By Billy Sprague
Target is looking for 100,000. Macy’s is trying to snag 80,000. UPS needs 95,000.
We are talking about seasonal employees. The holiday season is a prime time for companies, especially retailers, to beef up with staff to handle the surge in business.
Why is this year different? In the past several years, unemployment was higher, and the pool of seasonal applicants was plentiful and attractive. Businesses enjoyed a large number of choices and could pick and choose the specific candidates for their open seasonal positions.
This year, the economy has rebounded, and unemployment is hovering around 4%, which is a good thing! It does, however, make holiday hiring more challenging. Multiple companies will be competing for the top seasonal hires this year, making it more difficult to fill those open positions.
And, what happens when the holiday are over?
Employers are more likely this year to keep a larger number of seasonal hires on through the new year than in years past. While you probably don’t need to keep Santa or the reindeer year ‘round, dependable, honest, hard-working seasonal employees are always in demand, especially with the competitiveness of today’s market. Skilled workers such as drivers are even more of a commodity.
So, smart HR professionals who anticipate retaining some of their seasonal hires should think about what this means. Sometimes, the hiring process for what is normally temporary workers is different and not as stringent as the one for permanent employees.
How to choose the best ones to keep?
Trying to decide which of the seasonal hires to keep is tricky business. The good news is you have a clearer picture of what they offer than those candidates you interview from a resume or application. It’s important to measure how they perform. Do they show up on time? Are they quick learners? Do they have a good attitude and fit into the company culture? It’s smart to choose the ones who are treating their seasonal gig like a permanent job.
In addition to performance and fit, there are other aspects of bringing temporary employees on permanently.
Here are the top considerations hiring managers should ponder as they make plans for who should stay on their payroll as they ring in the new year.
Did the employees come from a staffing agency?
Companies who hire lots of seasonal help may lean on staffing companies to fill the slots in a timely manner. If a portion of those new hires end up doing well and are up for permanent placement, HR pros need to remember that staffing companies sometimes don’t screen thoroughly.
Post-employment screening: Unless you have written documentation that the staffing company screened the seasonal-turned-permanent hires that same way your company would have, spend the few extra dollars and order a background check on them. It may seem unnecessary, but it’s a good best practice to make certain all your employees are screened in the same manner. It also minimizes the chances something was missed in the original screening process. Employ screening reports like criminal records searches, employment verification, and motor vehicle records, depending on the position. NOTE: Be sure to get a signed authorization from any and all people you order a background check on.
Drug testing: Drug abuse can cause serious workplace issues. If the seasonal employee has not already, require that they submit to the same drug screening process other new hires do.
Were the seasonal hires trained fully and properly?
If the onboarding process for seasonal employees moves in fast-forward, it’s essential to backtrack and cover the information that may have been left out. Company processes, benefits, organization goals, product knowledge, and anything else that is standard for employees to learn needs to be discussed. Make sure the seasonal employees that are transitioning into permanent staff are up to par with the other members of the team.
Are you practicing fair and non-discriminatory hiring?
What is obvious discrimination during the hiring process may be more subtle when deciding on who to keep from holiday hiring. For example, are the majority of the ones being asked to stay mainly men? Are they primarily young adults? Focusing too heavily on one segment of a population can set you up to be the target of unfair hiring litigation which is so prevalent today. Make certain that fairness to both sexes, and all races, religion, and ages is a top priority when deciding which of the seasonal employees to keep permanently.
The fact that the economy is strong and unemployment is low is great news, even if it poses obstacles for hiring good quality holiday staff. If, after the rush is over, there are certain seasonal employees that you decide would be valuable additions to your team permanently, it pays to keep them if you can. Just don’t get in too much of a hurry and forgo proper screening and training. Taking the time to do these properly helps ensure all company employees will be on an even playing field, and you can expect high performance all the way around.