The do's and don'ts of seasonal hiring

Employees at a call center
Seasonal employees need to be brought up to speed quickly and efficiently.

Though seasonal workers are essential to making many stores run smoothly over the holiday seasons, the processing is not without its challenges. According to Carisa Miklusak, president and CEO of Tilr, an automated employee recruitment platform, there are two main challenges.

The first is acclimating seasonal workers quickly and easily into the company's culture. Temporary hires don't have the opportunity to embrace the organization's mission and values, which normally leads to more engaged employees and better long-term results.

"With seasonal workers, you have to accelerate the assimilation process without compromising its effectiveness," Miklusak said. "Even if they’re only going to be working at a retail store over the holidays, if you can get them to learn and embrace the company’s culture and understand its mission, it will make them much more productive. At the end of the day, all workers—despite the length of the assignment—want to contribute their efforts to something greater than themselves."

The second big challenge is management issues that come with balancing full-time, part-time and other contracted employees. Miklusak said it’s important that all categories of employees understand the company’s overall hiring strategy and how each type of worker contributes to the organization. This buy-in helps full-time employees see seasonal workers as partners and assets rather than as distractions, or worse, as threats. 

Therefore, retailers can take certain steps to make the transition smoother for both new and old employees.  

First, according to Miklusak, determine how much information is needed from a temporary employee. Perhaps they do not need as much information outside of the critical and core areas. 

"Retailers can limit the information they request from seasonal workers and that should help speed up the on-boarding process," she said. 

Plus, retailers should shorten the learning process for seasonal hires. For example, when it comes to the company’s mission and safety protocol, all categories of workers don’t necessarily need to receive the same information. 

"I recommend they customize an on-boarding program specific to seasonal workers. In the event that someone transitions into a full-time employee, it should be easy to go back and collect any outstanding information needed to onboard them as a full-timer," Miklusak said. 

She also said it saves everyone time if a retailer has a system that allows returning seasonal workers to quickly pick up where they left off. 

"Some personal information must be updated annually, per law, and some safety information should be reviewed with return workers prior to them restarting, but eliminate the unnecessary redundancy in process and on-boarding. This gives workers an incentive to return season after season, and makes it much simpler for retailers to re-engage the workers who performed well the previous season," she added.

In 2017, retailers also have the benefit of being able to use automation to speed up the seasonal hiring process. Companies like Tilr fully automate the seasonal hiring process and workflow. With automation, retailers can fill positions within a day. 

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"Across the industry, we’re seeing retailers with strong seasonal needs implementing automation at higher percentages that their less cyclical peers because seasonal workers require a faster ROI than long-term workers," Miklusak said. "2018 will be a defining year in the way retailers drastically reduce their costs associated with hiring seasonal workers, while simultaneously using automation to reach new and engaged audiences."  

Retailers are still in the first wave of automation adoption. While seem retailers were initially resistant, Miklusak predicts that the second and third wave of adoption will move quickly now, with automation being at the core core of every large retailer’s functionality.  

She stressed to worried retailers that automation does not replace humans. Instead, it's meant to empower the human workforce, giving employees better data to make better decisions. 

Finally, Miklusak says that it is still important to collect performance data on short-term workers, though through a different process than for full-time employees. 

"Given the small window, it’s also important to share feedback quickly. This allows you to immediately correct any issues and increases their impact during the course of the short-term assignment. When you provide ongoing feedback, you’ll also find that your seasonal workers are more committed to the company because they feel as if leadership is investing in their development," she said.