Small businesses seeking seasonal help need to get creative

Small businesses are having a harder time finding holiday staffers this year as they try to compete with big players like Amazon for a shrinking labor pool. Human resources consultants say owners need to get creative in where they look, and what they offer prospective hires.

Here are some tips:

  • Go beyond the obvious places when looking for staffers. Owners should recruit seasonal staffers among people who don't work, like retirees, or who work off-hours, like bartenders, says Kate Zabriskie, owner of Business Training Works, a company that offers management and other business training. Owners should also consider flexible staffing, offering work in terms of hours rather than days, to attract stay-at-home parents and others who have limited time.
  • Be generous with hiring bonuses and other incentives. Owners should give their seasonal staffers as big a bonus as they can afford, and also consider perks like gift cards and tickets to sporting events or the theater. It's best to ask staffers what they'd like.
  • Offer seasonal staffers benefits. Seasonal staffers usually get only their pay, and at retailers, a discount on merchandise. Owners will be more competitive if they offer the same benefits they give regular employees, like paid time off and profit-sharing, says Carlos Castelan, managing director of The Navio Group, a human resources consultancy.
  • Work with other businesses. Many retailers may lure seasonal staffers with discounts, but they might have more success if they band together with other stores, and offer discounts to each other's employees, Zabriskie says. "Maybe an employee could get a new tire at 25 percent off even though they're working in a women's clothing store," she says.
  • Hold a job fair or recruiting party, perhaps along with other small businesses. Small businesses could follow the lead of Taco Bell, which this summer experimented with three-hour hiring parties at four Indiana restaurants. A total of 80 people attended, and 40 of them were hired. Employees at the stores talked with visitors about working for the company, and people could have interviews on the spot. Bjorn Erland, a Taco Bell vice president, said the company ran the experiment because of the increasing difficulty it and its franchisees have had in finding staffers.

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