Amanda Groves

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With the holiday season fast approaching, employers need to get their ducks in a row to prepare for the shopping bonanza that comes with it. And that means staffing for the busiest time of the year. This year’s outlook on seasonal hiring by analyst Challenger, Gray & Christmas shows seasonal workers will be in high demand, with many big-name retailers making big job announcements. So what do employers need to know about seasonal hiring in 2017 and what can they do to maximize their efforts?

A look at the landscape

While in-store retail jobs have been cut and bricks-and-mortar stores have closed, the retail sector is still booming, with this year’s seasonal shopping promising to be strong. Big-name stores intend on competitive price cuts and Target announced earlier this year it was hiring 100,000 seasonal positions for the holidays. This is up from 70,000 in-store workers and 7,500 fulfillment and warehouse workers last year.

Not only that, arts and crafts chain Michaels has announced 15,000 holiday workers, while 1-800-Flowers will staff an additional 8,000 workers for the holidays. Overall, seasonal hiring has averaged 604,000 job announcements annually since 2012, with September announcements averaging more than 415,000.

Growth opportunities for seasonal workers

Retail jobs still make up the bulk of seasonal hiring, but the rise of online shopping means opportunities in transportation and warehouse roles have risen. Between 2015 and 2016, employment in that sector increased by 8 percent, or nearly 20,000 jobs — a figure that’s likely to continue to grow.

Developments in e-commerce and technology may have changed how consumers and employees interact, but they haven’t removed the expectation of high-quality customer experiences. Call center jobs, for example, are on the rise, with many of them performed remotely.

“As holiday shopping habits turn virtual, retailers are responding by hiring more warehouse and transport workers. While retail hiring has fallen over the last couple years, major announcements indicate workers will still be needed for customer-facing positions, as retailers attempt to give consumers an experience they cannot receive online,” says Challenger.

Remote, flexible working makes seasonal jobs more attractive

Changes in seasonal work opportunities, such as flexible schedules and areas of work, and remote work, have made this kind of employment more attractive. Innovations like apps that enable employers to advertise and employees to pick up short-notice hourly work are transforming the space.

When they’re looking for seasonal jobs, employees are searching for companies that can offer a role that best fits their lifestyle or needs during the holiday season. Employers who offer flexibility are finding higher-caliber employees who may return every season. Remote jobs, particularly, have a higher rate of engagement than those on-site.

What can employers do to get ahead of the competition?

First and foremost, employers need to start hiring now to get a jump on the competition. Not only that, but they need to offer good rates of pay or other financial incentives. The best seasonal staff have a big pool of opportunities to choose from, so unless you’re offering as good, if not better, rates than your competitors, you’re not going to snag the best people.

Remote workers are also going to need more training than those who work in-store and are familiar with processes and merchandise. Well-trained workers are more likely to stay the course and give customers a better experience of a brand. Providing opportunities to vary the type of job a seasonal worker undertakes is also beneficial in stemming boredom and keeping employees engaged. It’s also a good way to give them cross-organization skills.

Setting up for the season

It’s looking like it’s going to be a strong holiday season for shoppers, workers, and employers alike this year. To make the most out of consumer spending and improve your brand reputation, employers need to put effective strategies in place to hire the best seasonal workers now, before they fly off the shelves.

Does your business rely on seasonal workers? If so, what are you doing to bring them on board this year?



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