With Covid-19 cases predicted to surge this fall, brick-and-mortar holiday shopping will look very different. With many states pausing or reversing their decision to reopen, retailers and everyone involved in the supply chain might feel they’re in a bind when deciding how many seasonal workers to hire. Moreover, the surge in e-commerce activity requires planning with many unknown variables.
Employers of seasonal workers must be prepared for every possible scenario this holiday season. Whether the pandemic allows for in-store shopping, I predict that consumers will still purchase online or use curbside pickup in magnitudes previously unseen.
If employers don’t have the right amount of seasonal staff to meet demand, they could fail to deliver on their brand promise. As a result, they could miss out on valuable holiday sales and run the risk of providing lackluster customer experiences or simply not being competitive.
For employers, it’s time to plan early and often.
Seasonal hiring seems like a lose-lose situation for stores and distribution centers at the moment. If stores bet against in-store shopping, they will be massively understaffed if stores are allowed to stay open. But if retailers hire for a normal holiday season that includes in-store shopping, they risk being overstaffed and overspending on hiring and onboarding. The implications of either choice trickle down to the distribution centers that support the stores.
With the right planning, seasonal employers can be prepared for whatever hiring scenario your business faces this holiday season. Here’s how to stay agile and ready:
1. Consider the minimum number of employees you’ll need. Under normal circumstances, you likely would be planning how many seasonal workers to hire for this coming holiday season. But this year, you should be doing the opposite: Consider the minimum number of employees you’ll need for operations based on lower store traffic, as well as higher curbside pickup and ship-from-store activity. Factor in all procedural implications and how your workflow will look with minimal staff.
If there’s a small silver lining to the pandemic, I believe it’s the constant shift of reopening measures that has forced many retailers to practice their operational agility already. Harness these learnings this holiday season when considering how you’ll manage potential shifts in staff requirements. Additionally, ensure distribution centers are well staffed to support online activity, which I believe will be at record-breaking levels.
2. Keep best practices in mind when onboarding and reboarding employees. Many organizations start interviewing for holiday jobs in September. However, some companies might choose to delay their hiring to get a better pulse of the pandemic’s effects. Because of this, it’s important that you’re able to train your employees effectively — and safely.
Ensure you’re referring to guidelines shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for any in-person interactions you’re having with your team because training seasonal workers in 2020 will no doubt have to look different in stores and distribution centers.
As the CEO of a digital workplace platform, I’ve observed some companies are even considering virtual solutions. If you do choose to house and disseminate onboarding materials through a digital workplace platform, I recommend sharing information that can not only help train employees, but also educate them on safety measures and procedures for buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) orders. Existing employees should also be retrained on how to handle these activities.
Stores might also need to be altered to handle the volume of BOPIS orders, and these changes need to be communicated on a regular basis. Think outside the box, and maintain consistent and targeted communication and training with employees as you navigate this difficult time. New strategies must be deployed and provide enough time for your learning and development teams to produce digitally digestible courses.
3. Enable health-checks and cross-location shift flexibility. The risks of Covid-19 will still be present this holiday season, so consider using a health check questionnaire to help curb virus spread and keep employees safe.
Additionally, keep in mind there’s still a chance workers could contract Covid-19 themselves or need to take care of sick family members. Because of these possibilities, adopting an open-shift marketplace can help fill potential gaps that might occur in your workforce this holiday season. This strategy also mitigates the risk of the unknown variables that come with planning demand for this holiday season.
When establishing an open-shift marketplace, take into account your existing employee hierarchy and various rules across each of your organization’s locations. It’s also key to ensure staff members from different store locations are aligned on processes. This can be challenging, but it’s important in the event you need a shift covered, especially if operating with minimal staff. The flexibility to work extra shifts at other locations is also a marketable selling point to prospective job candidates looking for seasonal work.
While seasonal hiring will be uniquely challenging for retailers this year, it doesn’t have to be a pain point. Use 2020 as an opportunity to innovate your business and make processes more agile for today and holiday seasons to come. The challenges today will pave the way for a more streamlined and productive workforce.