Holiday Survival: More Tips for Seasonal Staffing

Aug 30, 2011 2:05 AM  By

Hiring and training staff for the holiday season is huge topic for merchants that do the bulk of their business in the fourth quarter. Our previous article offered 10 Tips for Seasonal Warehouse Staffing; here’s a few more.

• Prepare your staff for what’s to come. “Meet with your production and marketing teams to get a good idea of what to expect from each seasonal peak and plan accordingly,” says Lance Curran, warehouse director of online apparel merchant Threadless.com.

Now is the time to make any big changes. “Revisit all your processes and procedures to make sure they are all still accurate and appropriate before you’re too busy to look at them,” says Katherine Smith, director of warehouse operations for multititle mailer Potpourri Group.

• Recruit via job fairs. If your operation still needs a substantial amount of holiday workers, you might consider holding a job fair. Mouser Electronics drew 250 applicants at a recent job fair, says Pete Shopp, its senior vice president of business operations. “There are many talented people looking for jobs right now, and the key is to strategically market within your community,” he says.

While Mouser Electronics doesn’t have what typical retail operations would consider a holiday season, “our business experiences somewhat unpredictable peaks in sales, so we must always be prepared to process and ship large numbers of orders on any given day,” Shoppe says.

What’s more, Mouser aims to ship all orders the same day they are placed, “so it’s imperative we stay fully staffed in the stock control, shipping, sorting and receiving areas of our warehouse,” he says.

• Plan to avoid seasonal scheduling conflicts. You’ll need solid projections and a schedule of when to hire staff so they are trained and up to speed when needed, says Smith.

And while you might discourage it, workers typically need to take some time off during the peak season. So pressure your full-time staff to schedule all vacations and days off as far in advance as possible, Curran says.

• Implement incentive programs. Every operation hopes to hire the best and provide extensive training. An incentive program can be a good way to reinforce good performance.

And your program doesn’t have to be complicated or extensive. For example, Threadless.com gives out $50 Amazon gift cards to team leaders who have temps with the best stats, Curran says.

• Kick off the season with a bang. The holiday rush is hard and stressful on everyone, so Curran suggests a pre-show party “to get everyone pumped and know how much they are appreciated before the rush begins.”