Seasonal Hiring Brings Holiday Spending Cash, Headaches

November 29, 2006

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Presents and travel expenses are some of the extra costs that come with the holidays. Opportunities remain for people looking for extra holiday cash, as employers across industries are in need of skilled workers to fill seasonal positions. Of course, seasonal hiring is one of the biggest challenges a manager can face.

Ads seeking part-time or seasonal retail help, of course, have jumped 67 percent in the past month, reports Monster.com, while another of the job site's surveys of 150 retailers shows that 88 percent plan to bring on extra people for this holiday rush.

Retailers and restaurants aren't the only ones faced with the tough task of hiring temporary workers this holiday season — shipping services, warehouse facilities and innumerable other business employers are seeking seasonal workers during the holiday stampede.

In addition, according to the CareerBuilder.com survey "Holiday Jobs," the following areas hot for short-term employees this holiday season are as follows: hospitality, customer service, delivery and office support. Companies augment their customer service staff to handle increased gift orders and returns, package delivery companies hire more drivers and support staff to handle heavier holiday shipments, and many businesses need temps to help with end-of-the-year wrap-ups and fill in for vacationing workers.

In the service sector, almost 50 percent of service-sector employers have plans to increase hiring in December, according to the December Leading Indicator of National Employment (LINE) report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations (via Manufacturing.Net). As well, fewer manufacturers reported cutting their workforces in December 2006 than in December 2005 (9.2 percent versus 16.7 percent).

Moreover, 23 percent of CareerBuilder's surveyed 1,150 hiring managers said they are recruiting for holiday positions.

Of course, seasonal hiring is one of the biggest challenges an operational manager is likely to face. Finding enough workers with the proper skills to complete projects when they are due, when are orders are set, and when deadlines loom can be daunting.

For small-business owners, including those who own and operate small engineering firms, interns can be a cheap source of talent — and an efficient way to evaluate potential future full-time employees. And while small firms sometimes find it hard to attract interns, it's getting easier, as many colleges help companies identify students who prefer small firms to larger ones.

"Often small businesses aren't aware of the fact that universities have students whose identified academic goal and career goal is to start working with small businesses," Dennis Jorgensen, director of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, tells The Wall Street Journal.

If you run your own small business or start-up, or if you're a manager in charge of hiring help for your employer, and you didn't prepare in advance to "take the bite out of crunch-time staffing," as Inbound Logistics suggested in August, what can you do to ensure this process runs smoothly? Here are some tips for small businesses and start-ups to help ease the holiday hiring crunch, from Rochester, New York-based law firm Nixon Peabody:

1) Put it in writing. The holidays are hectic, so to avoid any misunderstandings, consider offer letters. Having seasonal employees sign an offer letter that clearly states when the employment will begin and end ensures there are no misunderstandings about the duration of the job and makes it clear that the position is temporary.

2) Design an orientation program for the seasonal workforce. Orientation for seasonal workers is more limited than for regular full-time employees, but it is still a necessity — even if it is only an hour or two. You can save a lot of time and aggravation by getting people up to speed right away on how things work, where things are and who will do what.

3) Consider holding evening or weekend classes. This way, part-time workers can attend. Consider developing a special handbook with a specific set of policies for seasonal workers.

To be on the safe side, do not neglect doing background checks. Many employers forgo the background check because of the added expense. A seasonal worker presents the same potential risk in the workplace as a regular full-time worker. Conduct the same due-diligence checks on your temporary workers as you do on your permanent hires.

Moreover, make sure employees' legal paperwork is in order, recommends Fortune. Some of your seasonal helpers may have to file an I-9 form with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, showing that they're legally entitled to work in the U.S. Also, if you're hiring any minors, understand the rules there, too.

It all sounds like a lot of effort — because it is. But following these steps may very well save you some huge holiday headaches. It if is too late to follow these suggestions for the current busy season, stash them away for next year.

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