Holiday Staffing Dos and Don’ts

staffing dos and donts

Whether you’re the small business owner of a restaurant, a retail store or just a small business that does really well over the holidays, you have to make sure you’re properly staffed to handle all the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

The holidays can be a crazy time, but as a small business owner, it’s important you take all the steps necessary to ensure your business doesn’t get sucked into the craziness. Follow these do’s and don’ts of holiday staffing to make sure your business not only meets the needs of all the extra customers but far exceeds them.

DO: Plan ahead. You know the holidays are coming. They come the same time every year, so don’t be a business that waits until the last minute to figure out how it’s going to handle this holiday season. Start making preparations for staffing and other details months in advance. This is especially true if you’re hiring new employees. You need time to show them the ropes and give them some real-life experience before work really picks up during the holidays. It never hurts to plan ahead, but it can really hurt your business if you wait until right before the holidays to start planning.

DON’T: Over think the process. You’re hiring seasonal workers. You’ll only be having them for a few weeks or just over a month, so don’t spend the time and energy like you would for a full-time employee. As a small business owner, your job is already stressful and exhausting, so there’s no reason to add on to that. You need only take a few days to find and hire someone and then another few days to train them. The whole process should take you a week, maybe a week and a half tops. Having said that make sure that they are trained adequately enough to not damage your brand or reputation in any way.

DO: Overstaff. Some small business owners see this as a problem or think they can’t afford this option, but if you can afford it, you should do it. Being overstaffed is like being over prepared — it doesn’t hurt and usually makes your life a little easier in the end. Let’s say you own a restaurant and planned on having six servers one night, but then only four showed up and your place was full of hungry customers all night. That’s a major problem for you, the servers who actually showed up and the impatient customers. Now if you had overstaffed, you wouldn’t have had the stress of that situation because you would’ve had plenty of servers. If for some reason you overstaffed and then your business isn’t as busy, you can always send those extra employees home early that aren’t needed. They are most likely paid hourly anyways so this shouldn’t be a problem.

DON’T: Just hire anyone. While you’re only staffing these people for the holidays, you want temporary employees who are qualified for the position. They don’t need years of experience, but they should at least have the skills you’re looking for. It’s also a good idea to do a background check before you hire anyone onto your staff. Don’t spend an unnecessary amount of time on hiring seasonal employees, but do take the right amount of time to find qualified ones.

DO: Train your employees. If you hire someone, they represent you and your company so you want them to represent you correctly. You can’t hire people for the busiest time of the year and then just tell them to get to work expecting them to know what to do and how to do it the way you want it done. Even if these temporary hires have previous experience, they don’t have experience specifically in your small business. So find and take the time to give them some training before the holidays begin so you and your customers will be pleased with their work. This training may be more focused on the “who” and “why” of your company as much as the job’s responsibilities itself. This is certainly the case in jobs that are fairly straightforward but are done in settings where the customer experience is a key selling point.

DON’T: Make promises you can’t keep. You’re hiring someone for the holidays, nothing more. There’s a chance you could take on a seasonal employee as more, but you can’t know that when you hire them. Don’t tell someone they’ll be able to stay on longer or have a permanent position with your company, especially just to get them to give 110 percent for you during the holidays. As a small business owner, your reputation is a big deal, so don’t lose that because you gave false promises to a few seasonal employees.

DO: Use temp agencies. Temporary employment agencies are a great place to find short-term employees. They act like your human resources department but are sometimes able to choose from a wider variety of people. On average during the third quarter of 2013, United States staffing companies employed just over 3 million temporary and contract employees per day. Using staffing agencies is beneficial in many ways, but specifically as a small business owner, it saves you money because they are temporary and employed by the staffing agency, which means you don’t have to provide them benefits or pay your full-time employees for having to work overtime. Check out the local agencies in your area to see which offers the most qualified temporary employees and begin the short process to receive the help you need over the holidays.

DON’T: Hire just on experience. Experience is a good thing, and it always makes training a new employee a little easier if they have some previous experience. But experience isn’t the only thing needed to make a good employee. You want someone who has a great personality and someone who’s a people person. Whether your small business is in the retail or restaurant business, employees with good personalities make the sales, please your customers and make them want to come back.

DO: Look internally before spreading out externally. Most business think the only thing they can do is hire outside help during the holidays. While this is likely the preferred choice for many businesses, it’s not the only solution. Depending on the size of your company, you may be able to ask some of your employees to take on some extra tasks during the holiday season. If you can give a slightly bigger workload internally, then you may not need to look externally or at least not have to hire as many new, temporary employees.

DON’T: Forget to look to your community. Another good way to find temporary help is through your community. This is especially important if you’re a small business in a smaller community. Local churches, schools and community clubs or associations probably know of people who are looking for temporary work during the holidays. It’s always a good idea to help your community, and asking them for help in finding temporary employees and possibly even using someone from your community is a way to do that. When you give to your community, your community gives back to you.

Dustin Heap

Before Signs.com, Dustin had several jobs after graduating from Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada. These included positions in two different SEO agencies and Everyday Health, a leading online health brand. He’s worked with both big and small businesses and lived in New York City, Toronto, and Salt Lake City. He currently does the marketing for Signs.com and has experience in a variety of areas under the digital marketing umbrella. Outside of work he loves spending time with his family, sports, books, wood fired-pizza, grilling and smoking meat, and the geopolitics of the Middle East.