Christmas is about four months away; Black Friday, three months. You have plenty of time before you need to worry about hiring seasonal employees to help out around the holidays, right?
A recovering economy has allowed many would-be seasonal workers to find full-time employment, thereby shrinking this crucial talent pool and upping the competition between employers in need of seasonal help.
And even if that weren’t the case, there would still be plenty of reason to start the seasonal hiring process early.
“Even though seasonal hires are coming in the door for a short period of time … fit matters,” says Lauren Griffin, senior vice president at, Adecco. “Having someone who can represent your brand well is important.”
Cut Corners, Lose Customers
The problem is companies that wait to start the seasonal hiring process face serious time pressures, which make it very difficult to hire seasonal employees based on cultural fit. They need to get people in the door to serve their customers — they don’t have the luxury of hiring for fit.
These same time pressures also force some companies to inadvertently cut corners when it comes to onboarding and training seasonal staff. And when that happens, these companies are shooting themselves in their metaphorical feet.
“For instance, in a call center, those employees are your first line to your customers,” Griffin says. “If they are not trained properly to represent your brand or handle customers’ problems appropriately, you could have a situation where someone is representing your company in a manner that you wouldn’t want.”
Griffin also points to seasonal employees hired to ship products for ecommerce businesses: “What’s going in those packages and whether or not they get out the door on time can make or break your customer’s holiday season.”
The same could be said for any seasonal hire in any role in any industry: a seasonal hire who doesn’t fit the company culture and who isn’t properly trained can lead to disastrous customer experiences, driving away business.
Start the Seasonal Hiring Process Months in Advance
Employers need to be very careful about making sure their seasonal employees can get the training they need — and that’s why they should start the seasonal hiring process in July or August.
“Take your time in July to really forecast what you might need,” Griffin says. “Get a pulse on the employment market and how it might look in the fall. Build out a thorough onboarding plan so that you aren’t missing something critical.”
Griffin notes that talent markets for seasonal hires vary by geography and desired skill sets, so companies should be sure to keep these factors in mind when exploring the market. Employers may also want to take a look at what their competition is doing to attract talent, as well as make sure they are setting appropriate wage rates to entice applicants.
Griffin also advises that companies take the summer months to put contingency plans in place.
“Definitely for those employers that may make or break their seasons around Black Friday, the best practice would be to say, ‘If something goes wrong, this is what we’re going to do, contingency-wise,’” Griffin says.
Hopefully, you’ll never have to use that back-up plan — but having it in place ensures that everything goes smoothly and no corners are cut.
Companies don’t have to necessarily start hiring seasonal employees in July and August, but they should at least start building “robust recruiting plans,” Griffin says. Such plans should include everything from complete digital strategies to grassroots initiatives — like blanketing local religious and educational organizations with fliers (with permission, of course) — and maybe even “old-fashioned yard signs.”
When September rolls around, Griffin says, it’s a good idea to start reaching out to people who worked for your company in a seasonal capacity the previous year.
“That’s a great talent source, especially if people had a good experience with you the year prior,” Griffin says.
[Ed. Note: It's worth mentioning that, though this piece focuses on hiring for the holiday season, some companies and industries may require seasonal hires at different times of the year. In that case, Griffin says, they should follow the same steps and start the process in relation to when their specific peak seasons begin. So, for example, if a company needs summer employees, they may want to start the seasonal hiring process in February or March.]
Getting an early start in the seasonal hiring process gives companies a chance to hire the right people and provide their temporary workers with the training they need to thrive at the company and deliver great customer service.
As an added benefit, building and executing robust recruiting and onboarding programs also results in a better experience for seasonal workers, and that’s a good thing for the companies that hire them.
“If the seasonal worker has a good experience, they may want to work there again next season, or refer friends to work there, or become a regular customer of the business,” Griffin says.