Holiday hiring: who to hire and who to keep after the season

Nov. 20, 2012 | by Jason Hamilton
Holiday hiring: who to hire and who to keep after the season

Retailers aren't the only ones who benefit from the busy holiday season. Whether it's because of limited-time holiday menu items like peppermint shakes and hearty soups or busy schedules filled with shopping trips and family visits, QSRs see a bump during the holidays, too.

The influx in traffic means that operators need to boost their staff during the holiday season, but how do you make good holiday hires? And if you're planning to keep any seasonal hires into 2013, how do you decide who stays?

Holiday hiring 101

Snagajob's fifth annual holiday hiring survey showed that this season is poised to be strongest holiday job market for job seekers yet. Sixty-three percent of hiring managers said they were hiring this year and they are planning to hire almost 50 percent more seasonal employees than last year.

The stronger market for job seekers means more competition among employers for the best of the best. Employers start making holiday hires early — some as early as August — but others aren't ready to make the commitment until closer to the season. A later start doesn't necessarily mean that you won't find great people to fill your seasonal team. If you focus on attitude over experience, even employers who are late to the holiday hiring party can find good employees to help you capitalize on the busy season.

Attitude should trump experience when it comes to holiday hiring for three key reasons:

  • Limited training time. Under normal circumstances, you may take weeks helping new employees get to know the ropes and understand your culture. Holiday hires don't have that luxury, so finding people who naturally fit in your business reduces the cultural learning curve.
  • You can teach skill, but you can't teach personality. In your limited training time, you need to focus on teaching new employees the skills needed to complete their jobs well. You don't have time to train someone who doesn't handle stress well on how to calm his/her nerves and work the line during the dinner rush hour.
  • Fit impacts customer service. Just because someone has worked in a QSR before, that doesn't mean he/she should work in one again. If your cashier doesn't like talking with people, your customers will have a bad experience before they even get their order.

Previous experience may be at the top of your typical hiring checklist, but when you're making holiday hires, applicants' behavioral preferences and personalities determine how fast they will catch on and how happy they'll be on the job. And when you need seasonal help now — or maybe yesterday — how well the applicant will do the job should be more important than if he/she has done the job in the past.

Making the cut

Once you've made your seasonal hires and your team is hard at work, your work is done until after the holidays, right? Wrong. The holiday season can be a team-strengthening exercise if you take the opportunity to identify which seasonal employees are worth keeping after the season.

Follow these steps to pick the best additions to your team.

  • Communicate: Before you consider who should stay, you need to ask your employees who wants/can stay. Once a seasonal employee has been with you for at least a month and you've seen promise and potential have this conversation: "I don't need you to give me an answer right now, but I'm wondering what your plans are after the holidays. Would you have any interest in working here on a more permanent basis? There will be some opportunity for that, and I'm trying to gauge the interest and availability of our top performers."
  • Who would I clone?: Sometimes, managers don't have a specific laundry list of skills in mind when evaluating potential permanent hires — it's the entire package that matters. Managers faced with this problem should take a look at seasonal employees and ask themselves this hypothetical: "If I could clone, Jon/Jane to have five more of him/her working for me, would I?" This helps to focus your attention on the best when it's hard to exactly pinpoint the qualities that are making a hire stand out positively.
  • Numbers tell the story, too: While personality and eagerness to get a job done can shine through with interaction with customers and fellow employees, managers also should go beyond casual observations to determine who might be the best permanent employee. From a schedule perspective, who has clocked in on time and also been available for extra shifts, if asked? And because bottom-line labor expenses do matter, if your seasonal employees have been paid at different levels, is someone a "better buy" than another seasonal hire when their performances are compared?

Even though you're not in retail, your restaurant stands to see more business in the next few months. Prepare for the added traffic by hiring a team of seasonal employees who naturally fit in your business so they can catch on quickly, hit the ground running and keep the inevitably hurried customers happy. Once your team is hard at work, look at the holiday season as a nearly a two-month, on-the-job interview that can help you decide which employees will help make 2013 especially jolly.

Topics: Operations Management, Staffing & Training

Jason Hamilton
Jason Hamilton serves as Snagajob’s vice president of product and marketing. In this role, he is responsible for creating products that instantly connect workers and employers. He also leads Snagajob's marketing strategies – from customer acquisition and retention to marketplace development and growth. Oh, and he had a cameo in a Bollywood film. www

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