With unemployment rates dropping and retail wages rising, small retailers who need seasonal holiday employees are facing stiff competition from big retailers this year, Monster.com (NYSE:MWW) reports. Adding to the crunch, since Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, more consumers are projected to head to brick-and-mortar stores for last-minute gifts since they won’t be able to get products shipped fast enough. That means more customers and potentially less help.
How can your business successfully compete for retail employees at this critical time of year? First tip: Start hiring now. Here are seven more.
How to Beat the Holiday Labor Shortage
Offer Employee Discounts
At holiday time, employee discounts can be a good motivator for taking a job. Even if the employee doesn’t personally want what your store sells, they likely have someone on their gift list who does.
Make It Fun
Working retail during the holidays is about as stressful as it gets so re-energizing your staff is key. Hold contests or dress-up days. Bring in treats to keep energy levels high. Help your staff blow off steam after hours by planning parties or coordinating activities like roller skating, bowling or happy hour get-togethers.
Give Out Bonuses
Offer an end-of-season bonus for employees who make it through the entire holiday season. You can also offer intermediate bonuses along the way for accomplishing goals you set for employees, such as a perfect on-time record or sales quota. Bonuses don’t have to be cash, either: Give out gift cards to a local restaurant, movie theater or even to your store.
Offer Longer Hours for Those Who Want Them
Hiring fewer employees and offering longer hours can save you money in the long run because you have to train fewer people. Many seasonal retail workers want as many hours as they can get, so this can be a selling point.
Set Regular Schedules
Retail employees hate “on-call scheduling” where they don’t know their schedule until the last minute. Using employee scheduling software, you can easily plan retail schedules ahead of time. Try to give employees similar hours every week and provide at least a week’s advance notice of schedules. When inevitable changes happen, employee scheduling software also makes it easy to request substitutions at the last minute. You can text or email employees and they can choose to take the shifts or not.
Pay Higher Wages
Know what’s competitive in your area in terms of retail wages, and be willing to pay at the top end of the scale for quality employees. After all, during the crazy holiday shopping season, store staff are a key differentiator for a small retailer. While paying on commission may seem like a smarter move, higher wages tend to lead to better service. Commission-based employees may “hard sell” to boost their own income, leading to regrets (and returns) later on. Well-paid employees are more likely to provide thoughtful service and take the time to really listen to customers’ needs.
Spread the Word
Existing employees and regular store customers are a great source of potential employees. Email customers on your email newsletter list and ask if they know anyone looking for seasonal work. You can even offer a hiring bonus for those who refer someone who successfully completes training and works throughout the season.
How do you plan to look for seasonal workers this year?