The American economy has more job openings than it has unemployed workers. That's a crunch that gets exacerbated during the holiday season, when major retailers and shipping companies have been increasing pay, incentives, and other perks to lure in seasonal workers.

For smaller businesses, it's hard to compete with the big boys. That does not mean you should get through the rest of the season shorthanded. It just means you have to be creative.

A person holds up a sign that reads join our team.

It can be a challenge to find seasonal employees, but there are ways to make it happen. Image source: Getty Images.

1. Do what Walmart did

While most of its major competitors added tens of thousands of workers over the holiday season, Walmart chose not to. Instead, it offered additional hours to its existing workforce. That may increase overtime costs, but it saves in onboarding expenses and time spent interviewing. It also can add to employee morale if done right.

It's very important when offering added hours to existing staff to make it optional. Your workers may want the money, but they also may have family obligations, vacations, and other things they want to do over the holidays. Listen, be flexible, and work with your staff to make sure both you and your employees benefit.

2. Ask your customers

When I ran the largest independent toy store in New England, we needed a lot of seasonal help. The labor market was not as tight back then, but the learning curve on our merchandise was significant. To overcome that, we hired some of our best customers to provide specialty help during our busiest periods.

These people knew what we sold -- maybe better than any full-time staff. They also had a vested interest in the store, as most were there multiple times a week. Picking up some hours on the sales floor tightened those bonds and gave us a flexible workforce that served our customer base very well.

3. Be really flexible

Major retailers can't work around the schedule of a parent with multiple kids in different schools or an adult who provides care for a parent. A smaller business can. You can also allow employees to take breaks at unconventional times or work around other issues.

Consider what your staffing needs are and how you can be flexible. Shelf stocking, for example, can be done late at night or early in the morning before you open. Work with potential employees, and you will be an attractive option compared to less flexible companies.

Creativity is the key

Use whatever tools you have at your disposal. Talk with your existing staff first and enlist their help. They may not want more hours, but they might know people willing to pitch in. Be open to anything that helps you meet your staffing needs, even it's not conventional.