28 Tips for Retailers When Dealing with the Holiday Labor Shortage



Retailers, Get Ready for the Holiday Labor Shortage

With unemployment rates dropping and retail wages rising, the holiday labor shortage in retail is intensifying. 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 Monday 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 27 more.

How to Beat the Holiday Labor Shortage

  • Offer Employee Discounts – At holiday time, employee discounts can be a significant motivator for potential hires.
  • Make It Fun – Energize your staff with contests, dress-up days, treats, after-hours activities, etc.
  • Give Out Bonuses – Offer both end-of-season and intermediate bonuses to incentivize performance and commitment.
  • Offer Longer Hours – Save on training costs and cater to seasonal workers who desire more hours.
  • Set Regular Schedules – Provide consistency and advance notice for your employees.
  • Pay Higher Wages – Stay competitive and ensure top-notch service by offering competitive or above-average wages.
  • Spread the Word – Tap into your existing network of employees and loyal customers for referrals.
  • Flexible Work Arrangements – Offer flexible schedules to attract a diverse workforce including students and part-time workers.
  • Emphasize Career Development Opportunities – Highlight potential career growth and learning opportunities in job postings.
  • Streamline the Application Process – Simplify the application process to encourage more applicants.
  • Use Social Media for Recruitment – Utilize social media platforms to reach a wider audience of potential employees.
  • Partner with Educational Institutions – Collaborate with colleges and universities to source young talent.
  • Offer Transportation or Parking Benefits – Provide transit passes or parking benefits to make the job more accessible.
  • Utilize Temporary Staffing Agencies – Work with staffing agencies for quick and efficient hiring.
  • Create an Employee Referral Program – Encourage current employees to refer potential hires with incentives.
  • Provide Quick-Pay Options – Implement faster payment methods like same-day or weekly paychecks.
  • Host Open House Hiring Events – Organize events for on-the-spot learning and interviews.
  • Invest in Employee Engagement – Focus on creating a positive work environment to retain staff.
  • Prepare for Post-Holiday Retention – Identify top performers for potential permanent roles post-holidays.
  • Streamlined Training Programs – Develop quick and effective training for new hires.
  • Prioritize Health and Safety – Emphasize health and safety to make your workplace more appealing.
  • Highlight Company Culture and Values – Showcase your company’s ethos to attract like-minded employees.
  • Competitive Compensation Packages – Regularly adjust your compensation to remain competitive.
  • Incorporate Technology in Hiring – Use digital tools to streamline the hiring process.
  • Address Employee Well-being – Support mental and physical health with wellness initiatives.
  • Foster a Team-Oriented Environment – Build a team-centric workplace for a better work atmosphere.
  • Continuous Feedback and Recognition – Regularly provide feedback and recognize employees’ efforts.

holiday labor shortage retail

Offer Employee Discounts

In the bustling world of retail, especially during the festive season, offering employee discounts emerges as a compelling incentive.

The magic of the holiday season often revolves around giving, and even if the items in your store don’t catch the eye of every employee, the allure of a discount can be twofold.


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For one, they might find the perfect gift for a loved one. And secondly, this perk subtly reinforces a sense of belonging and appreciation, binding them closer to your brand and its values.

Make It Fun

Working retail during the holidays is about as stressful as it gets so re-energizing your staff is key.  Imagine transforming ordinary workdays into a carnival-like atmosphere with contests or theme-based dress-up days.

Such initiatives infuse a sense of playfulness. Complement this with occasional treats – perhaps cookies or hot cocoa on a cold day.

After strenuous shifts, assisting them in organizing recreational activities, be it roller skating escapades, bowling nights, or relaxed happy hours, can revitalize their energy and camaraderie.



Give Out Bonuses

Acknowledging the relentless dedication of your employees during the festive rush can be transformative. Consider end-of-season bonuses as a testament to their unwavering commitment throughout the busiest time of year.

But don’t just stop there. Periodic incentives, tied to achievable goals like punctuality or meeting sales targets, keep the momentum going.

And remember, bonuses aren’t always about monetary rewards. Sometimes, a gift card to a cozy local eatery, a night out at the movies, or even a shopping spree in your own store can be just as cherished, if not more.

holiday labor shortage retail



Offer Longer Hours for Those Who Want Them

A streamlined workforce often results in a more cohesive and effective team. By hiring a slightly smaller team but offering extended hours, you not only economize on training expenses but also tap into the desires of many seasonal employees.

The holiday season often sees individuals eager to earn a bit extra, making the prospect of longer shifts an appealing one.

With more hours on offer, it’s easier to match the store’s needs with the aspirations of workers eager to maximize their earnings during this period.

Set Regular Schedules

Predictability can be a comforting aspect in the otherwise chaotic realm of holiday retail. The anxiety of “on-call scheduling”, the unpredictability it brings, is often a sore point among retail workers.



This is where technology comes to the rescue. Modern employee scheduling software can be a game-changer, allowing you to craft and disseminate schedules well in advance.

