The seasonal hiring push is on. Retailers, in particular, are competing for talent in customer service, warehouse roles, distribution and delivery — and in heightened numbers even from the year before.
Target, for example, is hiring more than 130,000 seasonal team members across its stores and distribution centers, a spokesperson told HR Dive, a number that surpasses last year's 120,000 hires and includes a "two-fold increase in the number of roles focused on fulfilling digital orders from stores."
But how does a company manage to hire that many people while unemployment reaches a 50-year low? Target, at least, has increased wages to at least $13 an hour and improved benefits offerings for hourly workers. But what will work, and what won't? Experts told HR Dive what to expect in 2019 — and how to beat the competition when everyone's competing for the same pool of workers.
Understand market conditions
With the tight labor market, retailers, fulfillment centers and transport companies will have a difficult time finding and attracting talent, Andrew Challenger, vice president at Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., told HR Dive in an email: "They will likely need to offer benefits or perks to draw workers away from their existing roles. That said, long-term jobless may have a great opportunity to get recent experience on their resumes if they go for these seasonal positions."
With a challenging season ahead for recruiters, Greg Summers, EVP of High Volume RPO at Cielo, suggested that talent professionals act quickly. Candidates may be unwilling to make moves to new organizations if the economic outlook becomes less certain, he told HR Dive; "There are warning signs that we may be hit with a recession as early as 2020, which means recruiters will need to be agile in their approach," he said.
Beatrice Pang, VP of strategy and finance at Wonolo, agreed that an early start is key. "Starting to recruit workers for the holiday season early means you’re more likely to build a relationship with them, which is incredibly important when it comes to retaining workers through such a competitive time," she said.
Craft a talent acquisition plan
In addition to competitive wages, a number of retailers last year offered signing bonuses, discounts or special shopping days for associates, Challenger said.
Employers will have to figure out what fits their own brand and budget, however. Summers suggested talking to last year’s employees to gauge what attracted them to the company. "When one of our clients did this, they found out that offering an employee discount was the number one reason that employees chose to work for them — above pay and promise of a full-time position," he said. Employers also may want to include their social media plans in their recruitment marketing strategy; sites like Facebook Jobs generate significant traffic that can benefit organizations looking to hire in high quantities, the experts said.
Competitive wages may still be king, Pang said, but perks do a great job of attracting workers. "We spoke with some Wonoloers on our platform about how they chose to accept jobs at specific companies, and it’s common for incentives like free lunch and free parking to be a key factor in their job selection," she said.
Employers also are using new technologies and social media to attract and engage potential workers, including mobile tech. "Seasonal workers, particularly in the retail space, want a hiring experience that is like a brand’s consumer experience," Summers said; "Using technology that can help them streamline burdensome tasks like interview scheduling will be key to their success in filling open seasonal roles."
Employers looking to find a lot of talent quickly may want to consider hiring events, Challenger said. If well-promoted such events can produce a great return, Challenger said. Summers agreed that such events can be quite effective: "Organizing on-site hiring events that bring in pre-qualified talent to let them see your facility and meet their potential co-workers rather than driving them to apply on a website is a good way to get ahead of the competition and get candidates in the door — literally."
Finally, employers will need to decide whether to focus on employees or independent contractors — or both. The workforce today is as diverse as ever and people are reclaiming work on their own terms, Wonolo's head of people, Katie Evans-Reber, told HR Dive. "Whether it’s millennials looking for flexible schedules or retired baby boomers looking to stay sharp and earn extra income, the in-demand economy provides flexible options to those who want to work."
Employers looking to make seasonal hires will have to consider which qualifications should be prioritized. Seasonal workers generally need to be dependable, flexible and punctual, for example, Challenger said. They also need to be able to learn a lot of information quickly and work in a team. "Employers should pose questions, such as 'Discuss a time your team work benefited another colleague' or 'Was there a time when your presence was needed even though it was difficult or inconvenient for you to be there?' to gauge whether a candidate has these attributes."
Some may need to be prepared for heavy lifting and manual work, while others may be working day-to-day with customers, Summers said. "For customer-facing roles, it is always beneficial to understand candidates’ personal experiences with the brand. Let them share their story."
Recruiters and hiring managers may want to focus on soft skills, suggested Evans-Reber. Unless a job requires specific expertise, it's often more useful to focus on what Wonolo calls "the five Ps:" professional, punctual, polite, position and prepared. "A focus on these soft skills is often more indicative of how workers will perform, rather than their job history."