The busiest time of year is rapidly approaching. Are you ready for waves of holiday shoppers? More importantly, is your staff ready? The National Retail Foundation anticipates that holiday spending will increase as much as 4.1 percent compared to 2017, with consumers expected to spend an average of $1,007.24. Preparing your sales team early can help you be ready for the rush.
Holiday Hiring Best Practices
Recruiting and hiring seasonal staff is easier when you follow these practices:
- Start early: Just like the year’s hit toy, the best seasonal staff are likely to get snapped up by other employers if you don’t act early. Assess your holiday staffing needs, and get started right away to onboard seasonal employees.
- Review your “nice” list: Your best holiday employee resource is last year’s notes. Who were the quick learners and hard workers last year? Reach out to former employees who get the job done.
- Sweeten the pot: Holiday shifts can be grueling. Employee discounts, the chance to win bonuses or even gift cards awarded on the spot for above-and-beyond service can keep morale high.
- Pay attention to payroll: The last thing you need is a legal hangover when the holidays end. Make sure your accounting team classifies holiday staff correctly on the payroll, and that you’re withholding appropriate taxes.
Great Places to Find Holiday Employees
Unemployment numbers are low this year, meaning it may be harder than in prior years to line up temporary staff. Here are some evergreen applicant pools to try:
- College campuses: Students often seek jobs while they’re on break.
- Teachers: School teachers may also look for holiday work, and you already know they’re organized and experienced handling unruly crowds!
- Senior centers: Retirees use part-time work to fill free time and supplement income.
- Temp agencies: Depending on unemployment rates in your area, this may be a plentiful source of workers.
- Your workers: Can any part-time staff take on additional shifts? Can you incentivize them with bonus pay or flex time in January?
- Your customers: Post flyers announcing you’re hiring. Customers who love your brand may jump at the employee discount.
If you’re lucky enough to have an abundance of qualified candidates, think twice before sending applicants away. A few extra names on your roster can ensure you don’t get caught shorthanded.
Season-Specific Interview Questions
Small businesses that want to succeed in the busiest time of year can’t depend on just any sales employees. They need staff with the stamina of a marathon runner (for long Black Friday shifts), the patience of the Dalai Lama (to continually tidy messy displays or dressing rooms) and a hearty dose of holiday cheer. While some of your customers will be filled with the spirit of the season, you know you can expect harried and frustrated shoppers, too. Ask these questions to make sure new hires have what it takes:
- Are you willing and available to work from Thanksgiving weekend through New Year’s?
- Why do you want to work here?
- How did you handle the last customer who yelled at you?
- What questions would you ask to help someone find the perfect gift?
Simplify Staff Training
Get new hires up to speed quickly with these guidelines:
- Write up essential procedures: Step-by-step instructions for closing up shop or packing shipping orders are easy to follow and reduce time-consuming follow-up questions.
- Concentrate on customer service etiquette: Creating the right atmosphere is essential for a shopping experience that brings customers back.
- Clarify which rules are meant to be broken: Customer service often involves some case-by-case discretion to keep customers happy. Which policies are set in stone at your store? Which rules do you bend sometimes to satisfy customers? Holiday staff can work more independently when they know when to stick to the rules or use their own judgment.
What’s the first rule you teach holiday staff? Any challenges or takeaways? Share your tips for a festive sales season, we'd love to hear from you!
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in November 2017 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.