The labor market has become very tight and competition for available workers has pushed wages higher while giving workers -- especially those in retail and other seasonally high demand positions -- leverage. Major companies are offering potential seasonal workers added discounts, bonuses, and other perks to get them to sign on.
This has created a very challenging environment for small-business owners. You need seasonal help, but it's hard to even find applicants, let alone hire anyone. That's a frustrating situation, but you do have some cards to play that the big boys don't.
1. Tap your customer base
Few customers have a personal connection to a big-box retailer. That's often not true when it comes to small businesses. It's possible that some of your best customers may be interested in seasonal work or be able to refer you to people who are.
Ask your customers for suggestions and make it clear that you'd love to have some of your regulars become seasonal employees. This has the added advantage of potentially giving you employees who are already familiar with your business.
2. You can be really flexible
Big business generally has limitations with how flexible it can be. They may not be able to accommodate a split shift or offer work only during school hours. As a small-business owner, you have the ability to tailor each employee's schedule to meet his or her needs as well as your own.
Be creative and flexible. Work around family events, planned vacations, and other minor bumps in the road.
3. Use your social media
You should have an email list and/or active social media pages. Use these to make it known that you're hiring. Offer gift cards to anyone who refers someone to you who ends up taking a seasonal job.
Leverage your connection with your digital customer base to get them to serve as evangelists for your brand. Ask your employees to not only share your posts but to share their experiences in working for you.
Be a good place to work
It's easier to hire seasonal workers if you have a good reputation as a workplace. You probably can't do anything to change that perception now, but during the holiday season, you can lay the foundation for future years.
Be a good boss. Focus on making sure your workers have the best time possible. The holiday season can get busy and that can be very stressful. Don't let that allow you to forget to take care of your workers.
That could mean bringing in lunch, making sure there's coffee, or having a well-stocked snack area. It can also mean things like making sure your workers get to take breaks and that they don't get overwhelmed by the pressure of the season.