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Hassle-free Holiday Hiring

Ah, the holidays! That magical, whirlwind time between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day when children eagerly look forward to a visit from Santa, football fans eagerly look forward to the Super Bowl—and everyone in the hospitality business frantically looks for additional hourly help.

Hospitality customers want to celebrate the season with family and friends in a festive, well-decorated atmosphere that takes a lot of extra work to achieve. They want prompt, polite service. And they want it now, regardless of how busy you are.

You know you've got to hire additional help. Most people who apply for work during the holidays do so for the additional money, but hiring people who just want money is the biggest hiring mistake any business can make. Employees who just work for money won't put your customers first—and if your customers aren't first, your business won't be, either.

How can you be sure that the help you hire will do the work that needs to be done? Relax, there's a way! Taking the following five steps will make holiday hiring hassles a thing of the past.

  1. Hire only those people you'd want to keep. If you wouldn't want to hire them before or after the holidays, don't hire them now. Filling a position with a bad employee is worse than not filling the position at all. Most customers will forgive and forget service that's slower than usual. Poor or incompetent service will send them to your competition.
  2. Put the right message in the right place. An ad that reads, "Santa needs helpers and we do, too" will draw potential employees who expect to help you run your business. One that reads, "Earn extra $$ over the holidays" will attract applicants primarily interested in money. "It pays to stick with us for the entire season—we pay a bonus" will draw people who plan to stay the course. If students are your target hires, how about offering a scholarship? "Apply for a job here and win a chance at a $1,000 scholarship" has a nice ring and will bring you students who take learning seriously. Don't rely solely on your newspaper's "help wanted" section for ads. Post colorful, eye-catching ad flyers in places where the kinds of employees you want go.
  3. Stand out from the pack and recruit everyone you know. Every employer hands out a paycheck—stand out from the pack! Get with your fellow merchants and put together a set of gift certificates. Then run a "Help us get through the holidays and we'll help you buy your gifts" contest for employees and customers. Whoever refers the most new hires wins the certificates. When you go shopping for yourself, shop for seasonal employees as well. Put recruiting messages on your business cards and give a card to everyone who provides you with exceptionally good service. Ask your employees to do the same and reward employees who bring you a good hire with an immediate cash bonus or paid time off after the holidays. Let your friends, neighbors and fellow church or synagogue members know you're looking for good help. Don't be shy about telling your customers you need to hire more help, either. They may well have a friend or relative who wants a holiday job, or they may be looking for work themselves. Put hiring flyers in every customer package. Ask your best job applicants for three personal references. When you call those people to verify the references, find out if they are also looking for work.
  4. Train better than you think you have to train. Provide an extra day's training before expecting new hires to work on their own. Your other employees will not have as much time to help new hires during the holidays as at other times of year. You'll also need to do more hands-on managing and be available to coach and help new hires, especially during their first week. If possible, assign an experienced employee to mentor the newcomer. Do not ask a new hire to wear a pin that says, "I'm new, please be patient with me."
  5. Take a positive, long-term approach. Make your seasonal employees' holiday work experience a positive one so they'll want to come back. Even though they may not be able to continue working for you now, if their work experience with you is positive they'll want to work for you again during the holidays next year.

Hiring holiday hospitality help doesn't have to be a hassle. Just keep your standards high, put the right hiring message in the right place, stand out from the pack, train thoroughly and take a positive, long-term approach. When you look at your books on January 2, you'll be thankful you did!

Mel Kleiman is an internationally recognized consultant, author and speaker on strategies for hiring and retaining the best employees. He is the president of Humetrics, a leading developer of systems, training, processes and tools for recruiting, selecting and retaining the best hourly workforce. He is also the author of four books, including the best-selling Hire Tough Manage Easy. You can reach Mel at 800-218-0930, ext. 119, [email protected], or at

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