Hiring for the holiday season has begun across the country. For many small to medium-sized businesses, the competition for already scarce talent is worsening. Retail giants anticipate fewer seasonal hires for 2022, but their demands are stretching the limits of available workers for everyone.
A recent survey showed Americans plan to spend less this year on holiday gifts than in 2021. Inflation and other economic pressures are seeing spending limits decrease by about $35 per household. More than half polled say they’re planning to buy fewer gifts overall. These factors may significantly impact holiday sales numbers for the year, but for SMBs, getting through the season will be the first challenge.
Still not at 100%
During the height of the pandemic, many businesses struggled to do more with less. Fewer workers, fewer resources, and even fewer customers made it difficult to remain afloat. As restrictions lessened, some were able to return to their normal staffing levels: others have yet to recover.
Maintaining holiday income levels with fewer employees can be challenging but not impossible.
For many SMBs, holiday sales represent the bulk of their annual revenue. In some industries, over 30% of annual receipts come during the holiday season. Maintaining that income with fewer employees can be challenging but not impossible. You’ll need to be creative as you compete for talent and be innovative in how to market for 2022.
Competing for talent…
You won’t hire 100,000 seasonal workers this year, but keeping pace is still necessary. Look for new ways to source and recruit candidates. Local colleges and high schools have career boards that match students with jobs in the area. If you don’t already have a relationship with career counselors at schools in your area, develop one.
Employee referral programs bring in talent
Your own employees may be an invaluable resource. Employee referral programs aren’t just for full-time, year-round talent. Parents know exactly when their high schoolers are on break, and they can drive that kid to work.
Modify your employee referral payment program to adjust for seasonal workers. Encourage employees to pick up extra cash and get that child off the couch. In some states, it’s legal to hire 14 or 15-year-olds if they’re still in school and you cap their hours per day/week. Talk to parents about options in your area.
Customers may want your employee discount
Recruit customers if possible. Ask your loyal, regular customers if they’d be interested in putting in a few hours over the holiday season in exchange for a nice discount and extra holiday cash. They know your product line and may have been planning their gift-giving around your inventory. An additional 10% off might be just the incentive they need to join you until the season ends.
What’s your biggest 2022 HR challenge that you’d like to resolve
Answer to see the results
Simplify benefits administration
Improve our virtual onboarding experience
Automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks
Leverage social media pages. Let your followers know you need their help to survive the season. Offer flexible hours, employee discounts, and the promise their favorite store will still be there in 2023 if they can work a few hours this season.
Consider pay guarantees. For some workers, unemployment benefits are simply more lucrative than working. They may want a job, but the fiscally responsible action is to stay home. If you can, let applicants know you’re willing to match their unemployment benefits (ask for a pay stub or deposit notification) for the season. You may even be able to entice them to stay on after the first of the year.
If you can hire seasonal workers, make sure to vet them carefully. In your rush to put bodies behind registers, you don’t want problematic new hires that won’t pass a basic background check.
…Or working without additional staff
If you’ve exhausted every means to hire talent, it’s time for Plan B: work around low staffing levels and stay afloat. During the holiday season, tensions are as high as demand. Everyone simultaneously vying for the same products and services is challenging when you’re fully staffed. When the headcount is low, it can be grim. There are options that can ease the burden.
How to be efficient with fewer staff members
Offer online shopping. If you don’t already have your inventory available online, it may be tough to get it done by the holidays, but it’s well worth the effort. With online, you can fulfill orders when the doors are closed, and you can focus. Even if you only offer a short list of best sellers, shoppers will be happy to pay for the shipping to avoid the crowds.
Go curbside. During the pandemic, curbside became a lifeline for restaurants to stay in business. For retailers, curbside is a great option to keep pace with holiday shoppers.
You don’t have to create an app to go curbside seasonally. Post on your social media pages that you’re taking orders for curbside pickups the following day(s). Shoppers will have paid in advance and be waiting in your parking lot with a verification code to get their orders. Instead of a long line at the register, it’s a quick trip through the lot to get their shopping done.
Gift card kiosks are a great way to reduce lines and get customers in and out quickly — often with fewer registers open. If you can, set up a table near the entrance (or outdoors if weather permits) where only gift cards are sold. Post internal and outdoor signage to direct shoppers to your gift card spot. You may be helping some finish their list more quickly, and you may even pick up a few new sales when passers-by see your setup.
Create an event that maximizes the talent you have. Black Friday and Cyber Mondays are popular because they draw consumers. Create an event of your own — like Wicky Wacky Wednesday — to draw traffic when you know you’ll be fully staffed.
Have a variety of events on different days/nights to keep the traffic coming.
You can work with other vendors on your street or in your strip mall to coordinate more than one location for sales. Another option is to have a variety of events on different days/nights to keep the traffic coming.
Shut down when you’re slow. Even the biggest retailers have shifted 6 am opening times for the few early bird shoppers to later starts. It’s a smart investment to focus talent on the hours when you’re seeing the most traffic. You can leverage this flexibility to your advantage when trying to hire.
Advertise that you offer flex for working parents. If you can open after time for school drop-off, close for lunch, or offer shifts after parents perform school pickup responsibilities, you may be able to save a bit on payroll and add a worker or two.
Many parents would love to put in a few hours if they could only work around their kids’ schedules.
Follow the market. Inflation has put a squeeze on Americans this year. Market conditions show about a third of Americans are cutting down on dining out, and one-quarter will cut down on activities like going to the movies. Ten to 20% will skip beauty appointments, travel, and new clothes this season.
If you’re in any of these industries, you’re positioned to help holiday shoppers find the right gift for everyone on their list. Advertise gift cards that can be ordered by phone or online and mailed the same day. When you do this, you’re saving someone a trip through the crowds and letting them give a loved one a gift they really want.
The staff you have matters as much as the temporary staff you hire
Throughout the holiday rush and bustle, remember the team you have on hand is working harder than ever. Consider planning a ‘we made it’ party for your crew when the season ends.
Ensure your employees know how valued and appreciated they are during the seasonal rush — and all year long.