Hiring Hourly Workers Ahead of the Holiday Rush

I hate to be “that guy,” but the holiday season is quickly approaching. Have you hired your temporary staff yet? I know, I know, Halloween is less than a month away, and the kids just went back to school, but if you aren’t prepared for the holiday rush now, you may be putting your company at a disadvantage.


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Retail giants like Target, Kohls, and Amazon have all announced their hiring intentions ahead of the 2019 shopping season, and for hourly, retail employees, this spells good news! Amazon anticipates hiring over 30,000 permanent employees, Target plans to hire 125,000 seasonal workers, and Kohls says it has roughly 2,500 seasonal positions ready to be filled. As you can see, the hiring varies across each company, but one thing remains clear: Hourly workers are in demand this holiday season.

If the current, candidate-driven market has you worried about filling vacant positions, may we suggest one talent pool that may help? Students. While some employers might be skeptical at first, there are quite a few benefits to hiring students for seasonal work.

Benefits of Hiring Students for Seasonal Work

  • Students will appreciate abbreviated work arrangements, and they’re probably less likely to get upset if their role doesn’t turn into a full-time arrangement because they’ll have to worry about going back to school and other commitments.
  • Students will be eager to learn and do a good job, especially if it’s their very first job. They will want to put something positive on their résumés.
  • Students will bring new skills to the table. The youngest generation in the workforce—Generation Z—comprises the most tech-savvy workers in history, so they might be able to help with many tech-related and mobile-device hiccups, among many other things.
  • Extra workers help improve employee morale. If your current employees won’t be asked to work extra hours or pick up extra slack during your busier seasons due to understaffed shifts, they will welcome the extra help.

“Hourly employers that hire students can expect that their desire and need for flexible schedules and other accommodating employment terms will only increase as the workers who typically fill these roles (whether students or otherwise) have an increasing slate of choices in front of them,” says Micah Rowland, COO of Fountain, a digital hiring platform, in an e-mail to HR Daily Advisor.

“Many workers who would have traditionally filled jobs in retail, food services, hospitality, and similar sectors now have the option to take contract work in logistics, transportation, and other sectors where the gig economy provides flexible hours, fewer job requirements such as attire, and other benefits that workers find attractive,” Rowland adds.

“A number of such gig economy jobs skew toward workers in their 20s or older due to age and schedule restrictions that exclude students from participating,” says Rowland. “In this environment, students will benefit from the flexibility that is opening up for the workers who will fill these gig economy jobs because traditional jobs are harder for employers to fill. This will force traditional employers to continue to innovate their labor practices, use of technology, and business models to attract the workers they need.”

How to Attract Students for Seasonal Work

Here are a few tips for attracting student talent for your open, hourly positions:

Start recruiting early. Don’t wait until the week before you need seasonal help to start recruiting students. Plan to recruit them a month or so before your busy season starts so they can balance a job with their other commitments.

And if you’ve hired students in the past for seasonal work, reach out to them first to see if they want to rejoin the team during your busy season, especially if they were reliable and worked hard. Also, make sure you clearly advertise that your seasonal positions are available to teens under 18, if applicable.

Use mobile platforms for recruiting. As mentioned above, Gen Zs are tech-savvy, which means you should be using mobile apps and mobile-optimized sites and platforms to recruit them. They may not know your seasonal positions exist otherwise.

Offer more than minimum wage or other incentives. While you don’t have to offer a lot more than minimum wage, consider offering 50 cents to a dollar more than the minimum wage to attract the best candidates. And consider offering things like free lunch on Fridays or other small incentives and perks to keep them happy, working hard, and engaged while working for your organization.

Make it fun, but also represent roles as valuable learning opportunities. Yes, students like to have fun. But most of them also want to be valuable members of the workforce when they get a job. So, although you will want to advertise your organization as being a fun place to work with great perks, don’t overdo it—students still want to become professionals one day and learn the ropes so they can be successful in the future.

Hiring Trends in the Hourly Employment Landscape

The candidate-driven market continues to plague employers, and hourly employers are no different. We asked Rowland to share some of the trends he is currently seeing in this landscape. He says, “I am seeing an increasing willingness to use off-the-shelf technology solutions, whereas in the past, they would have used in-house pen and paper or homegrown tools.”

“Companies of all sizes are now expected to use multiple software tools to meet critical HR-related needs in areas like sourcing, hiring and onboarding candidates, workforce management, and benefits,” he adds. And the variety of tools available will only continue to evolve as workplaces begin implementing them.

“The needs of companies are so diverse in these areas, but the total pool of funds spent on labor across the economy is large, so it is an attractive space for companies to try to develop and sell new product offerings,” says Rowland. “I expect to see continued innovation in the form of new companies and products being created to serve large niche needs.”

One area where technology can serve the needs of many is the training space. Once you hire student workers, you’ll need to onboard them quickly, which is where technology comes into play.

If you want students to pay attention during training, don’t simply lecture them and hand out manuals. Make their training interactive by developing fun exercises and opportunities that allow them to do things as they learn. And, if possible, use mobile technology for training, as well as virtual reality training, as students these days will respond more positively to those learning avenues.