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Hiring for the holdays? Here’s help

As the economy continues to gain traction, many small retailers are forced to put more of their economic eggs in the holiday season shopping basket. Hoping to take advantage of an uptick in consumer confidence, an end-of-year holiday splash is possible, but could be more difficult this season.

Hiring extra help for the hoped-for push should be thought out more than ever. Here are some ways to help make short-term hires pay off.

Have a staffing plan. Know what it takes to get specific tasks done and how long it should take for a competent person to learn what you want them to do. Resist the temptation to be over-optimistic about what you will need to handle holiday season volumes.

Know how much a new hire really costs. Recruiting, hiring, training, employment taxes and wages all have costs. Compare these costs against the expected benefits in increased revenues or saved expenses. Are you making a wise decision versus paying some overtime to existing staff?

Don’t over think the process. You’re not hiring someone for more than a few weeks. Don’t make the process so comprehensive it sucks up all your time and energy. If you plan to take more than a week, 10 days at the most, you’re overdoing it.

Do at least minimal background checks. You don’t want someone who’s likely to steal inventory or money or sell stuff to friends and family at 80 percent off. Plus, they need to show up when scheduled for work. Verify at least two separate work references in the last year, if available, and be wary of applicants with no verifiable work experience.

Recruit early. During the holidays, many folks will be looking for part-time work. The longer you wait, the less chance you’ll have to select from the best applicants.

Don’t overhire. You’re not in need of a brain surgeon here.  And there’s no need for an extensive training curriculum. Hire to fill the current need and not for the future. Plus, hire the bare minimum to get by until you can verify there’s enough demand to add a second or subsequent new employee.

Don’t make promises. NEVER say you might be able to keep someone on after the holidays just to get what you perceive as a good applicant to commit to joining your firm. If it might work out later, deal with the issue when you’re ready to extend the offer.

n Use your community. To find the right workers that will match your business needs, rely on the community you know: local associations and clubs, schools, religious organizations, friends and family.

Trust your gut. We all know what we like and most business owners know what their customers like. If your gut says “not this one,” move on to the next interview. 

Hire for personality and train for skill gaps. People pleasers help make sales and you can’t teach personality. If you need a temporary employee to be the face of your business, get the most cheerful, helpful and positive person you can find. It will be the best investment you can make in holiday staffing.

Daniel Hannaher, the U.S. Small Business Administration Region VIII administrator, works out of Denver. Reach him at (303) 844-0505 or Daniel.Hannaher@sba.gov
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