Aiming for consistency, like fixed shifts, can further ease the lives of your employees. But life is full of surprises, and when last-minute changes do arise, these software solutions ensure smooth shift swaps and replacements, seamlessly communicated through text or email.

holiday labor

Pay Higher Wages

In the competitive retail landscape, especially amidst the festive rush, the quality of service can make or break a business.



Being aware of wage standards in your locale and striving to offer at the top echelons can set you apart.

The holiday season’s frenzy underscores the importance of well-compensated, motivated staff. While the allure of commission might seem enticing initially, the drawbacks often overshadow the benefits.

Commission-driven employees might resort to aggressive sales tactics, potentially souring customer relationships.

In contrast, employees remunerated with a generous hourly wage tend to be more invested in understanding and catering to the genuine needs of the shoppers, crafting an experience that’s both memorable and authentic.



Understanding the differences between higher wages and commission-based pay can shape the employee experience and customer interactions in your retail business:

Higher WagesCommission-Based
Employee MotivationMotivated by a stable and competitive incomeMotivated by potential of unlimited earnings
Customer ExperienceProvides thoughtful service, listens to customer needsMight push for hard sales, leading to potential regrets and returns
Employee RetentionPotentially higher, due to stable incomeMight be lower if not enough sales opportunities
Overall Service QualityConsistent and more customer-centricCan be aggressive, focusing on sales over service

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.

Flexible Work Arrangements

Offer flexible working hours to cater to a diverse workforce, including students, parents, or individuals looking for part-time or varied schedules. This approach can widen your pool of applicants and fill gaps more effectively during peak hours.



Emphasize Career Development Opportunities

Highlight the potential for career progression and skill development in your job postings. Seasonal positions can be attractive stepping stones for individuals seeking long-term career opportunities in retail.

Streamline the Application Process

Make the application process as easy and straightforward as possible. An efficient, user-friendly application experience encourages more candidates to apply, increasing your chances of finding the right fit.

Utilize Social Media for Recruitment

Use your social media platforms to advertise job openings. A strong social media presence can help you connect with potential employees, especially younger candidates who spend a significant amount of time online.

Partner with Educational Institutions

Form alliances with colleges, universities, and vocational schools. These partnerships can provide a steady stream of eager, young talent, particularly for entry-level or seasonal roles.



Offer Transportation or Parking Benefits

Consider providing perks like transit passes or parking reimbursements. These benefits can be a significant draw, especially in urban areas where commuting costs can be a deterrent.

Utilize Temporary Staffing Agencies

Collaborate with agencies specializing in temporary staffing solutions. They can help fill positions quickly with pre-vetted candidates, saving you time and resources in the recruitment process.

Create an Employee Referral Program

Encourage current employees to refer friends or family for seasonal roles. Offer incentives for successful hires, such as bonuses, discounts, or other rewards, to motivate staff to participate actively.

Provide Quick-Pay Options

Implement quick payment options like same-day or weekly paychecks. This can be particularly appealing to seasonal workers who are looking for immediate financial rewards.



Host Open House Hiring Events

Organize events where potential hires can learn about your business and interview on the spot. This approach can create excitement and draw in a large number of candidates at once.

Invest in Employee Engagement

Focus on creating a positive and motivating work environment. Engaged and satisfied employees tend to provide better customer service and are more likely to return for future seasonal work.

Prepare for Post-Holiday Retention

Plan ahead for the possibility of retaining high-performing seasonal staff after the holidays. Early identification of promising employees can facilitate a smoother transition to permanent roles if opportunities arise.

Streamlined Training Programs

Develop efficient training programs to quickly onboard new staff. Effective training ensures seasonal employees are well-prepared to meet the holiday rush without being overwhelmed.

Prioritize Health and Safety

Emphasize health and safety in the workplace. Training seasonal employees on these protocols not only ensures compliance but also makes your workplace more appealing in the current health-conscious climate.

Highlight Company Culture and Values

Showcase your business’s culture and values during the recruitment process. Employees who align with your company’s ethos are likely to be more committed and engaged.

Competitive Compensation Packages

Regularly assess and adjust your compensation packages to stay competitive. This may include higher wages, bonuses, or additional benefits, making the roles more attractive to quality candidates.

Incorporate Technology in Hiring

Leverage technology to enhance the hiring process. Digital tools for interviews, onboarding, and documentation can streamline procedures and appeal to a tech-savvy workforce.

Address Employee Well-being

Implement measures to support your staff’s mental and physical well-being. This can include wellness programs, flexible break schedules, and stress management initiatives.

Foster a Team-Oriented Environment

Cultivate a team-centric workplace where seasonal staff feel included and valued. This approach can improve morale and increase productivity during the high-pressure holiday season.

Continuous Feedback and Recognition

Provide ongoing feedback and acknowledge the hard work of your seasonal team. Recognition of their efforts can boost morale and drive better performance, enhancing the overall holiday shopping experience for customers.

How do you plan to look for seasonal workers this year?

Holiday Employee Photo via Shutterstock


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Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

One Reaction
  1. When I am working for a company, they would often offer double pay on holidays plus some other perks. So if you really need the money, you would go ahead and take it.

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