Are you new to hiring for the holiday season? Retailers know the December seasonal employment scramble. But this year, businesses across all sectors are tuning their talent management plans—because the 2020 holiday looks a lot different than previous holidays.

The good news is you have options, and we’re here to help you navigate them.

Seasonal employment strategy #1: Tap on-site workers

If your business has either grown or pivoted in response to the events of 2020, you may want to know why and how to hire on-site seasonal helpers.

Hiring is up—not just in obvious industries (online retail) but across all sectors. And according to staffing experts at Indeed, the number one seasonal employment need this year is loading and stocking goods. That’s because people are sending rather than hand-delivering gifts, and many businesses need substantially more stocking, packing, and loading help than in previous years. We’ve highlighted the change below to show the unique jump.
image.png Source: Indeed

The US unemployment rate is also up, but its severity is influenced by the pandemic. The good news is that we’re recovering sooner than anticipated, and Federal Reserve leaders have predicted we’ll be back at a 5.5% unemployment rate by the end of 2021. All small business owners are keeping an eye on COVID-19 headlines that will impact their hiring decisions.

Engaging new on-site employees may be tricky right now, but it’s also an opportunity to stand out as an excellent employer. Follow virus mitigation best practices outlined by the National Governors’ Association’s real-time tracker. Vocalize your efforts to do so in job postings and marketing materials.

On-location seasonal helpers: Pluses and potential pitfalls

The most obvious benefit of hiring seasonal people for your fieldwork is that you can see them operate for a few weeks or months before deciding to offer them more permanent roles. You’ll see how they operate in person when interacting with customers, partners, vendors, and teammates.

Another benefit is that seasonal helpers tend to cost companies less.

Potential pitfalls are few and can be mitigated at least partially by simply being aware of them:

  • Temporary people may be less committed to your company’s long-term success.
  • Paperwork could be mishandled, leading to legal trouble.
  • Less time for training could lead to frustrations on both sides.

Again, knowing the perks and downsides of hiring temporary new folks lets you prepare to make the most of each seasonal relationship.

Best practices for seasonal employment success—and compliance

Just because you’re new to offering seasonal employment doesn’t mean you need to fumble through this year to get up to speed. These best practices can help.

Learn the ins and outs of payroll taxes for holiday helpers. Read what the IRS has already published on seasonal employment for business owners. The experts at payroll software publisher Paycor have an even more in-depth guide to walk you through the nuances of holiday workers and their payroll taxes. And don’t forget your accountant, who is likely a wealth of hyper-relevant information on the topic, as well.

Find the best seasonal helpers. Just like when you’re searching for a full-timer, start by asking your business network. Tap former teammates and your business vendors and partners for referrals. Most of all, ask current employees for recommendations since research shows having friends at work improves performance.

After you’ve exhausted your network, hop online. Post your openings online using seasonal job boards like SeasonalEmployment or SeasonalJobs. Next, you can turn to broader online job boards, but make sure you rely on the most relevant keywords (“temporary,” “holiday,” “year-end,” etc.) to ensure you attract the perfect, pre-qualified people.

Use seasonal employment to fuel your future. Look for helpers who indicate they may want to do this again next year—a move that would save you a lot of work later on.

Use seasonal workers to exploit competitors’ weaknesses. Learn where rivals are not hiring, and ensure you excel in that area. For example, the same chart we saw earlier depicted a gap in businesses’ customer care this season:
image.png Source: Indeed

Watch for markers like these that can tip you off to market weaknesses you can fill.

Hire workers for a little longer than you anticipate needing them. The January return-and-exchange “season” requires a lot of labor (and creativity). Plus, you’ll want to put some effort into new customer retention. So plan to carry some of your new helpers into January and February. That way, your exciting new gains don’t evaporate.

Seasonal employment strategy #2: Source virtual workers

Face-to-face roles must be covered by in-person staffers, yes, but many of this season’s jobs can and should be done by remote workers. Small business website and mobile app developers, marketing writers and specialists, graphic designers, sales associates, customer service representatives, online order fulfillment staff, data entry and database administrators, analysts, and translators are all roles that can be outsourced or entrusted to remote seasonal workers.

Remote seasonal helpers: Benefits and drawbacks

As with on-site people, virtual workers bring their own benefits and challenges.

For one, you’re able to search amid a much wider talent pool. You can also offer more flexibility to your workers. Another biggie is that remote work ensures safety for both your consumers and your seasonal talent. And finally, in Owl Labs’ 2019 State of Remote Work report, the majority of workers surveyed said working virtually makes them feel like they’re more trusted (82%), less stressed (80%), and more capable of handling their work/life balance (81%).

