Holiday Hiring Best Practices

By Lin Grensing-Pophal October 7, 2019
Holiday Hiring Best Practices

​As the holiday season rapidly approaches, employers need to ensure that they have adequate bench strength to cover demand and provide excellent service—and that they're adhering to all applicable laws and requirements governing seasonal employees. 

UPS announced that it expects to hire 100,000 workers for the peak holiday season this year, mostly nonpermanent but some full time, and all with access to health care and retirement benefits. Jobs will range from $14 an hour to $30 an hour (an increase from the $10.10 an hour it paid last year).

Target also announced that it will hire more than 130,000 seasonal employees, up from 120,000 it hired last year. Employees will earn at least $13 an hour based on a minimum wage increase that started in June.

Some large employers began their seasonal hiring even earlier. The department store chain Kohl's kicked off its seasonal hiring in July.

This race to be the first to hire from the limited supply of job seekers may have other employers, especially those that are not big brands, panicking about how they will be able to compete for talent this holiday season. What challenges will they face, and what should they be doing now to find, hire and retain seasonal workers?

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Be a Great Place to Work

First and foremost, organizations need to take steps—year-round—to ensure they are great employers. That's foundational to being able to attract and retain talent and will go a long way toward ensuring that job offers are accepted. There are also some additional steps that companies are taking this year to beat the competition for seasonal talent.

Carlos Castelán is the managing director of The Navio Group, a retail management consulting firm in Minneapolis. "Given our low unemployment and a tight job market, seasonal hiring in 2019 will be a bigger challenge than ever," he said. "It's going to take creative incentives to attract people who will work over the upcoming holidays."

He said stores are expected to hire earlier than ever and offer higher wages and extra perks—like profit sharing and paid time off, even for part-time workers. "We've seen an unprecedented increase in incentives [to entice workers] to sign on for seasonal roles, from gift cards [given to new hires] at retailers such as Target to cash bonuses at fast-casual [restaurant] chains." Still, he says, "despite the incentives, we could very well see a major seasonal labor shortage as companies compete for a smaller pool of employees."

Cast a Wide Net

Today's job seekers, especially Millennials and Generation Z, are accustomed to using their mobile devices. Employers that hope to connect with these people need to be where they are. It's not enough simply to post on job boards, said Chris Chancey, a professional recruiter and the founder and owner of Amplio Recruiting in Atlanta.

"Employers have to embrace technology and consider the tools job seekers are using to find jobs. Mobile apps and social media should definitely be part of the recruitment and talent acquisition strategy," he said.

Speed Up the Hiring Cycle

The chances are good that the candidates interviewing with one employer are also interviewing with others and may receive multiple job offers. Ensuring nimble hiring practices and quick decision-making is required in this environment.

Consider What You Can Do to Sweeten the Pot

Even companies that can't afford to offer more pay or rich benefits to seasonal staff can consider other ways to make their job openings most appealing. They can offer flexibility, training or upskilling, and discounted products or services. Hiring companies should think creatively about how they can make their seasonal opportunities stand out.

Retaining Staff Throughout the Season

Building a well-staffed and effective workforce is not just about getting new employees on board for the season—it's about keeping them to ensure coverage and a high level of service.

"Replacing temporary workers in the middle of a busy holiday season can be quite cumbersome," said Penny McNerney, SHRM-SCP, vice president of human resources at Atrium Staffing in New York City. "If your budget allows for it, hiring a few extra temps as seasonal employees may be one of the best ways to ensure you're always fully staffed. It can also safeguard customer service efforts during the busy holiday selling season, alleviating long lines and waiting times."

Again, flexibility is a key benefit for today's employees. "It is imperative to show a genuine commitment to work flexibility," Chancey said. Employers should also offer opportunities for cross-training to allow employees to work the most desirable shifts or to take on more shifts, he suggested.

Minimizing Compliance Risks

Employers should make sure they are up-to-date on how to legally and compliantly hire new and temporary employees, especially if they have multiple locations. "For example, 'ban the box' is effective in more than 150 cities across the country and prohibits asking a candidate about any criminal convictions or arrests," McNerney said. "Salary-history bans and equal-pay laws are also effective in many cities and states.

"In addition, cities like New York City, San Francisco and Seattle have passed predictive scheduling laws requiring that advance notice be given to part-time workers regarding their hours." State laws governing paid sick leave should also be monitored, McNerney said.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a freelance writer in Chippewa Falls, Wis.  



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