Christmas is only a few weeks away, shoppers are out in full force and you are stretched thin. Its time to call in the reserves: seasonal help.
While holiday-time workers may only be with you for a short time, their presence can make a big impact.
“The holidays are when you get a lot of first time customers,” said Bob Negen, co-founder of WhizBang! Training, a marketing, staff development and small business consultancy based in Grand Haven, Mich. “Remember, the real opportunity during the holidays is to make every person who enters your store want to come back again.
“Make sure you get the right seasonal help, because their interaction with your customers can make all the difference.”
Here are eight rules for hiring seasonal help:
1. Spread the word
“Create a postcard that describes what you are looking for and turn it into a bag stuffer,” Negen said. “Your customers are probably some of your best prospects for seasonal help. Then, send out an email blast to your contacts and tell all of your friends. Ask one of your best employees if any of their friends are interested.
“The least efficient way to find seasonal help is through an ad in the newspaper or on Craigslist.”
2. Impress candidates
“Oftentimes, small business owners fail to recognize that a potential employee needs to be convinced to work for you as much as you need to be convinced to hire them,” said Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president of Human Resource Solutions, an HR consultancy based in Northampton, Mass. “Make sure you are organized and know exactly what you want in a candidate.”
3. Spend time training
“Put together a basic training program -- just a simple one-page document that explains the essence of your business policy,” Negen said. “If you don’t give them the skills and information to succeed, you can’t expect them to be successful.”
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4. Try a food pantry
“Today’s food pantries are filled with middle class America,” said Chinsky Matuson. “Talk to the director of the pantry and ask if they think anyone who is coming in would be a good worker.”
5. Pay attention
“Be conscious of your team,” advised Negen. “If someone is starting to get surly, make sure to address it immediately. Pay attention, stay on the floor and lead your troops.”
6. Create a healthy environment
“Small business owners have a tendency to run holiday workers into the ground,” Negen said. “Try to keep your employees healthy by paying for flu shots. Keep healthy snacks in your store. Otherwise they will eat junk food and may not perform as well.”
7. Check references
“Even though you may be strapped for time, make sure to check references,” advised Chinsky Matuson. “Dependability is huge and sometimes people who have seasonal jobs may not treat the roles as seriously as full-time careers. It is important to check into a person’s background to see what you can expect.”
8. Make work fun
“To ensure an enthusiastic workforce, try playing a game,” Negen said. “One is called ‘Pass the Buck.’ Give one worker at $20 bill for making a $20 sale. Then, if someone makes a bigger sale than $20, that bill goes to them and so on. By keeping things light and fun, you increase the probability that you will have a fresh staff through the end of the holiday season.”
Katie Morell is a Chicago-based freelance writer specializing in small business concerns.