4 Steps to Navigate Seasonal Hiring During COVID-19


As the pandemic continues to impact the way we live and work, how will this year’s holiday season be different? How will employers maintain the safety of their seasonal hires? And how will they hire in the first place? Tim Dowd, CEO of Accurate Background, offers some tips.

“The global pandemic and economic crisis have reshaped nearly every aspect of American life, and the holiday season will be no different,” says a Washington PostOpens a new window article.

For those companies who hire seasonally, questions arise about how businesses will need to shift.

Will shoppers want to visit retail locations and the familiar experience of shopping during the season?

Or will the increased lure and safety of online shopping overwhelm businesses and its dependencies on the supply chain?

And how do companies hire the right people for what’s needed this year versus previous years?

Let’s take a look at what we can expect during this uncommon holiday season and address how we can tackle the challenges triggered by the impact of COVID-19.

How’s the Holiday Season Looking in 2020?

In the 2019 holiday season, BloombergOpens a new window reported that online sales on Black Friday hit a record $7.4 billion, and Cyber Monday brought in $9.4 billion, as shoppers chose to buy online versus wait in line.

Fast forward to 2020, as we face a season where terms such as “social distancing” and “shelter in place” have become a part of our daily lives. Undoubtedly, we will not hear of massive crowds racing into big-box retailers as their doors open on Black Friday. As a matter of fact, many locations are choosing to closeOpens a new window on Thanksgiving due to public health risks.

Furthermore, The Wall Street Journal shares that U.S. e-commerce salesOpens a new window are forecasted to grow 18% to $709.8 billion this year, and Google researchOpens a new window indicates that 25% of shoppers went online over the past few months to buy something they normally would buy in-store.

What does this mean for businesses that generally rely on seasonal employees to help manage the influx of holiday shoppers?

Notably, as shopping habits evolve, we’re already seeing a rise in demand for warehouse and delivery workers eclipsing the need for employees in stores this season. Case in point – WalmartOpens a new window recently announced via company post their plan to hire more than 20,000 seasonal associates for its e-commerce fulfillment centers.

This year especially, all businesses should prepare for an even greater amount of traffic to their online stores and consider the skills needed to hire for these types of roles.

4 Considerations for Seasonal Hiring in 2020

How do we plan for this season, knowing this is a year like none other, and strategies need to transition as quickly as the holidays are approaching?

1. Hire early

The time to consider seasonal staffing is now. The Washington Post shares that analystsOpens a new window predict consumers will shop earlier and several retailers are beginning to roll out deals before Halloween. Major retailer TargetOpens a new window is kicking off the holiday season and their biggest deals in October, so people can conveniently and safely shop: “Historically, deal hunting and holiday shopping can mean crowded events, and this isn’t a year for crowds.” Walmart and other retailers have similar plans.

When hiring early, something to consider is the enormous amount of talent available. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of August 2020, 13.6 million Americans were unemployed. With so many people unemployed, it has opened up doors to talent you may not have had access to before, both within your industry and outside of it. Consider the traits you are looking for in your positions, and brainstorm alternative industries where the same skills are applicable. There are millions of new candidates in the job market, so businesses are now well-positioned to fill roles with top talent at all levels.

2. Consider COVID-19 testing

As your staffing numbers increase, whether in retail locations or fulfillment warehouses, so does the risk. The CDCOpens a new window offers valuable strategies for incorporating SARS-CoV-2 testing as part of a comprehensive approach to reducing transmission in workplaces: symptom screening, testing, and contact tracing are strategies to identify workers infected so that actions can be taken to slow and stop the spread of the virus. However, it is vital to remember that these strategies should be carried out consistent with local, state, and federal laws and regulations, including laws protecting employee privacy and confidentiality.

Learn More: Automated Health Screening: Another Addition to the New Normal in the Post-COVID-19 World

3. Prepare for infection

Do not wait until it happens, but instead have a plan in place if one of your employees becomes infected. According to FDAOpens a new window guidelines, if a worker is confirmed infected, inform fellow workers of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The employer should instruct fellow workers about how to proceed based on the CDC Public Health Recommendations for Community-Related ExposureOpens a new window .

4. Consider emergency benefits

Seasonal frontline workers are agreeing to support your business during an ongoing pandemic, so how can you support them?

  • The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act requires many employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide paid sick time and paid leave for childcare needs. Employers should consider extending these important paid leave protections to seasonal staff who may not be covered under these lawsOpens a new window (including the large majority of temp and staffing workers, contract workers, emergency workers, and healthcare workers).
  • Evaluate additional relief benefits. As the pandemic grew, Amazon quickly established a Relief FundOpens a new window , offering independent delivery service partners, drivers, and seasonal employees the ability to apply for grants if diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine. Consider options you can offer to seasonal employees who may become infected, to help them during a time of potential financial hardship.

Whom to Hire

As your business establishes plans to address this season’s changes, it is critical to remember the risks involved with seasonal hiring and the benefits of screening seasonal employees. Often with seasonal employment, companies preparing for the busy season move quickly, which can sometimes lead to foregoing normal hiring procedures such as background checks, in-depth interviews, and verified references. However, it is imperative that you treat seasonal staff, in the same manner, you would when hiring permanent employees, avoid loss prevention, protect your employees and customers’ safety, and mitigate negligent hiring risk.

Learn More: Can Employers Restrict Employees From Discussing COVID-19 Cases at Work?

Finally – The Future of Shopping, Inspired by the Pandemic

Not surprisingly, the pandemic has changed the way shoppers interact. The Wall Street Journal suggests that as coronavirus keeps shoppers at home and online sales breaking records throughout the holiday season, this trend is forecasted to outlast the pandemicOpens a new window .

People will continue to buy online, support curbside pickups, and request more contactless interactions with the in-store experience, as consumers see the health and safety benefits, as well as the convenience. A great example of this is Amazon’sOpens a new window latest smart grocery carts in their grocery store locations. The carts allow shoppers to skip checkout lines, bag their own groceries, and walk out, building on the idea of Amazon’s convenience it’s already conquered online, and bringing it into the tangible world. I expect we will see more developments like this as the coronavirus continues to spark innovation in the overall retail experience and simplify consumer interactions while maintaining employee safety.

We know that this holiday shopping season will be like none other. Businesses will need to be nimble, using forethought to outline plans, ensure they hire the right staff and support them during this season. We do not know when the pandemic will end, but we know it has forever changed the way we do business, which presents an excellent opportunity to innovate and improve.

How do you navigate holiday hiring this year? Do share your thoughts with us on LinkedInOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , or FacebookOpens a new window .