Planning ahead for seasonal recruitment: the benefits and challenges

Due to Covid-19 and skills shortages, businesses are left with many unfilled positions, but how does this affect seasonal recruitment?

seasonal recruitment - three Christmas cards with new jobs sign


With summer 2021 at an end, businesses are already preparing for the next big holiday season and for seasonal recruitment, particularly in sectors like hospitality and retail.

However, the last few months have already seen recruitment problems, which could impact temporary jobs. Indeed, employers have a significantly higher number of roles to fill than before the pandemic, with three in five recruiters (58%) having at least 30% more vacancies open, according to a recent survey from REC across recruiters.

Of the survey’s respondents, nine in 10 recruiters (88%) say that labour shortages are their biggest concern for the remainder of 2021, while skill shortages are a major concern for two in three (65%). Other major concerns mentioned by recruiters were recruiting from abroad, the new immigration system and regulatory changes related to Brexit as well as Covid-19, ongoing uncertainty around the pandemic and the reintroduction of public health restrictions.

But, if industries are struggling to attract permanent workers, it could be even more challenging to employ people for seasonal roles.

What are businesses doing now to attract more workers?

Some of the changes employers have made regarding the skills shortage for permanent positions include simplifying the recruitment process, increasing starting salaries and introducing flexible working.

Similarly, recruiters for temporary positions are trying out different marketing and advertisement strategies to fill all of their available roles. Some may be considering recontacting previous temporary workers or applicants. This has the added bonus of saving time during the on-boarding process. Giving your company plenty of time for the recruitment process can also help in finding the best candidates and attracting more employees.

John Lewis and Partners announced last week that they will be recruiting for 7,000 temporary positions this coming festive season.

Tom Pearce, Partner and Social Media Executive at John Lewis partnership explains the challenge, saying that “the unemployment rate remains low across the UK at the moment and competitors in the retail industry will be looking for similar roles at the same time.”

For this reason, they needed to create a strong campaign to attract as many suitable workers as possible and marketing to the right audience is a crucial part of the process. They also need to stand out from the competition.

Pearce says: “We’ll be advertising all of our vacancies on our careers website JLPjobs and our social media channels to promote our seasonal opportunities. We’ll also be advertising on Google.” The jobs started being advertised from 16th September and they will continue throughout September and October.

He adds: “This year, all Partners working in our stores over the Christmas period will be entitled to free food and drink in our Partners’ (employee) dining rooms.” This strategy will be put in place from October 4th until December 31st.

John Lewis is one of the businesses which is trying to develop a more flexible approach, offering various working hours, including full and part time. The jobs are available to everyone and there are opportunities in selling, replenishment and catering.

Marks and Spencer is another business looking for temporary staff. At the moment they have 300 positions open at their distribution centre at Castle Donington. The new employees will be helping to pick and pack Christmas orders for delivery across the nation.

There are both full- and part-time options available, with the possibility of earning 25% more from the £10.05 per hour salary for shifts from 10pm to 6am.

Successful workers will be offered the possibility to join the team on a permanent basis or on recurring contracts. Similarly to John Lewis, employees can benefit from on-site restaurant meals, and in addition they can access subsidised bus travel to work.

Why seasonal recruitment is necessary for businesses

Seasonal recruitment is important for many companies to help them out at the busiest times of the year. It can also be a great opportunity for unemployed workers until they find a permanent job, for students to make some money and gain valuable working experience during their breaks or for anyone looking for additional income.

Pearce says seasonal workers are a vital part of John Lewis’ success: “50% of our yearly profits are made in the weeks leading up to Christmas and having Partners on the shop floor selling, filling our shelves in replenishment and helping our customers relax in catering all ensure we capitalise on every sale.”

Additionally, workers are often excited and motivated to do the best job possible as they know that they only have a limited amount of time to showcase their skills.

This year’s John Lewis campaign is focused around the theme #MakeItMemorable. Pearce says “Our Partners play an important role at this time of year to ensure our customers have a memorable shopping experience with us. They also play a part in making it a memorable experience for their loved ones by finding them the perfect gift.”

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