Why You Are Losing “The War For Seasonal Talent” Explained
Managers who must recruit seasonal staff need to wake up and realize that the recruiting landscape has changed. Today’s managers must learn that recruiting is now much more difficult. In times of extremely low unemployment, individuals looking for seasonal work now have multiple seasonal and permanent job choices. And with more family members with full-time jobs, fewer people now need to accept any seasonal work for the added income. Taken together, this means that despite all the hype surrounding the impending abundance of “gig workers,” your business results will likely suffer due to your inability to recruit enough seasonal staff. Fortunately, the seasonal employee recruiting problem can be solved even in today’s talent market, provided that you take several of the following systematic steps for adjusting your recruiting approach to better fit this dynamic “war for seasonal talent.”
The Top 10 Proven Steps for Ending Your Seasonal Recruiting Problems
The top 10 proven steps/solutions that will get your firm more than its fair share of seasonal talent are outlined below. The most impactful ones are listed first.
- Make your employees brand ambassadors for your location — firms that adopt a data-driven approach to recruiting quickly learn that the highest-volume and the highest-performing hires come from employee referrals. Employee referrals are especially effective in retail, delivery, and warehouse jobs. Those who have worked in these jobs likely know each other because they have previously worked together and they often hang out in the same circles. But simply asking your employees to make referrals isn’t enough. Instead, you must make it part of each of your employee’s job to act as “brand ambassadors” for your location. As a brand ambassador, you should expect each employee to be proactively spreading compelling stories on social media about what it’s like to work at your location. Starting in the summer, your brand ambassadors should also be continually seeking out and selling those who might want seasonal jobs. The best approach is to encourage employees to make referrals “for the good of the team.” Provide a $25 Starbucks gift card as a token reward for seasonal referral hires and to expand eligibility by allowing former employees and family members to make referrals.
- Use the most effective sources for attracting applicants — collect data from previous years covering which recruiting sources identify and attract the most and the highest quality, seasonal candidates. In most cases, after employee referrals, boomerang rehires (former permanent, part-time, or seasonal workers) are the No. 2 most effective source. Asking the references of top applicants for referrals (“Do you know anyone else who is really good?”) and revisiting silver medalists (those that came in second for previous openings) are almost always the next-most-effective sources.
- Proactively make interviewing easy — you may lose even your most excited prospects if you make it difficult for them to participate in your interviews. Start by making it possible for seasonal candidates to complete all of their interviews during a single half day. Next, consider using live remote video interviews on their mobile phone so that a trip to your facility isn’t even necessary. Also consider offering an “interview table” with instant, on-the-spot interviews at your facility, as well as night and weekend interview opportunities. In addition, some firms have had great success in increasing their number of interviewees by paying for travel expenses, a free meal, and even paying for their time during the interview.
- Make the application process pain free — top prospects won’t even get to the interview stage if it’s too difficult to apply. Requiring an updated resume may scare away many prospects. So, consider using a LinkedIn profile or an extremely short application form that takes less than five minutes to complete. For employee referrals that have already been recommended by your employees, consider interviewing them first and only then asking them to complete a short application.
- Make your “we’re hiring signs” exciting — nothing quickly reveals that working at a facility is dull than a standard “we’re hiring” sign on your premises. I’ve written previously on the most effective we’re hiring signs. So, make sure that your sign reveals that you are an exciting place to work by using phrases like “Work at an award winner” or “Grow along with us.” Also, consider revealing “why” the work is compelling with phrases on the sign like “We offer a chance to make a difference,” “Are you ready for a job you’ll love?” or “Come join the fun.” And finally consider phrases that reveal the excitement of working with your team, including “Work alongside and learn from the best,” “Work with industry-leading products,” or “An opportunity to serve the world’s best customers.” Immediately differentiate yourself by making it clear that you are seeking top talent and that working at your location is clearly a superior opportunity.
- Recruit your customers because they already know and like your product — the most obvious recruiting target for seasonal workers should be your customers. They can get up to speed quickly with less training and they already know and like your product/firm, they share your values, and can closely relate to your customers. In addition, they likely live in the neighborhood, and they may share your passion for your product. Wells Fargo even tried to recruit its customers by placing a “we’re hiring” slogan on its printed ATM receipts. Most other firms have placed customer notices on site and in their advertising mailers.
- Micro target your recruiting messaging to more effectively reach prospects for seasonal worker — most seasonal workers come from relatively easy-to-identify demographic groups. Locate your recruitment marketing and your job ads in places where college students, retirees, nonworking spouses, recent immigrants, Uber drivers, and older workers are most likely to see them. Survey your current seasonal hires and a sample of applicants and ask them where they would most likely see or hear about a recruitment ad and a job opening.
- Counter any work negatives that might turn off seasonal prospects — as many as 70 percent of potential applicants use the Internet and social media to assess future employers. Most seasonal prospects will be reluctant to take a job if they perceive that the opportunity includes any job-related negatives. Monitor and counter any negatives that appear on employer comments sites like Glassdoor.com. If you’re bold, follow the lead of Amazon and encourage your employees to proactively tweet and post social media messages that reveal that your jobs do not contain any “negatives.” Common “deal-breaker negatives” often include unpredictable scheduling, required overtime, dangerous working conditions, and dictatorial bosses. Identify those high-impact negatives by asking your own applicants to identify any deal breakers for seasonal jobs. And then provide your employees with information and facts that they can spread that counter any negatives that appear concerning your facility.
