Hiring Seasonal Employees: What You Need to Know

The holiday numbers are already rolling in. And, there’s good news – and bad news – for brands and retailers looking to this season for the biggest bumps to their bottom line. The good news is, like in 2017, consumers are planning to spend more money. They’re not predicted to make last year’s big 5.5% “jump” over the year before. But, forecasters do expect a nice 4% increase, estimating the holiday spend to reach $720 billion. This gives brands a great opportunity to grab a piece of this expanding pie. But, it also produces obstacles.

First, the competition will be stiffer than ever, as companies look to pull out all the stops to win shoppers’ business – not an easy feat to start. That’s because consumers want an experience that is tailored to them. And, the emphasis on experience continues to grow, with it reported to “overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020.” In fact, PwC finds consumers will pay up to 16% more for a quality experience, one made of several elements, including “convenience, cost and consistency.” But, it’s said “the “lead role goes to human interaction,” of which 74% of consumers want more of.

Large names like Macy’s, Target, and Gap have announced plans to hire a staggering number of temporary workers for the holiday season – a combined 265,000 people between the three companies. And, while this is good news for job seekers, it’s not for brands and retailers looking to up their customer experience through experiential. A recent Wall Street Journal headline reads, “Out of Stock This Holiday Season: Store Workers.” Unemployment is low, and wages are soaring. So when it comes to holiday brand activations, these issues create hurdles to companies’ ability to execute a stand out customer experience. So, brands must get strategic when hiring seasonal employees for holiday experiential events to ensure an optimum level of human interaction.

3 Things to Remember When Hiring Seasonal Employees

The human aspect of quality brand experiences is more than having a warm body. It means hiring seasonal employees who engage consumers and go the extra mile when working to fulfill your marketing plans. Improve the results of your holiday experiential marketing efforts when you heed the following tips.

Consider your exact needs and hire for them.

A limited pool of candidates may have hiring managers willing to settle for basic qualifications. But, this is not the route to take. With consumers looking for an experience largely based on human interaction, who you hire will impact their decision on whether to spend money with your brand.

Holiday marketing plans will likely include sampling programs or product demos, such as those held in Amazon’s pop-up shops at Whole Foods’ stores. There, shoppers could try and buy Amazon devices. For activations like this, product specialists are best since they know the ins and outs of a brand and its offerings and even those competing. This ensures consumers get answers to questions to build credibility that results in trust and purchases. Yet, when plans serve to create brand awareness in high-traffic areas, brand ambassadors bring energy to draw attention. This was the aim for brewer Carlsberg and its beer-dispensing Christmas tree on London’s South Bank. Yet, being outgoing is not enough to truly meet the goal. Brand ambassadors must also personify your brand and its values to provide the transparency consumers demand. This means, when you do the work to find the right individuals, consumers get to know your brand and form relationships with it through these people.

It may sound like tremendous work up front. But, hiring the best seasonal employees serves to saves you time down the road in training. More importantly, it improves the return on your investment since it is often staff interactions with consumers that place your brand above the rest.

Hire seasonal employees just as you would permanent positions.

It’s not advisable to cut corners when it comes to hiring seasonal employees even if their time is limited. In doing so, the business becomes vulnerable to security and liability issues. Many brands will use the holidays to open pop-up shops in highly-trafficked or targeted locations, wherein brand ambassadors and seasonal staff will be responsible for managing and selling merchandise.

For one, the National Retail Federation shared, for 2015, $44 billion was lost to theft. Sadly, around $15 billion of that was taken by employees. With the holiday season the busiest time of year for most businesses, watchful eyes are often distracted. So, it’s important to be able to trust all of your seasonal employees. A risk management firm says theft prevention is more likely when employers follow “the same hiring protocols that they do for full-time staff.” But, concerns should not only surround theft. When trusting staff to interact with consumers, due diligence can help ensure seasonal employees pose no threat to their safety or to their data. The latter the National Retail Federation reports to be a potential challenge with some seasonal employees.

Further, in the U.S., some managers may consider independent contractors for holiday promos or other needs. Yet, know companies may become subject to fines or even class-action lawsuits in doing so. That’s because, the nature of event and experiential marketing, or even basic retail duties, requires seasonal workers to follow rules and adhere to instructions. Yet, in doing so, they lose their status as independent contractors, giving them grounds to report the company for misclassification or point blame when things go wrong. So, when executing events in the U.S. and considering 1099 vs W-2, the answer should always be W-2 for the company’s security and brand’s reputation.

An Event Staffing Agency Remove These Obstacles

This holiday shopping season poses obvious obstacles. The first is how to find seasonal employees amid low unemployment and high competition. As mentioned, there may be impulse to grab any warm body. Further, stakeholders may resolve to cut the number of staff needed to save time and money. A Forbes article urges against this. It’s critical to staff based on “the key metric” of expected traffic. Not doing so can “negatively impact revenues.” In fact, one study showed “optimum staffing levels increased sales performance by 10%,” which outweighed additional labor costs. Still, finding people – quality people – remains an issue. The good news is an event staffing agency – or promo staffing agency– has the solution.

Event staffing agencies work with specialty temporary staff year long – people who stand ready to fill needs such as those of holiday plans. These include product specialists, brand ambassadors, makeup artists, and TIPS-certified promo models, among other in-demand personnel. Many have functional retail knowledge on POS systems, pop-up shop set up, inventory management, and sales reporting, as well. And, what information they don’t have, such as that specific to your brand, the event staffing agency can take the lead to train.

When hiring seasonal employees anywhere in the United States, a reputable event staffing agency will also follow a W-2 model to mitigate their risk and that of your company’s. They can also acquire permits and work with event staff on security clearances as necessary, such as for airport activations or other locations or needs. Partnering with a full-service agency lets you get as much, or as little, hands-on help as needed to overcome obstacles on your brand’s way to executing memorable and meaningful experiential activations this upcoming season.


At Elevate, we have the seasonal event staff you need to make the holidays merry and bright for your brand’s bottom line. Contact us to discuss your event, experiential activation, pop-up shop, or other needs.

Author: Nick Riggall


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