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The Time to Start Seasonal Hiring? Now!

How soon do you need to start recruiting for this year’s seasonal hires?

Likely well before you think you do. Kohl’s, for example, announced open seasonal positions in July. Competition for seasonal employees this year is expected to be tight, just as it has been in the last few years. If you’re late to the game, your pool of talented candidates dwindles and you may struggle to have enough trained and capable employees when you need them most.

Using an applicant tracking system that expedites the job-posting process can make that less painful. But no matter how you get job listings out into the world, start thinking about it now, not later.

Here are three things you can do to help your organization stand out among the crowd.

Reach out to past employees

If you have former employees from past holiday seasons you’d be happy to hire again, don’t wait around for them to apply! Reach out and specifically invite them to return this year.

This can help you avoid bad personality fits, since you’ll naturally avoid recruiting former hires who were terminated for poor performance or behavior. It will also shorten the on-ramp to get them up to speed this year, since they’re already familiar with your business.

Offer competitive pay and perks

Sure, you may not offer your hourly seasonal employees health insurance or vacation days, but the benefits that you do choose to offer can help you sweeten the deal for candidates who have several options.

Consider employee discounts, bonuses and other perks that make sense for short-term employees. Include seasonal employees in your employee recognition efforts and see if you don’t get a few who return next year, or decide to stay on after the holiday season ends.

Additionally, if you struggle to fill seasonal positions, take a look at your compensation compared to others in your region and industry. Last year, Target increased hourly wages to $12 an hour, which allowed the retailer to fill seasonal positions earlier than expected. And that contributed to a strong holiday sales cycle.

Any changes to your compensation structure would likely affect your existing employees as well, which could contribute to easier recruiting year-round.

Commit to meaningful training

Employees – even short-term ones – want to feel capable to accomplish the job in front of them. Unfortunately, front-line retail employees often do not receive the training they need to feel prepared for the holiday rush. A study of managers and their teams found that 70% of the leaders felt their teams were very prepared for the busy season, compared to only 56% of their team members.

In a competitive market for seasonal employees, appropriate training can help you stand out among the other options. Let candidates know in job listings or interviews that they’ll receive the training they need to feel comfortable during the holiday rush. Bonus: Your employees actually will be more capable and able to tackle the high-speed and high-stress shopping season.

Making your business attractive to seasonal workers in these three ways creates a virtuous cycle.

When seasonal employees feel valued and supported, they’ll provide better service to your customers. They also might recommend friends to apply, or continue working for your company longer-term. And all of that leads to happier customers and talent management that feels a little more … manageable.