The drawbacks of hiring faraway folks are few, but they’re worth considering. For starters, you’ll be dealing with decreased visibility into their day-to-day. And likewise, they won’t know what you’re doing most of the time, leading to feelings of isolation. This, in turn, can create a blurred, unchecked work/life experience that can sabotage their time with you. You and they will also be dealing with asynchronous and digital communication limitations, which can be overcome but may affect performance. And lastly, remote workers come with a few security concerns that must be circumvented before—not after—malicious attacks.

Once again, knowing the advantages and challenges of remote holiday workers can help you get ahead of them with early preventatives and solutions.

Best practices for your remote seasonal team

Great news: Many of the best practices of remote teams mirror in-person talent nurturing.

Learn what’s required of you as an employer. You must know all the important legal and tax requirements before hiring virtual people.

Strategize what jobs to fill. You should source roles beyond what your rivals are to fill needs in your niche that no one else plans to address.

Play the long game. You can save time, energy, and money later by incentivizing remote helpers to either stay on or repeat the seasonal rhythm (“See you—virtually—next year!”)

The following best practices are unique, given the distance between you and your remote seasonal employees.

Find the best remote seasonal talent. Including “remote,” “virtual,” and “from home” to your postings is a good start, but there’s also opportunity in earned media. Many businesses get covered by publications like Apartment Therapy, CNBC, and SILive. Most publicists offer one-off projects like this and can pitch your small business’s hiring as a story or as part of a roundup of places offering seasonal employment.

Vet remote holiday employees differently. Soft skills can be more difficult to read remotely, so simply invest extra time ensuring character fit. Ask applicants questions that would demonstrate traits like their dependability, great textual communication skills for remote collaboration, internal motivation, and resilience.

Seasonal employment strategy #3: Exploit robotic help

The smartest business leaders are mixing new, short-term employees with programs that automate some tasks completely. Marketing tech tools, chatbots, auto-bookkeepers, data analysts, database administrators, and more can all be “employed” by adopting tools that do the work.

Tech tools: Pros and Cons of hiring these “workers”

The good news about hiring tech tools is that these automatons don’t need to care for dependents or take vacation days. They never get sick or need personal time away. They’re more secure and never fall for a phishing scam or an imposter’s claim. Good programs don’t replace, but instead, assist your creative human workers, freeing people up to execute more (and better) decision-making.

Best of all, today’s technology is—in several, but not all, ways—more reliable. Some, like Neat, achieve 99.99% accuracy in administrative tasks. It always honors its nondisclosure agreement, stays with your business forever, and is never tempted to “borrow” office supplies, time, or trade secrets.

Best practices for working with automation

Decision-makers know that their actions influence their employees’ productivity. In the same way, your handling of technology will determine that technology’s effectiveness. Employ these best practices to ensure you get the most fitting “seasonal help” from automation that you possibly can.

Choose the best tools. Base your need on your goals, not a tool’s advertised bells and whistles. Consult your team to find tools that’ll support them best. For example, McKinsey consultants found that 60%–70% of the January returns processes discussed earlier can be digitized.

Use your talent screening to inspire and inform your technology selections. You wouldn’t hire the first employee who applied to a role, so don’t implement the first tool you encounter, either. Instead, interview the people behind the tool—don’t be afraid to include some of the most common interview questions: What are this tool’s greatest strengths? Weaknesses? Tell me about a time your tool was used for an outside-the-box application. Has your tool ever helped a company like ours? What were the results?

Start with a low-learning-curve and high-impact tool like Neat. Give priority to solutions that solve immediate and pivotal issues like your disorganized bookkeeping processes. Neat’s intuitive user-friendliness makes onboarding a breeze and lets you employ low-risk, high-reward automation within seconds of adopting it. It’s the very best experience for business owners who want to automate away some tasks without investing tons of time or energy in enterprise-level technology. Try it now by signing up for a free trial of Neat and begin operating your business with a tidy, up-to-date general ledger.

Follow the solution provider’s recommendations for implementing the automation. Consult the people who engineered your new technology for the best ways to get the most mileage out of it.

Record lessons learned for upcoming years

Pandemics aren’t the only reason brick-and-mortar businesses go online. And many small companies that made the pivot say they plan to keep at least some of their operations digital once in-person experiences open back up.

Since nothing in the future is certain, prepare your business for both success and more instability by taking notes of what seasonal employment lessons you learn this holiday season. Looking back on the unique and formative 2020 holiday season, you’ll be glad you did.