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The Xmas Files: Hiring seasonal staff

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The Xmas Files: Hiring seasonal staff

The run up to Christmas is the busiest time of year for both retailers and hospitality businesses. There's extended shopping hours, raucous office parties and wild-eyed shoppers erratically running around closing shops, desperately searching for a suitable present for their mother in law. While the influx in custom provides a welcome boost in revenue, it can put additional strain on your operations, reducing your ability to provide an effective and efficient service to the maddening crowds.

Many businesses will look to lessen the load by hiring temporary staff. Taking on seasonal workers can be a quick and cost-effective way of reducing the burden on your business, but it’s not without it's considerations.

Assess your needs

Staff are an expensive commodity. Accurately assessing demand is crucial to reducing unnecessary expenditure. Examining the previous year's figures will allow you to forecast demand with some degree of accuracy. Businesses looking forward to their first Christmas trading can garner some insight through speaking to neighbouring businesses and keeping abreast of local events. Businesses, especially those in city or town centre locations, tend to experience increased footfall when festive events are held, the Christmas light switch on, pop-up ice skating rinks or Santa’s Grotto’s for example.

Firstly establish if your business has enough work to justify hiring extra staff? Would your permanent staff be interested in working overtime? Some staff may be interested in additional hours, you could even sweeten the deal with a bonus incentive or time off in lieu. This tactic is beneficial in the sense there’s no additional paperwork and no training requirements but is dependant on the size of your staff, their willingness to commit throughout the Christmas holidays and leaves no provision for sickness absence which is something to remain aware of.

The Xmas Files: Hiring seasonal staff

If you decide you do need assistance try and outline when this will be. Is your business likely to experience peaks and troughs throughout the seasonal period? Will this effect when you intend to hire staff and for how long? Will they be required to do set shift work or will you need them on a more flexible basis?

Another key area of focus is deciding what roles need filling. Identifying where temp staff will add the most value to your business can reduce training requirements, saving time and money. Retailers might need support in the stock room, allowing permanent staff to concentrate on the sales floor. Similarly, hospitality businesses may require assistance to ease the pressure of Christmas parties. Hiring temporary staff to focus on clearing after service, glass collecting or work on the bar will take the pressure off, leaving experienced staff member to manage the floor effectively.

Plan ahead

Planning ahead is essential to fulfilling demand and getting first pick of candidates ahead of your competition. Many large businesses operate recruitment strategies that begin sourcing staff as early as September. It may be too late and too time consuming to copy the corporates this year, but staffing considerations should be well underway before December arrives. Retailers should be aware of key dates throughout December to establish when extra cover will be required most, such as big sales days such as black Friday and boxing day or covering late night opening hours.

The most popular means of acquiring temp staff is to hire through an agency. This is a great for businesses who have left hiring too late and don’t have the capacity to check through hundreds of CV’s, interview candidates and train them in the time for the Christmas period. The agency takes care of the whole process, vetting potential candidates and only assigning people who fulfil your skills requirements. This takes the time and effort out of hiring seasonal staff with many agencies specialising in retail and hospitality roles, but it does come at a price. Agency premiums can be quite high. Not only are you paying for the service of sourcing and selecting appropriate candidates, but as the agency remains their official employer you are subsidising agency payroll and admin costs.

The Xmas Files: Hiring seasonal staff

The cheaper option is to source the candidates yourself. Start by advertising the positions as early as possible. Be aware posting role's on job sites or in the paper will incur costs, whereas advertising through your social media channels or putting an ad in the window costs nothing. However you choose to promote your vacancy, be aware you will have to sift through CV’s, interview, and train your candidates long before the Christmas rush gets underway. As your worker's official employer you must afford them the same rights and benefits as your permanent staff. As their employer, you will also be required to add them to your payroll and submit all their information to the HMRC, including NI and student loan information. Click here for more advice on payroll.

During the rush

The success of the Christmas rush often comes down to how well prepared you and your staff are. Employees often wear their hearts on their sleeves intentionally or not, and the way your staff conduct themselves on the floor will give an insight into how you run your organisation. Morale can often be the biggest challenge in hiring temporary staff who can feel awkward entering a well established team. Ensuring your existing employees are friendly and welcoming to new arrivals will ensure temps feel comfortable, allowing themselves to fully commit to work tasks and ask questions when they need to.

Temporary staff who feel they are a valued part of the team become brand advocates on the shop floor. This sense of appreciation can be instilled by simply saying thank you and acknowledging achievement. After the rush is over and it’s time to part ways you may want to extend the thank you with a small bonus or gift, especially if they were an effective employee. You may want to call upon them again!

The Christmas period is a good opportunity to scout new members for your permanent team. If a temp proves to be a good fit for the team you may want to offer them a permanent position. Alternatively ask if they would like to assist again during busy periods, or to cover illness and holiday absence. Having a good base of employees to call on during these times means you reduce the training costs and time resource when it’s time to expand your workforce again.


Erin Heenan

Erin joined Epos Now in 2016 as an in-house content writer for the marketing department, making use of 10 years experience working in busy restaurants. An avid fan of shopping and eating out, she is committed to helping retail and hospitality SMEs get the most out of their businesses.

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