Why You May Want to Consider Online Sales When Hiring Seasonal Workers

Paying close attention to the seasonal workers you hire may help prepare your company for the holiday increase in e-commerce business.
September 29, 2016

As you gear up for the holiday season, you may want to pay careful attention to back-end staffing. With online sales growing year over year, the behind-the-scenes landscape of your company may require extra focus when it comes to hiring ideal seasonal workers.

“At our company we can no longer ‘steal’ staff from stores to meet the demand of Internet sales during the holidays,” says Jordan Edwards, president and CEO of Mixology Clothing Company. “Today we plan our staff for the web and stores the same way, budgeting for our expected sales in all divisions and stores and staffing appropriately. This holiday season we will nearly double our web staff from last year, as the business continues to grow exponentially.”

While online sales are still a small portion of overall retail sales, the numbers are impressive when it comes to the growth of e-commerce. According to the U.S. Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce, retail e-commerce sales for the second quarter of 2016 reached 97.3 billion, increasing by 4.5 percent from the first quarter.  

As hiring shifts from traditional retail positions to those that support online shopping, we’re seeing a more competitive hiring environment around the holidays.

—Nicole Smartt, vice president, Star Staffing

“Online products cannot be delivered through the computer screen,” says Michael Houlihan, co-founder of Barefoot Wines and the Barefoot Spirit. “Such merchandise is subject to distribution, handling and delivery, just like any off-line products. Resulting pressure on a small business’s fulfillment arm will require more relief workers during the holidays.”

To support the anticipated package volume increase, UPS recently announced that it expects to hire about 95,000 seasonal workers for the period from November through January 2017.

Competition Stiff for Hiring Seasonal Workers

The shift in online orders may cause more competition when it comes to hiring, notes Nicole Smartt, vice president of Star Staffing. “As hiring shifts from traditional retail positions to those that support online shopping, we’re seeing a more competitive hiring environment around the holidays,” she says. “Macy’s, UPS, Amazon, Kohl’s, Target and JC Penney started running job ads recently. They’re now swooping up the workers who already possess the requisite skills. Those small-business owners who start hiring early will be able to better compete for already-skilled talent and/or have the time needed to train unskilled talent before the big rush.”

Beginning the recruiting and hiring process right now is advisable, agrees business consultant Scott Wintrip, author of the upcoming book, High Velocity Hiring: How to Hire Top Talent in an Instant. “The shift to shopping online has created the need for more people behind the scenes. Businesses accustomed to recruiting and hiring customer-facing personnel are now competing with one another for employees who fulfill online orders, and that is straining an already tapped out talent pool.”

Tips for Hiring Effective Holiday Employees

Chances are the temporary employee pool you'll pull from isn’t going to include many individuals who are well-versed in the specific work performed by your existing employees. That means rather than focusing on required skill sets, you may want to look for employees who are good team players, advises Smartt. “Look for people who will be high energy and enthusiastic, even in the face of long, draining shifts. Try to determine if the candidate is a fast learner by building into the interview a quick hands-on test.”

Wintrip agrees. “Small-business owners need to hire resourceful people, who are able to quickly change gears, because changes occur quickly and moment to moment for a small business during the holiday season.”

Hiring individuals who are able to relate and sell to the younger generation may help keep sales coming in and help your business remain viable, believes Peter Gold, chief digital marketing officer of SHOP.COM. “For progressive retailers that wish to reach a millennial, digital clientele, it’s important to hire holiday employees who walk the walk and talk the talk,” he says. “Temporary workers who understand how the younger generation shops, including their turn-ons and turn-offs, can lure in and sell to that generation.”

A great way to help locate effective seasonal workers is to ask around. “Referrals have always been our most potent talent stream,” says Wintrip. “One person has the ability to guide us to many potential employees with strong ethics and above average skill sets. Current employees, along with their family and friends, may connect us to thousands. Every candidate interviewed by a business owner can be a source of introductions to colleagues and friends.”

Smartt also suggests checking with your customers for potential seasonal workers. “Keep your eyes and ears open for people who are passionate about your business and make them an attractive offer,” she says. “You can also give current employees a referral bonus to encourage them to refer talented candidates who would make strong coworkers.”


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