- Make the work exciting and then spread the word about the excitement — hiring managers must realize that many prospects for your retail, delivery, and warehouse openings assume that these jobs are “all the same.” However, you can differentiate your jobs and your location by proactively doing things that actually make the work more exciting. This may sound radical, but make it every manager’s job to, first, make the actual work and the work environment exciting, and then to make it easy for outsiders to “feel that excitement.” Manager-driven practices that may excite seasonal prospects include superior training and internal rotation opportunities, celebrating individual employees, fun team activities, employee success bonuses, and a high probability of becoming permanent. In order to spread the excitement externally, managers must put together a list of stories illustrating these excitement features so that employees can spread them on social media and when they are seeking referrals. Even if your facility is part of a larger chain, differentiate yourself and make it clear to your prospects that your location is one of the best. Some potential applicants may also be excited by the fact that your organization makes significant contributions to charity, the community, and the environment.
- Don’t be afraid to raid your competitors — in this highly competitive world, make it a standard practice to routinely “steal customers” from your competitors. And since employees are not owned by a firm, you should never hesitate to directly raid your competitors and “poach away” their best seasonal and permanent employees. If you include the talent working at your competitors as part of your recruiting pool, that pool will expand dramatically beyond those who are currently unemployed. Start by encouraging your employees who periodically visit your talent competitors in the neighborhood to identify targets for referrals. Next, provide your hiring managers with a list of the features that make working at your location superior to that of your competitors. And whether you raid or not, implement personalized retention plans to counter any of your competitor’s recruiting efforts.
Additional Effective But Harder-to-Implement Recruiting Solutions
Each of these additional steps will also have a significant impact on your recruiting results. However, they are listed separately because they are a little more difficult to implement than the previous top 10 steps.
- Money does matter to seasonal employees — because most candidates take seasonal jobs to earn extra money and because the job itself doesn’t last more than a few months, the amount of the compensation for seasonal jobs may have a higher impact than the job itself. And because firms like Amazon and others have recently raised their minimum pay up to $15 per hour, hiring managers can no longer sidestep the pay issue. If you are lucky and your jobs pay above average, for seasonal jobs you need to make applicants aware of that fact. Conduct periodic snapshot salary surveys to ensure that as the competition increases, you are not underpaying compared to the average in your locality. Be aware of your competitors also offering extraordinary benefits that get noticed by applicants. For example, Old Navy and Gap are offering 50 percent employee discounts, free flu shots, and backup childcare. Others offer significant referral and sign-on bonuses. And if you can’t pay competitive wages, show potential applicants that other factors like “the work,” making a difference, and expanded career opportunities make up for lower pay. And incidentally, if you’re having difficulty getting employee coverage during extra busy shifts, consider paying a premium for part-time workers who are willing to work during those shifts.
- Show the opportunity for permanent work and career growth — many but not all seasonal workers would like the option of a permanent job. Reveal to candidates what percentage of seasonal workers are likely to be made permanent. Also, show how your firm helps permanent workers grow and move up the ladder by revealing the percentage of new hires that can be expected to be promoted within two years.
- Adopt a data-driven recruiting approach — unfortunately, most seasonal hiring processes were designed long ago based on intuition rather than data. However, if you need recruiting success in a tight job market, you must shift to a data-driven approach. Start by gathering data and then use it to determine the best sources of candidates (e.g., referrals from your top performers), as well as the best assessment and the most-effective selling approaches (i.e., peer interviews). You should also collect data which identifies the most powerful “attraction factors” for seasonal workers (i.e., product discounts and flexible scheduling). And finally, being data-driven is especially important if you are trying to attract a diverse workforce.
- Hold a national hiring day — one of the best ways to get free recruiting PR is to hold a national hiring day. Historically national hiring days have received an enormous amount of local and national publicity for firms that have used them, including Chipotle, McDonald’s, Macy’s, and Amazon. As an added benefit, because they allow hiring to be focused on a single event/day, these events free up a lot of your managers time that can now be directed to your customers.
- Reward your managers for great hiring and employee excitement — executives should realize that the most effective way of getting managers to pay more attention to recruiting is to measure and reward them for producing outstanding recruiting results. And if you further measure and reward managers for actually making their workplace one that employees consider exciting, you can expect the word to spread externally, and that by itself will make recruiting relatively easy
Managers in fields like retail, delivery, and warehousing routinely do a great deal of seasonal and permanent hiring. Unfortunately, however, they routinely rely on antiquated recruiting techniques that simply do not work when the local unemployment rate is so extremely low. When I have the opportunity to advise firms in these industries, almost all of them have yet to adopt a data-driven approach to prospect sourcing, candidate assessment, and candidate selling. In direct contrast, when I visit firms like Sodexo, Nestlé Purina, and Google that have adopted a more modern data-driven recruiting approach, most of the common recruiting problems have just melted away. So, if your firm or location is having difficulty recruiting either seasonal or permanent workers, the good news is that adopting a data-driven approach will literally end your problem. From my perspective, the manager of a location can either harm their seasonal business results or dramatically improve them, depending on the extent that they are willing to shift their current recruiting approach dramatically.