Solve your Client's Summer Staffing Nightmares
By: John Rossheim
Yes, the holidays mean marquee hiring for retailers and related businesses. But summer hiring can be the season of a many a hiring manager’s discontent. That’s when business spikes, just as workers’ hearts and minds turn to sun and fun.
And summer 2017 is shaping up as a period when demand for contingent workers will outstrip supply. “It’s going to be a rough, tough summer,” says Nicole Klein, a recruiter of temporary light-industrial and logistics workers at staffing firm HireLevel. “There are more and more jobs to fill, and the same number of available candidates.”
Add to that the uncertainties of the Trump administration’s changes to immigration policy. Due to curbs on immigration and the tightening of requirements for work visas, “the seasonal hiring environment is very unsettled,” says Roberta Matuson, a human resources consultant and author of The Magnetic Leader.
So for staffing firms, serving clients’ summer demands may be the ultimate opportunity to prove their value -- or lose their customers. Here are some key strategies that can help make the difference.
Advise clients that freezes on staff summer vacations are a bad idea. Project managers or senior executives often mandate a freeze on summer vacations, says James Proctor, director of professional services at The Inteq Group, an IT consulting firm. “This sounds good in theory, but it doesn’t work in practice, and it can have negative fallout ranging from staff burnout to untimely attrition,” he says.
Start recruiting at least two months in advance. Consult with your staffing clients now to establish a date when summer recruitment will begin. “Ask full-time staff to submit vacation requests at least 60 days out, and recruiting for summer help should start at the same time,” says Proctor. For skilled occupations, “allow for two weeks of onboarding time for knowledge transfer.”
Help your clients tune their opportunities to the summer talent pool. “It’s a different talent population for summer,” says Megan Trzcinski, director of office services for staffing firm LaSalle Network. There are more new college grads, for one thing. “You often have to educate new grads on the benefits of taking on temporary assignments, because naturally they’re focusing on finding a career position.”
Overhire to prepare for attrition. Staffing firms can help clients create summer staffing forecasts based on current business conditions and data from previous summer seasons. In some cases, employers need to overhire to avoid a staffing crisis if employee turnover accelerates before the summer business wanes, says Matuson.
Overhire even more, because no-shows happen. “We anticipate a 70 percent show-up rate,” says Klein. This means that for many lower-paying occupations, if the client needs 100 temporary workers on hand for summer, they’ll need to hire about 150, just for day one.
To reduce pre-summer attrition, after a candidate has accepted an offer, “touch base with them once a week, to make it real for them,” Klein says. “If these people don’t hear from you, they’ll take another job.”
For highly skilled contract workers, create a talent pipeline. “In IT, because of tight interdependencies among tasks and deliverables, if a resource goes on vacation for a week or two, there’s a significant impact on many aspects of the project,” says Proctor. So serve your clients by building up a reserve of talented short-term contractors to ensure timely completion of IT work.
Build a case for paying market rates for top temp techies. Show your client that they’ll regret it if they scrimp on expertise. “There’s an entire subculture of premium people who are really good at stepping in and quickly getting up to speed,” says Proctor. “The premium price you pay is far less than the cost of the chaos it prevents. Short-term contracting should be built into the project’s capital budget.”
Simple perks may be effective for summer work. Catered lunch on Fridays, a casual dress code, incentive prizes and raffles -- these are the sorts of lightweight perks that may be more effective in retaining summer workers than they are with employees on a career track. Advise your clients to experiment with these free or relatively cheap embellishments.
Sell the benefits of completing the summer gig. “Retention is where we really, really struggle,” says Klein. “You don’t want to get people who would take any job. You want people who need the flexibility.” Work with clients to establish stay bonuses, seniority benefits for workers who complete their summer commitment and return a year later, and, if applicable, a shot at a permanent job offer.
Reward summer returnees. Persuade your clients that rehire bonuses for returnees can be a good investment. Pay should be increased for each summer that a worker returns, even if only by a fraction of a dollar per hour. “Returning workers will feel like they’re getting some movement,” Matuson says.