Holiday Retail Hiring: How to Prepare for the 2021 Season

by Katie Sawyer, 7 minutes read
HOME blog holiday retail hiring

Retail workers are in high demand. But with 1.2 million retail job openings in July — an increase from 876,000 the year before — businesses are worried about what that means for the holidays.

Experts anticipate up to 9% more holiday sales this year. So although retail stores be full this year, managers are dealing with a shortage of workers.

So what's a retail store manager to do to ensure they're fully staffed before the holidays? Here's a look at several tips for holiday retail hiring in 2021.

How to start hiring for the holidays

Hiring for the holidays is a challenge — workers demanding better pay, work-life balance, and workplace culture. However, experts expect to see at least 700,000 retail hires for the holidays. So if you're still filling your staff for the festive season, then here are several tips to keep in mind.

Understand your staffing needs

Do you have enough retail employees to manage the upcoming holidays? For many businesses, managers anticipate more in-store shoppers this year.

Not sure if you'll need additional hands on deck? Then use demand forecasting from past holiday seasons to see the trends.

Maybe there's been a steady increase in demand over the past two years, requiring more retail workers on hand. If so, begin looking for part-time or seasonal staff to meet demand.

If possible, create your schedule now so you can see the gaps needing filling.

Start hiring early

Holiday hiring should begin weeks, or even months, in advance. The sooner you begin, the better prepared you'll be to face competition with other retailers right before the holidays.

Many seasonal workers start their search early, so wait too long and you'll miss out on some great talent.

There's also the time factor. Lately, it takes longer to fill retail positions. Some articles state 40 days is the average time-to-hire rate. In retail, it takes roughly 83 applicants to find one hire.

If these are true, then beginning your employee search sooner than later is vital. This way, you won't be short-staffed once the holidays roll around.

Get creative

Relying on job boards alone won't guarantee new hires. There are countless retailers using the same job sites as you. So to overcome the competition, think creatively.

For example, host an in-store hiring event. It's like a job fair, but for your store locations only. Some businesses interview applicants on the spot to speed up the process. Belk and several other retailers are hosting hiring events this year.

Texting candidates about their application status is another way to engage prospective workers.

Get your employees involved by asking them for referrals. They may have family members and friends looking for extra work over the holidays. Social media is another channel that can increase visibility and generate applications from qualified candidates.

Offer incentives to attract season retail employees

Retailers across America are looking to fill hundreds or even thousands of seasonal roles for the holidays. This means a ton of competition for workers this year. But don't worry, there are ways to stand apart and entice workers to apply for your retail positions.

Here are several ideas.

Negotiate pay

Workers today aren't settling for just any pay rate. They're quick to go to the employer with the best benefits. Being negotiable about pay is critical if you want to appeal to more candidates. It may even mean agreeing to higher hourly rates for seasonal workers.

But think of it this way: The increased pay is to accommodate for the work they do. And that can mean a more functional store and increased sales.

Increase flexibility

Seasonal workers typically have other employment, obligations, and plans over the holidays. Be accommodating, so working for you doesn't become a burden. If applicants see you're flexible with work schedules, they're more likely to take up your offer.

For instance, allow them to choose which days and hours they can work over the holidays. Then try to fill the gaps with additional hires or current employees who don't mind working those time frames.

It's also ideal to publish the scheduling requirements in your job description. Include the days, times, and hours required. Need folks on call? Offer shifts through your mobile app so people can pick up shifts easily.

Give perks

Another way to attract more seasonal helpers is to give perks they can't refuse. Like providing childcare costs, offering in-store discounts, or supplying tuition reimbursement.

Saving money and offering bonuses is an excellent way to show you value your workers. You can even offer rewards to anyone who agrees to work the actual holidays.

Reward top workers with ongoing employment

If feasible, consider offering the potential for full-time employment for the best new hires. This will entice applicants in the market for a permanent position. Lay out the terms so they know what's expected to be considered for ongoing employment.

Prepare for scheduling flexibility

Planning ahead for the holidays is tough, especially with so many variables and roadblocks that can rear their head. For instance, someone getting sick or needing specific days off at the last minute. The best way to deal with these issues is to prepare for flexible scheduling.

Here are several ways to do so.

Employee communication

Improve communication between employees and management. One option is to use apps and tools that allow workers to call out or ask for time off.

By opening up lines of communication, it's easier for everyone to remain on the same page.

Shift swapping

Things happen at the last minute when we least expect it. Cars break and children become ill. When life throws its blows, you want your retail team to have a way to request shift swaps.

By adopting simple shift swapping, you reduce the odds of no-shows. The Gap proved this last year when they tested an employee messaging app that allowed workers to post shifts they didn't want. The findings showed 62% of part-time hourly workers posted or took a shift.

So chances are your team will use this feature to ensure they get the best schedule to match their changing needs.

Easy-to-manage scheduling

Part-time workers demand flexibility. They want guaranteed hours, but scheduled on their terms. This is easier to accommodate because part-time employees work fewer hours and/or days. So inserting them into the schedule wherever needed is seamless.

But to make the process smooth for everyone, consider adopting a scheduling platform that allows managers and workers to request specific days and hours.

What happens after the holidays are over?

It's a question you want to ponder before the holidays. For instance, you'll have to determine what you'll do with your seasonal talent. Will you keep them onboard or begin weaning them off the schedule?

Let's review some things to consider when planning for the next year.

Retaining talent

You hire temporary workers to make the holidays run smoothly. But this doesn't mean you have to lay them off right after. This is particularly true if you find talent gems worth keeping.

In this case, determine whether you'll hire seasonal workers full-time once the holiday season is over.

Also, don't neglect your permanent employees. Give them a bonus for all their hard work over the holidays to keep them around longer. Retaining talent after the holiday rush is critical to ensure you don't end up with too many workers leaving at once.

Future training

Noticed any issues with how well (or poorly) you trained new hires? Then now's the time to take note and incorporate adjustments. For instance, maybe certain workers learn better from hands-on experience or by reading through manuals.

Or maybe your onboarding materials don't answer a lot of questions new hires have. Review your onboarding and training processes to make improvements for next year.

Return seasonal hires

Some workers are serial seasonal employees. This is great news since you can recycle them back into next year's seasonal hiring spree. It'll cut down on the number of net new employees you need to search for.

So create a database of seasonal hires and reach out to them each year to see if they're available. Update your records annually to grow your hiring pool and reduce time spent going through applications and interviews.

Begin Planning Retail Hiring for the Holidays

The holidays are upon us, so it's now or never for your holiday hiring. The longer you wait to begin, the harder it'll become to fill your roster with exceptional workers. All you need is a solid plan, detailed job description, and easy-to-use scheduling tools to offer the organization and flexibility needed to succeed.

Once you have the first two, you can plot on the scheduling platform you'll use. Deputy is a top pick for retailers because it offers better flexibility for everyone. If you'd like to test it out, sign up to try deputy for free today.

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