Can Turn Any Workplace Into a Great One told Fortune that while saying “thank you” is essential all year round the practice is particularly important during the holidays.

“It’s so simple — it only takes two seconds to say, ‘Great job!’ — yet, especially when things get busy, it tends not to happen,” she added.

In addition to verbally expressing your thanks, you can show your appreciation by:

  • Finding really specific situations or actions on which to compliment your employees. (Example: “I love how you arranged that retail display at the front!”)
  • Encouraging peer-to-peer recognition.
  • Send them some social media love.
  • Offer a token of your appreciation — gift cards, holiday presents, time-off, etc.

Put cash bonuses up for grabs

“Because of their generally lower wages, temps are highly motivated by money,” writes Rieva Lesonsky on SmallBizTrends.com. That’s why she recommends that employers incentivize seasonal workers with cash bonuses or prizes.

She furthers:

Consider holding contests with cash prizes (it doesn’t have to be a ton of money) or setting goals for each temp with a bonus to be awarded if the goals are reached by the end of their employment term.

You could even offer a bonus for perfect attendance, since absenteeism can be a problem with temporary workers.

Offer them a chance at full-time work

If there are opportunities for full-time employment at your stores, be sure to let your temps know. This could encourage them to be more invested in your company.

And since these individuals have already undergone a bit of training in your store, you’ll spend less time educating them in the future, if you do end up hiring them full-time.

Final words

The holiday season is always hectic, but with the right team members, staying on top of everything is completely doable. If you haven’t done so yet, get started on your seasonal hiring and training by following the tips in this post.

Do you have other seasonal hiring pointers to share? Weigh in below.

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.

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