How to Ace Seasonal Staffing With POS Data
Whether it’s flip-flopped foot traffic or holiday cheer gracing your doors with more customers than usual, peak season is a unique time of year.
But what does peak season really mean for you, the small business owner?
While it can look different depending on your business model and where you’re located, the summer months from May-August and/or the holiday season from October-December likely mean longer lines for your business — and the need for more helping hands to keep those lines moving.
But with more businesses hiring for open positions than there are workers to go around, you need a strategy to win and keep talent.
In this article, we’ll explore how you can do just that with the help of a secret weapon that’s likely already in your shop or restaurant: your point of sale (POS) system.
When it comes to staffing strategically, data is king. POS reports can inform everything from how many seasonal employees you need to hire to just how big your on-the-floor team should be at any given hour of peak season, minimizing wasted resources and maximizing sales.
Keep reading to learn how to ace your strategy for the three key parts of seasonal staffing:
Hiring the right team
Getting your seasonal employees on board and training them for success
Mastering your peak season schedule
1. Hiring the right team
When hiring your peak season staff, you might feel a little anxious about getting help in the door as quickly as possible. But you shouldn’t rush the process of finding the right help — or consulting the right data to inform your decisions.
So, what exactly are the steps to hiring your all-star team? Good question, let’s dive in.
Define your roster:
Before you can build your seasonal team, you need to know just how big that team should be. Thankfully, you don’t have to guess. This is where your POS system comes in handy.
Start by going over POS reports from prior peak times like summers and holiday seasons. How much do seasonal sales typically increase during those weeks or months compared to the rest of the year?
Check the sales numbers against your existing staff list to determine precisely how many additional workers you need to bring on. If you have multiple locations, be sure to run this report at each one. The data might tell a different story.
Write a winning position description: When new hires feel like they’ve been misled — aka, the job they interviewed for doesn’t match up with the reality after they start — they aren’t likely to stick around for long.
Just like you need to be clear on the number of employees you’re looking for, you should also be clear about what you’re looking for from the additional staff you bring on. While we understand the ease of recycling generic job descriptions, this will only do you a disservice in the long run.
You’ll have better luck finding what you’re looking for with an ad specifically tailored to seasonal jobs.
If you only have the ability to bring a new employee on for a few months, label the job description as a “seasonal position” or “temporary.” Clearly define the timeframe and hours the new employee will be expected to work, the environment they’ll be in (in-person vs. remote) and any specific skills they should possess before coming on board.
To stay competitive with other businesses hiring from the same talent pool, make sure you’re offering an attractive package.
So instead of assuming that cutting bigger paychecks is the golden ticket, shift your focus to perks like flexible scheduling and vacation time. They can play a big role in winning over talent, especially during travel-heavy times of year.
Explore different hiring channels: Your recruitment strategy doesn’t just apply to how you write the job description. It also matters where you post it.
Peak season brings a major change to the hiring landscape: students home for break. To adjust to the demographics of this hiring pool, you might need to change up your usual job posting routine to meet younger seasonal job seekers where they are. Using multiple channels can help cast a wider net and increase your visibility.
Here are a few places to consider posting your ad:
High school job boards and fairs
College job boards and fairs
Social media and online job boards
Local job boards
Posting various places doesn’t have to be a time-consuming process. With recruiting technology, you can distribute your job posting to the job boards and social media platforms of your choosing with the click of a button, and even invite candidates to apply via text.
Beyond external hiring tools, it’s also a good idea to look at internal routes like rehiring from your past roster of seasonal workers or asking for employee referrals. You can even create an employee referral reward system to increase incentive for current employees to get involved in your seasonal employment efforts.
As more applicants throw their hat in the ring, things can quickly go from manageable to chaotic. If you’re currently using manual processes, consider transitioning to recruiting software with features that can help you track the status of each applicant online, keep resumes organized, record candidate rankings and assist with scheduling interviews.
Interview and screen candidates: Speaking of interviews, don’t cut corners on this step! Not doing your due diligence of thoroughly interviewing and screening a candidate before hiring them is like inviting a stranger into your home.
In milder cases, failing to vet a candidate could mean adding a teammate who’s not well-suited for the position, and as a result, doesn’t perform at the level you hoped they would. In worse cases, it could mean hiring someone who will do your business harm through property damage, theft, fraud, or driving customers or other employees away with inappropriate behavior.
More of a numbers person? Here’s another way to look at it: Hiring the wrong person is a waste of time and resources. The average cost of a bad hire is around 30% of that employee’s first-year earnings. Now, concentrate that down to the typical two-to-three month time frame of seasonal work, and that’s practically a sunk cost.
Conducting a proper interview and background check, even for temporary workers, will save you from the thorny path of having to turn around and hire a replacement quicker than you anticipated. And the good news is, screening candidates doesn’t have to take much time at all. Recruiting software can initiate a background check request on your behalf and send a report upon completion, making it quick and painless on your end.
