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Holiday Hiring: Strategies for Recruitment and Retention

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The most wonderful time of the year is approaching.

Yet, for many retailers, this holiday season is proving worrisome despite forecasts predicting sales will be very strong.

Why worry?

An ongoing hiring crunch — one that has led big box chains to increase wages to $15 or more an hour, and retailers of all sizes to consider signing bonuses and other perks and incentives to lure employees — shows no sign of improving. A July survey by consulting firm Korn Ferry revealed that 51% of retailers were having moderate trouble hiring, with 36% facing significant challenges.

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Even as federal unemployment benefits for about 10 million Americans came to an end earlier this month, there’s little evidence to show that hourly and frontline employees will rush back to the workforce. There continues to be concern that retailers may be left to trim store hours and request already stressed employees to cover even more hours.

As retailers try to ramp up hiring for the holidays, it’s crucial they employ strategies not only to recruit new employees, but also to retain their existing employees.

Put a Maniacal Focus on Existing Employees

The last thing a business needs when it is struggling to attract new employees is to lose existing employees.

Considering that nearly two-thirds of American employees are either “disengaged” or “actively disengaged,” according to the latest Gallup poll, retailers are at risk of losing unsatisfied employees to other opportunities since jobs — and perks — are aplenty.

In addition, a recent study by Facebook revealed the perspective between frontline employees and managers consistently diverge. In a survey of 2,000 leaders and 2,000 frontline employees, 83% of managers claim they give all employees a voice within their business, but 54% of employees said they are voiceless. Only 14% of employees felt a connection to their company, even though 86% said they felt connected to their coworkers. And only 48% believe top leaders understand their roles and the value they bring to the business.

Communication is a key way for employers to enhance engagement. Doing so in real time is even more impactful. Actively and regularly soliciting feedback in person or through simple text surveys enables management to understand what employees are feeling and what they need. Regular communications, ranging from expressing appreciation for an employee’s commitment and exceptional performance to sharing company news and celebrating key accomplishments and milestones, can improve engagement and limit turnover.

Tap Into Your Existing Employees for Referrals

They say the best time to look for a job is when you already have one. Similarly, one of the best ways to find a new employee is to look to an existing employee — especially an engaged employee.

EmployeeReferrals.com examined more than 50 companies and 90,000 employees to determine the comparison between referral and nonreferral employees. The 2018 study found that referral hires stay 70% longer than nonreferral hires. Because of that, it estimated companies reduced their replacement costs by 41%. It also found that employees who made referrals tend to stay in their jobs 20% longer than those who didn’t.

It’s important to remember that making a referral is a big deal. In most cases, an employee wouldn’t make a referral unless they truly felt the person would do a good job. A good referral can put an employee in even better standing with a manager. A bad one has the potential to damage credibility with the manager and stress the relationship between the existing and new employee.

Go Back to Previous Seasonal Employees

People who have worked seasonal jobs in the past often consider working seasonal jobs in the future. Or they may know someone who is looking for a seasonal job.

Retailers should go back to their databases to collect seasonal workers and reengage with their past employees. Text them to make them aware of openings and any changes that have taken place, like signing bonuses, new hourly pay, responsibilities and hours. Remember that even if they aren’t looking for work, they may know someone who is.

Show Care for Your New Employees

The first 30 to 90 days are crucial for any new hire, especially an hourly or frontline employee. So it’s imperative for retailers to make their new hires feel welcome.

It starts as early as training. Encourage questions and feedback. Explain the role and its importance to the overall operation. Embrace your mission and how employees can live the mission. Enlist your new employee to evaluate the training.

After 30 days, check in with the employee to see how things are going. Allow them to take an anonymous survey. Listen and learn.

The care you show for your new employee can help them more quickly become engaged. And an engaged employee is a happy employee, one who will make a positive impact on your business.


Shawn Boyer founded goHappy Hub after leading Snagajob, the nation’s largest marketplace for hourly workers and employers, as Founder and CEO from 2000-2013 and then Chairman of the Board through 2015. Boyer directed Snagajob’s rapid growth from an idea to a marketplace that now has over 100 million members and over 450,000 employers. Today, Boyer leads the team at goHappy Hub as Founder and CEO, helping businesses better communicate and engage directly with frontline and hourly employees, helping recruitment and retention in the process.

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