How to Attract Holiday Workers During the Labor Shortage

You've heard about the labor shortage for the last several months. And if you're in the restaurant or grocery business, it’s been real. The U.S. has more jobs available than workers to fill them. How can businesses compete for essential temporary and part-time workers during one of the busiest times of the year?

What does the labor shortage look like?

According to PeopleReady, employers posted 19 million available positions in the last two months, with 75% of them still unfilled. It will take at least a month to fill those jobs. With the holiday season upon us, hiring is a top priority. 

The picture looks challenging for restaurants. Executives with major restaurant chains lament the staff shortages and are scrambling to find ways to fill jobs. CNBC recently reported, "Restaurant executives have painted a bleak picture of staffing challenges to investors on their earnings calls in the last two weeks. CEOs like Domino's Pizza's Ritch Allison, Chipotle Mexican Grill's Brian Niccol, and McDonald's Chris Kempczinski shared details on how eateries have shortened hours, restricted ordering methods, and lost out on sales because they can't find enough workers."

For the grocery industry, staffing up is also proving to be a significant challenge. The main reason for turnover? Burnout. About 56% of grocery workers say their jobs are too exhausting. While most companies spend time engaging and retaining their corporate employees, they're not spending enough time considering frontline workers' needs.

What are holiday workers looking for?

The staffing landscape has changed dramatically throughout the pandemic. Some experts believe that the need for more secure employment with health benefits was why workers chose to leave in droves. But there's more to the story. "The Great Resignation" is affecting frontline organizations the most—including restaurants and grocery stores. To uncover what employees want, examine reasons why workers are leaving. A survey by software firm Axonify found it’s largely about:

  • Feeling burned out at work (57.8%)
  • A lack of appreciation from management and/or peers (53.3%)
  • Lack of interest in daily work (51.9%)
  • Poor compensation (51.7%)
  • Being overloaded with too much work (45.1%)

Axonify reports, "People aren't just leaving their jobs during The Great Resignation. They're taking advantage of newfound opportunities emerging from an unprecedented economic rebound. After more than a year of uncertainty, people are reprioritizing how they work and live."

Understanding the mindset and needs of modern frontline workers can provide clues as to new ways to attract and retain talent, including seasonal workers. They want flexible schedules, more appreciation, and more positive work relationships. In other words, they want productive, fulfilling work that makes them feel optimistic about their employer at the end of a shift.

For seasonal workers, employers should consider the following:

  • Offer flexibility. A new Restaurant Business study indicates that 66% of seasonal workers value flexible working hours and prefer to work no more than 25 hours per week.
  • Emphasize a positive work environment. When hiring, emphasize your organization's team culture, what makes the company special, and why employees enjoy their jobs. Don't just talk the talk. Ensure you continually create a positive environment where employees are appreciated, thanked, appropriately trained, and encouraged.
  • Be clear about what the job entails. A big reason people leave frontline jobs is that they feel burdened by multiple responsibilities over time. This leads to burnout. So, be clear about what the role involves, and stick to that.
  • Discuss compensation. Go over holiday pay, overtime availability, and referral bonuses for introducing management to potential new hires.

How to attract workers during the holidays

It's not too late to hire your holiday dream team. Here are some strategies to help.

Identify and find your target holiday staff.

Think about who might benefit from picking up some extra work during the holidays. Many people are looking for flexible schedules, additional income to cover holiday costs, more work experience to add to a resume for a longer-term job search, or a chance to learn a new set of skills and make a change. Consider where your target employers might be. Who are they?

  • High school and college students: Reach out to school administrators and find ways to connect with students at local high schools, trade schools, community colleges, and universities. Create notices or ads for campus newspapers, online publications, newsletters, or fliers. Promote an on-site job fair— before or after hours— at your place of employment or space on campus.
  • Stay-at-home parents: Find popular online parent or mom groups in your area that share resources on Facebook and other social media channels. Ask if administrators can share job postings with group members.
  • Freelance and contract workers: Similar to parents, freelancers and contractors connect online and love to share information about job leads. During the holidays, freelancers and contractors may miss out on billable hours when clients take off for the holidays. A holiday gig might be attractive.
  • Artists and creatives: If they're not actively selling their work during the holidays, chances are some creative professionals might welcome a short-term job without a long-term commitment.

While you might be desperate to fill positions, "bad hires" can hurt business. Avoid hiring mistakes even when you're understaffed.

Be creative with recruiting

The goal is to get more applications in your hiring queue. Use existing and new recruitment tactics to generate leads and find the best people.

  • Leverage existing employees. Implement a referral program that incentivizes employees to reach out to their network contacts. Provide cash bonuses for new hires employees bring in.
  • Work with specialized recruitment agencies. Seasonal and temporary employment agencies sometimes specialize in placing hospitality and retail workers during the holiday rush. Find out which agencies in your area offer candidates that meet your needs.
  • Connect with previous employees. In some cases, you may want to mine your employee database. Send a friendly email to employees you'd like to invite back to work during the holidays.

Compensation matters

While studies indicate that employees value flexibility and work environment more than compensation, offering competitive pay during the holidays is still essential.

  • Holiday bonus. Consider offering both current and holiday employees bonuses. You can either provide signing bonuses upon hiring or, for existing workers, a week before Christmas. You could split up bonuses to be paid before and after the season.
  • Competitive Pay. You're competing with countless businesses for talent. Understand the marketplace and offer competitive hourly wages.
  • Store discounts. Offer employee discounts on products or free meals. If employees are not interested in what you sell, forge partnerships with nearby businesses that might be interested in employee discount exchanges.

To offset these holiday hiring costs, take care of your customers and attract new ones. Upside is a cashback platform that supports restaurants and grocery stores by guaranteeing profits. While you focus on managing hiring costs during the holidays, Upside works with businesses with no upfront costs or technical training required.

Update your advertising

Developing intriguing ads seems like the most obvious "go-to" option for filling open positions. But here are some tips for getting more out of your ad budget.

  • Review old ads. Make sure your digital, social media and print ads are fresh and reflect what you're offering holiday staff this season.
  • Amplify job postings. Think about posting on free or low-cost employment platforms like Craigslist, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, SimplyHired, and Google for Jobs. Make sure you emphasize worker-friendly job attributes like flexible scheduling, bonus pay, a fun work environment, employee discounts, signing bonuses, and other benefits.
  • Use your social media channels. Don't forget to leverage one of your business's most valuable outreach tools. Develop eye-catching posts that your media team can seamlessly fold into a content calendar.

Use smart scheduling software

Labor management technology can customize schedules to meet employee needs and provide a level of flexibility that attracts new employees. There are a number of platforms that help managers appropriately staff the unique customer spikes during the holidays. Also, workers can communicate seamlessly with leadership and co-workers to adjust schedules and share important staffing updates. This level of transparency—and flexibility— empowers managers and workers.

Want to learn more about how to help your business thrive during the holidays and beyond?