Holiday seasons can bring plenty of joy. But small business owners and HR professionals know the season can also be one of the busiest and most complicated times of year for running the operations of a company. Holiday seasons often result in an influx of clients, a surplus of holiday sales, extended hours, and what is for many, the biggest complexity of all: seasonal staffing needs. 

This year, get a head start on all the moving pieces of seasonal hiring so you can be prepared for the influx of change that’s about to come. Here are four steps you can take today to make sure your holiday hiring season goes smoothly.

1. Put legal requirements front and center

The foundation of a smooth holiday hiring season is familiarizing yourself with the various local, state, and federal guidelines related to hiring seasonal workers. One of the most important is The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which requires employers to pay hourly employees the current minimum wage rate and overtime when applicable. In addition to the FLSA, you may be required to abide by other laws depending on the total number of employees:

For each of these laws, the employee threshold is met if the employer employs the minimum number of employees in each of twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. 

  • Employers that employ 20 or more employees (including a fractional rule for counting part-time employees) on more than 50 percent of its typical business days during the previous calendar year are subject to COBRA.
  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers with 50 or more full-time (including full-time equivalent) employees to provide substantially all of their full-time employees and their dependents affordable coverage that provides minimum value. This calculation is based on a typical business day during the preceding calendar year and seasonal workers may be excluded in certain circumstances. The regulations define seasonal workers as those who perform services on a seasonal basis and retail workers employed exclusively during holiday seasons. 
  • The rules relating to unemployment insurance vary from state to state. Typically, when an employee is laid off, they may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits, but you should check your local regulations to determine whether your unemployment taxes will be impacted if seasonal workers collect benefits.

Being aware of the impact that both federal and state regulations will have when hiring seasonal employees allows for making informed decisions and helps avoid making costly mistakes. 

Consult the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to learn more about the various labor laws during the planning process. In addition, the Small Business Association (SBA) provides a wealth of information and resources related to hiring seasonal workers. For additional guidance on hiring seasonal workers, consider these resources from the SBA:

2. Start hiring as early as you can

The adage “it’s never too early to plan” holds especially true when it comes to hiring holiday help. Considering businesses are having a challenging time finding enough talent for available jobs, including in retail, the ability to act fast will deliver a clear advantage. As soon as you know your talent needs, create job descriptions and begin your recruiting process to bring in seasonal help.

Of course, hiring is not a one-time event. Make sure you consider all of the administrative tasks that go along with bringing in new talent, such as preparing the pertinent hiring documents, establishing a training plan, and implementing an onboarding process that speeds up the time-to-value (TTV) of each seasonal hire. 

3. Take advantage of recruiting and hiring tools that work best for you

The best way to reach potential candidates is by incorporating multiple methods to get out the message you’re hiring. In addition to displaying “now hiring” signage at your business location, the following tools are effective to take advantage of when hiring seasonal help:

  • Job Sites. In addition to utilizing your company website, consider using one of the larger hiring sites to post open positions.

  • Social media. With 79% of all job seekers using social media to conduct job searches in the last year, recruiting through all of the various social media channels is a must. 
  • Referrals. Having current employees involved in the recruiting process can be quite effective. Additionally, creating an employee referral program that rewards staff for referring candidates for seasonal roles can foster more interest. 
  • Perks. Faced with a competitive job market, many companies are offering higher wages, bonuses, discounts, and other benefits in order to get ahead of the competition this season. If your company is in a position to do so, get creative and offer some unique perks in your seasonal employees’ compensation package. 

4. Refresh your team on best practices in seasonal hiring

Seasonal hiring is a great opportunity to review how your team approaches hiring in general. Consider applying the following best practices to your year-round approach to hiring: 

  • Onboarding and re-boarding employees
    • Reach out to former seasonal workers, interns, and even recently retired employees. Hiring people already familiar with the business means less time and money needs to be spent onboarding. 
  • Pandemic considerations
    • In addition to the typical holiday shopping demands, the continued effect of the pandemic will likely have an impact on seasonal staffing needs. In addition to increased in-store traffic, businesses need to also factor in accommodating higher curbside pickup volumes and an increase in BOPIS (buy online, pickup in-store) orders.
  • Flexible scheduling
    • Consider implementing flexible scheduling systems, such as online tools that enable staff to easily exchange shifts, pick up additional shifts, or even work at other locations. This type of flexibility can help mitigate the risk of potential workforce gaps during the busy holiday season. 

Hiring seasonal help can be a challenge. But by understanding your obligations, starting the process early, utilizing the right tools, and following these best practices, you can create a plan that delivers the staff you need to pull off a successful holiday season. 

Need help with hiring for the holiday season?

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