Don’t forget to follow legal guidelines: Hiring a temporary employee doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for knowing and following legal requirements. When bringing on seasonal workers, you still need to keep records, collect taxes and verify candidates’ eligibility to work in the U.S. Make a point to find out whether your new hire will qualify for overtime, healthcare and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program as well.
Remember, there are state-mandated limits on age and how many hours an employee can work for many types of jobs. Brush up on your local labor laws, or take advantage of HR solutions that will find out for you and keep you up to date.
2. Getting your seasonal employees on board and training them for success
At this point, you’ve finished the hiring process and you’ve got the right team on board. Well done! But it’s not time to cool your heels yet.
Even the best new hires can quickly become weights instead of weight-lifters if you don’t take the time to properly onboard and train them.
Seasonal employees are typically only with you for a few months, so it might feel like it’s not worth it to invest in their training. Let’s explore that for a second.
If you don’t give employees sufficient training, they won’t be able to perform their job well. This starts a domino effect of job dissatisfaction for them, disappointment for you and a bad experience for your customers, ultimately defeating the point of hiring them in the first place!
We can all agree then that training is crucial to retention. But how should you go about seasonal training? And how can you track trainees’ progress? Keep reading to find out.
Check onboarding off the list ahead of time: Like we were just saying, seasonal employees are with you for a short time. So it’s understandable if you don’t want to waste even a day on tedious onboarding paperwork.
There’s an easy way around this: Go digital with an automated onboarding program and get the paperwork done before your employee’s first shift, so they come in ready to work.
Using a modern human capital management solution allows you to send new hires a customized onboarding package with an electronic welcome email, an employee handbook, i-9 documents, requests for direct deposit information that will sync to your payroll solution and more, all in a matter of seconds.
On the employee’s end, they can complete the whole onboarding process on their phones, with their tax documentation and sensitive bank account information securely stored in the cloud.
A simple and secure transition from candidate to employee? That’s music to your new hire’s ears.
Train in intervals: Next up, training. If you’re banking on new employees absorbing and recalling all the information they need to do the job well from one orientation session, prepare to be disappointed.
Skip the information overload and provide ongoing training instead.
When planning your training program, prioritize critical skills and basic processes they’ll need to know upfront. Then add in the rest as you go with micro lessons or short, bite-sized trainings that take just a few minutes and focus on one topic at a time. If you have multiple locations that require different skills or knowledge, make sure to adjust training to each store or restaurant’s needs.
Implement a buddy system: Okay. You might be thinking, “Sounds great, but how on earth will I find the time to fit ongoing training into my busy schedule?” Fair question! But we have one too: Who said you have to do it alone?
You can’t be everywhere at once. That’s what your team is for. Delegating = sharing the burden.
Pair seasonal workers with full-time employees for portions of their training. If you run an upscale, fine dining table-service restaurant, for example, have your new hire shadow one of your permanent wait staff members to learn the ropes in a low-stakes environment.
Seasonal employees are predisposed to have a hard time feeling like an engaged, central part of the team due to joining the staff late and leaving early. But buddy training can get new hires more comfortable with their co-workers faster — and give your veteran employees a sense of leadership at the same time. Who doesn’t love a win-win?
Reward and track progress: Want your seasonal help to be motivated to do a good job for you despite that short timeline in the back of their minds telling them to coast?
We’ve got some stunningly simple advice: Tell them when they do a good job.
Acknowledging and rewarding good work will inspire more good work — and create happier employees along the way. You can even take it a step further and create an incentive program like giving an employee a special discount or gift card for hitting a certain training or sales goal.
Your POS system can come into play here too. Let’s say you run a contest that rewards the employee who makes the most upsells for the month of July. As part of the contest, you can pull POS reports with filters specific to your contest to measure sales by sales associate, or server, through their average ticket value (ATV) or units per transaction (UTP) to track the number of items sold.
Not only will you be motivating someone to become the winner of your contest, but you’ll also be tracking your seasonal employees’ progress as their training evolves. Two birds, one stone.
Provide resources: Even if you do all the right things (i.e., interval, micro and buddy training), information recall can still be a challenge.
Don’t let employees waste their time, or yours, being unsure of what to do. Provide training resources they can easily refer back to like a handbook or cheat sheet for when things are busy.
For example, if you have one of your seasonal hires opening or closing your floral shop one day a week, getting it wrong could do your merchandise harm. After training, leave the employee detailed steps listing everything they need to do to properly and safely open or close the store.
Moral of the story? Investing in your temporary employees with proper training tells them one very important thing: You see them as a valued part of the team.
If they feel valued, they’re more likely to have a good experience. That means they’ll also be more likely to return to help you out next season. And you never know, your seasonal employees might love working for you so much that they become permanent employees one day.
3. Mastering your peak season schedule
Still with us? Great! You’ve done the hard work of hiring and training. Now for conquering the third and final part of your seasonal staffing journey.
