If you own a small business, especially in retail or hospitality, you’re likely already gearing up. The holidays are fast approaching. Now is the time to hire extra staff to deal with the increase in demand.

But taking on temporary workers can also bring its share of challenges. You want to save money, provide premium customer service, and keep your sanity.

Here are our best tips for holiday hiring so you can make the most of your seasonal help.

Prep before you hire

The autumn months are full of candidates looking for holiday work because, well, the holidays tend to be a little expensive for everybody. Many people desire some extra spending money—from students to retirees with additional spare time.

However, not all candidates are equally qualified to work for you.

Write a clear job description

Start by being clear about your job description, so the workers most suited to your business are more likely to apply. Be sure to list:

  • Seasonal dates of employment (e.g., Halloween through New Year’s)
  • Days and hours when workers are needed
  • Location(s) where workers are needed
  • Basic job duties
  • Compensation and any perks or benefits to employees (e.g., references for future jobs)
  • Special requirements needed (e.g., experience waiting tables or knowledge of computers)

Screen applicants

Next, screen applicants carefully, making sure they have the experience you’re looking for or can be trained to be competent. Call references and ask about job performance, punctuality, presentation and manners.

Consider a temp agency

If you aren’t able to handle this on your own, look for temp agencies or short-term services that can provide you with workers ready to go. Don’t forget too that your existing employees might know people looking for work, too.

“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day, you bet on people, not on strategies.” – Lawrence Bossidy

Expect competition

While there are plenty of workers looking for seasonal employment, you can’t sit back and expect to have your pick of the cream of the crop. Major retailers and shipping companies are preparing for the holidays and will be competing with you for the best workers.

Target and UPS alone are hiring an additional 230,000 people for the 2019 holiday season. Amazon and Kohl’s will likewise take on thousands of extra staff.

This means you need to start looking now and lock down good talent when you find it. Expect to offer decent wages and other perks if you want to compete with the retail and transport giants as a small business.

“If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.” – Chinese Proverb

Provide training

Many businesses hire seasonal employees and then throw them into the thick of work without any training—a mistake if you want workers to do their best. Take the time to provide training for your staff, even if they’re just there for a few months.

Schedule a block of time when your business isn’t terribly hectic, and walk employees through all their duties, as well as your unique policies. Even better, prepare a seasonal employee handbook with rules, FAQs, and your philosophy on how customers should be treated. This way, there will be no gray areas when it comes to what you expect.

“The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.” – Henry Ford

Divide up duties

If you’re hiring multiple people for your small business, it’s usually better to divvy up duties than to have every employee doing every task. For example, if you run a small shop, have one person handle stock, another man the cash register, and a third greet customers and answer questions.

Employees tend to do better when they specialize. Rather than having 10 workers all trying to gift wrap presents, appoint one or two as experts, and let them handle the bows and tags. You’ll get more consistency, and the workers can get into a better flow than if they are trying to cover all the bases at once.

Dividing tasks may also afford better security for your business. The fewer people handling credit cards, computers, and other vulnerable elements, the better.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

Streamline processes

Don’t wait until holiday season is upon you to make sure your business is running as smoothly as possible. Take time before the winter rush to streamline your business processes.

Is your payment processing adequate, or does it need help? If it’s slow or inefficient now, it’s going to be even worse when holiday crowds push the limits of the system. And poor systems tax temporary employees and make your business look unprofessional—not what you want during what can be the most lucrative time of the year.

While things are still calm, walk through your business and evaluate what needs a lift and what’s already running properly. Take care of any holes in your business processes before you become overwhelmed. Make sure you have covered typical holiday needs like gift cards and ecommerce.

“If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

Evaluate and document

Once the holiday season is over (phew!), take some time to evaluate how your holiday hiring went. Perhaps there were employees whom you would like to come back to work for you again. Maybe there were some elements that didn’t go as planned.

It’s tempting to think you’ll remember all this come next holiday season. But just in case you don’t, write everything down. Put your notes in a folder or binder, along with your materials from the most recent season (job postings, applications, etc.).

When next fall arrives, you’ll be a step ahead of the game and raring to go.

“The way to get ahead is to start now.” – William Feather

Final tips

The holidays may seem a long way off right now, but they have a way of creeping up on you before you know it. Even before you post your first “help wanted” ad, there are things you can do to get ready right now.

  • Make a list of all the tasks you’ll need help with, no matter how menial. Go through a regular day in your head, thinking about where you might be pressed for time or unable to get some jobs done.
  • Think about your physical space and how you will accommodate extra workers. Do you need more desk space, lockers or uniforms?
  • Check to make sure you are equipped to handle the payroll. Know what tax forms you will need employees to fill out.
  • Get started drafting your seasonal employee handbook.

Check your payment processing needs. How will you handle an influx of customers? Are you ready for the holiday rush? If this already has you feeling anxious, contact your payment processor now to see what options are available.

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