With fourth quarter sales just about here, businesses across the country are making plans for the holiday season. This year Walmart decided to take a different approach to holiday season staffing. The retailer will give existing employees more hours.
Having employees work longer hours during the holidays rather than hiring temps is a tactic many business owners know from experience can work well.
“We've always gone the route of expanding holiday hours for our employees," says Ricky Klein, founder and head meadmaker for Groennfell Meadery in Colchester, Vermont. “Everyone wants to give their employees a bonus around the holidays. We decided to give employees flexible overtime hours and let them decide what they want to earn."
For Groennfell Meadery, having employees work more hours is ideal. The company has a tasting room and restaurant that hosts numerous events throughout the holidays.
“The craft mead we make is unique and extremely rare. It's almost impossible to train temps to sell the product accurately," Klein explains.
Christopher West is owner of Mailing Pros Inc., a full-service mail house. West experiences a substantial uptick in business around election seasons, which sometimes fall during the holidays. He also finds that giving his employees the extra hours works best for everyone.
“Our employees work long days and weeks during elections," says West. “The work involves running specialized machinery and specific handwork, which would be difficult to train people to do. At the same time, employees also know that the better the company does during election season, the more their holiday bonuses."
Tips for Using Your Current Team for Holiday Season Staffing
Offering your employees additional holiday hours may benefit the company, employees and customers. To effectively determine and schedule hours during holiday season staffing, keep the following tips in mind.
1. Forecast required manpower hours.
Consider calculating how many extra hours of work will be required to fulfill holiday demand. Checking data from prior year's sales and hours can help you determine by what percentage you need to increase hours. This figure can also let you know if your employees will be able to fulfill the required hours.
—Ricky Klein, founder, Groennfell Meadery
“We sit down in the fall and decide how much extra work we can possibly take on during the holidays," says Klein. “Then we cushion this estimate with a few more hours."
2. Check financial feasibility.
Look at current overtime regulations and ensure that having existing employees work is financially viable. You may find that hiring temporary workers costs you less money. Remember to factor into the equation time for training and the inevitable learning curve.
3. Ask about availability.
When doing your holiday season staffing, avoid assuming that employees will be open to additional holiday hours.
Consider meeting with your staff to communicate your desire to give them first dibs at additional holiday hours. Be available to answer any questions about how holiday hours will be allocated.
4. Provide additional responsibility.
More hours and the demands of the holidays may require that you give employees their own projects to oversee.
“We let employees design the various events we hold during the holidays," says Klein. “Doing this shows them how important they are to the company's success. This leads to buy-in, which makes them excited about making their events successful."
5. Watch for burnout.
Occasionally, West will send an employee home if they're showing signs of burnout.
“If someone is pooped and starts making big mistakes, I'll send him or her home," he says. “Another employee will pick up the slack. It's very much a team effort here."
When to Hire Outside Help for the Holidays
At times, it may be necessary to hire outside help to get your company through the holidays. At Mattone Restaurant in the suburbs of Chicago, they balance giving current employees more hours with the addition of short-term staff, according to Franco Francese, the restaurant's president.
“I feel it's a good idea to tread lightly when it comes to potentially overworking your current employee base. Some employees may want and need the extra hours, but it's not for everyone," says Francese.
If your existing employees aren't able to fill in all of the gaps in holiday season staffing, you may want to consider hiring temporary workers. Consider these tips for doing so.
1. Look “at home" for holiday help.
You may be able to find a great pool of workers by simply asking your employees.
“Start by asking current employees if they know people who would like to work during the holidays," says Francese. “Doing this has the added perk of starting positive discussions about your company."
2. Employ customers.
On the handful of occasions that Klein has pulled in outside help for the holidays, he reached out to clientele.
“It has served us very well to hire regular customers," he says. “They already have an understanding of the brand and know what we stand for. An added bonus is that they think it's the coolest thing to work for their favorite brewery."
3. Provide adequate training.
Proper and thorough training is vital, believes Francese.
“At the restaurant, we don't change our training methods for seasonal/temporary workers," he says. “We expect hires to perform as any permanent employee would."
4. Be clear about expectations.
“Once the temporary employee is brought on during holiday season staffing, it's important to lay out very clear and measurable expectations," says Karson Humiston, CEO of the staffing agency, Vangst Talent Network. “It's also important to remain involved in managing those expectations to ensure the temporary employee is meeting them. If that isn't the case and you're using a temporary agency, ask for a replacement."
5. Look for potential permanent employees.
“If a temporary employee turns out to be an excellent fit, you can always bring the person on full time," says Humiston.