You know better than anyone that your busiest times of the year can also mean facing your most stressful scheduling hurdles. But it doesn't have to with the right POS data and timekeeping technology in your corner. Read on for tips to master your peak season schedule.
Build smarter shifts: Guesswork is overrated. If building shifts in the past has felt like rolling the dice and hoping for the best, this is your sign to do things differently this year.
As a small business owner, you’re familiar with the way customer volume ebbs and flows by the day of the week and even by the hour of the day. You’re also familiar with the challenge this presents: How to allot the correct number of resources at all times.
If you overshoot the employee-to-customer ratio, you lose money by overspending on staffing costs. If you undershoot it, you lose money by missing out on sales. So how do you hit the right balance?
You build shifts based off data from your POS reports. Run reports to see the number of ticket sales by hour, day of the week and even by holiday. This allows you to uncover when your business sees peak sales and how to match your staff accordingly.
You can also compare gross sales with reports of sales by employee to identify top performers. Examine your staffing schedule and traffic count, and put your top sellers in the lineup for your busiest days, while giving newer seasonal employees time to train during quieter shifts.
Having a working knowledge of this information can also help with on-the-spot scheduling decisions like which staff to cut if things get unexpectedly slow.
Communicate your vacation policy: Whether it’s distant tropical shores or snowy slopes calling, it’s inevitable that you’ll see increased demand for vacation time during your business’ peak season. But when one employee takes off, it likely means another will need to step in.
Be upfront about your business’ vacation policy and set a deadline for how far in advance staff members need to submit their vacation requests to avoid any surprises. As you approve requests, stay transparent with the rest of the team about who will be off when so they can plan their vacations from an informed place.
Want to make your life even easier? Make managing vacation, personal, sick and other paid time-off programs feel like a breeze by using time and attendance software to track hours earned, used and available in real time.
One more tip:
For those employees who stay behind to fill in the gaps, don’t forget to say thanks. It can go a long way.
Digitize your scheduling system: You, a pen and a paper calendar are not your only options in the way of scheduling tools.
Relying on manual processes can quickly turn into a nightmare. With staff constantly trying to swap shifts, wires getting crossed about who’s coming in when, last-minute cancellations and no-show employees leaving you high and dry … well, you’d better have endless reserves of patience and a really big eraser to get through it.
If this hypothetical scenario is sounding more like a bad memory, consider saying goodbye to the mental gymnastics (and hand cramps) of manual scheduling and hello to using online scheduling software instead.
As an employer, going digital improves visibility and empowers you to track time and attendance data without wasting any of yours. That’s right, no more scattered sticky note systems. Instead, you can view up-to-date employee availability, log shift swaps, cancellations or requests for PTO, spot conflicts and note overtime all in one place.
For staff, this can also streamline scheduling on their end by allowing them to easily view their schedules in-app, check in for shifts with modern facial recognition tech, and communicate with co-workers to request shift swaps and more. Timekeeping tech can even integrate with your POS system to help keep shift data in sync and crack down on buddy punching.
Define store hours: Change can be scary. Including changing your business’ hours to accommodate summer and holiday customer fluctuations. But here’s a dose of cheesy inspiration:
Don’t let the fear of missing out on hypothetical sales keep you from playing the game of efficiently allocating resources. POS reporting features can help you let go of the anxiety and confidently set the right time frame for customized store hours.
Here’s how: If your hourly POS reports are showing you typically only make $50 between 7-8 p.m. at your bookstore during the summer months, not only do you not need a big staff for that hour, but you might even consider closing at 7 p.m.
On the other hand, if you run a big mid-summer sale at your boutique that’s historically seen success and you find you’re making money late into the night, you probably want to consider keeping your doors open an hour later to make the most of the event.
You’ll want to be strategic about peak season holidays too. Memorial Day Weekend, for example, is probably either really busy for you, or really not, depending on where your business is located. Just look at previous years’ POS sales reports to see if your business will be best served by extending store hours or closing up early for the holiday.
Ready for peak season?
If you made it this far, you’re ready to put your A+ seasonal staffing strategy into motion.
Remember, your fintech solutions are a big part of finding success when making critical staffing decisions and executing hiring, onboarding and scheduling tasks. Make sure your software is helping you succeed and not holding you back.
One final thing to think about: When you get your POS, recruiting, timekeeping and payroll services from the same provider, all your technologies work together with integrations that make for a smooth and seamless user experience.
If your current technology isn’t doing enough to provide you with a frictionless solution, we can help.
Heartland is the point of sale, payments and payroll solution of choice for entrepreneurs that need human-centered technology to sell more, keep customers coming back and spend less time in the back office. Nearly 1,000,000 businesses trust us to guide them through market changes and technology challenges, so they can stay competitive and focus on building remarkable businesses instead of managing the daily grind. Learn more at heartland.us