This holiday season is going to be a bumpy ride. The labor shortage has been a top-of-mind problem for almost every industry, and there's no easy answer behind it; multiple factors are contributing to hiring managers’ woes. 

For some, the pandemic’s pause on in-office work provided a unique chance to reflect. Many people changed jobs or industries, went back to school or moved to a new place. According to a recent Indeed study, 85% of employers say COVID-19 altered workers’ definitions of  a “good job.” So, what can a hiring manager do in this market? 

From public relations plays to offering big bonuses, employers are trying their hardest to stand out. For example, Southern-fried chicken-finger chain Raising Canes dispatched 500 corporate team members across the country to raise awareness for their need to hire 10,000 workers this holiday season. The move generated a lot of media buzz, which could place the company top-of-mind with workers looking for their next job. 

To stay competitive this holiday season, you’ll have to get creative with how you attract and hire temporary workers. With that in mind, we here at Indeed created this comprehensive list of tactics to help you close the gap in a hiring season like no other. 

Start hiring for the holidays now 

According to the latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the American economy is coming back — but unemployment is still at 5.2% with 1.2 million positions to fill. Before COVID, unemployment was at a record low of just under 3.5%.  

Companies already need in-person help all along the supply chain: filling orders, shipping packages, and working in the warehouse, manufacturing and retail. This year, the sector mix of seasonal job postings looks similar to before the pandemic, with more than half of seasonal job postings for workers in the retail sector, followed by smaller percentages in sales, loading and stocking and customer service.

“My advice for employers looking for seasonal workers is start now,” says AnnElizabeth Konkel, Indeed economist. “Do not wait later into the season, because you may really feel a big crunch.”

It's worth noting that the extra pandemic unemployment funding ended in September, and the Labor Department is slated to provide $90 million in grants to connect workers with jobs. These two factors combined could push more workers back into the fold this holiday season.

But don't forget, we're still dealing with a global pandemic. With 56.6% of Americans vaccinated, COVID-19 may still influence how many people are willing to go into work. Managers will also have to factor health and safety protocols into their hiring plans, which could impact onboarding speed: even more reason to start early.

Raise your hourly wage  

Take a good look at your hourly wage — you may need to raise it. The 2021 seasonal market is extremely competitive, and the big brands are willing to pay way over minimum wage to get workers. Many are going above $15 an hour, offering over $20 an hour to more experienced staff. 

Plus, many companies are offering signing bonuses on top of the higher wages in hopes of luring new holiday workers. For example, large online retailers tout hiring workers at more than $18 per hour plus  sign-on bonuses. And big box retailers are following suit this holiday season, offering notable bonuses, too. Raising your rates can help attract workers before crunch time hits in December.

Optimize your website for easy hiring

Take a look at your website and go through the application process. How user-friendly is it? If there are a lot of unnecessary steps, that could lead to potential hires leaving before they even apply. UPS, for example, can send candidates an offer within thirty minutes of a job interview, thanks to a hiring process that is fully digital and optimized for speed. 

Candidates don’t want to fill out exhausting applications. They’re counting on you to parse their resumes and limit fields to relevant, application-related information. Your application process should also be mobile-friendly and, if possible, allow for communication with potential hires via text message. 

Finally, when you find a suitable candidate, virtual interviews are another way to streamline the hiring process (Indeed even built a platform to help). 

Consider candidates with transferable skills 

When placing a job ad or interviewing a potential seasonal hire, be cognizant of “must-have” versus “nice-to-have” abilities and traits. Be clear on what you’re looking for as well as what can be taught. Making an investment into workers with transferable skills could be the answer to solving your labor shortage.

Just because someone doesn't have experience in your department or industry doesn't mean they can't adapt. For example, hotel front desk experience may make someone a great asset for customer-facing retail positions, such as sales or returns. And a production-line employee who knows how to assemble and build could likely adapt smoothly to warehouse work. 

Consider also looking at unconventional candidates. For example, veterans may not be the first group of candidates you think of when you're trying to fill seasonal retail roles, but they actually bring with them a multitude of transferable soft skills. These include teamwork and leadership, which are critical to maintaining order and discipline in a military environment, as well as strong critical thinking and problem solving skills — important in the often stressful, unpredictable and ever-changing military environment. These transferable skills may make veterans the perfect candidates to handle the hectic holiday retail environment.

This holiday season, consider hiring candidates with transferable skills or unconventional backgrounds and observe their performance on the job. If they perform well in their roles, this practice could become one that you use year after year to find great seasonal workers — or even permanent employees. 

Hire for the long term 

Many companies are thinking beyond the next few months. Some of the largest U.S. retailers, for example, have demonstrated hiring plans with a long-term vision in mind that extend well beyond the holiday season, with goals of hiring tens of thousands of permanent workers.

Let your seasonal workers know that there’s a good chance for long-term placement once the holiday rush is over. Not only is this an attractive selling point for your company, but if you’re clear and communicative on benchmarks for success, workers will also be more inclined to put their best effort forth in hopes of staying on as a full-time employee. 

Once the holidays roll around, see if more workers are hitting your benchmarks for success this year compared to previous holiday seasons. At the end of the holiday season, identify your top performers and offer them permanent jobs at your company. This can be a great long-term hiring strategy for you to more efficiently find talented permanent workers without having to look for them separately.

With "The Great Resignation" happening across all industries, and a record-breaking 4.3 million Americans quitting their jobs in August, it's more important than ever to invest in hiring for the long term. Long term employees benefit your company by being more invested in its success, working more efficiently and having more knowledge of your customers, clients and business. 

‘Tis the season for perks 

This holiday season, workers aren’t just getting bigger paychecks, they’re getting more perks, too. From child-care reimbursement to significant discounts on merchandise and catered food at the office, many companies are trying out new, creative ways to get the help they need. 

Offering long-term education and professional development opportunities — such as the ability to earn a debt-free bachelor’s degree — could also be considered as a potential perk. This approach could also incentivize full-time employment, a talent retention win that extends well beyond the holiday season. 

Flexibility is a must 

Boosting flexibility is critical when candidates have their pick of jobs. 

For some, schedules might be tight due to childcare constraints; others might be working multiple jobs to supplement income lost from the pandemic. Given the complexities of the seasonal market and worker availability, managers are going to have to be flexible with how they construct their scheduling, and should consider all options when hiring part-time workers with limited availability. 

As an example, on-demand shift swaps could be a simple way to introduce scheduling flexibility, particularly in sectors such as retail and hospitality.  The availability of a flexible schedule might also be a deciding factor for someone thinking about applying who has scheduling restrictions right now, but will be more available after the holidays. 

Tap your current staff

Your current staff can be a great source of future talent. Tap employees for referrals, and offer a financial incentive that's enticing enough to lure their qualified friends. Even small perks can go a long way. Referrals save a lot of time and money, but if your budget is tight, consider offering prizes, swag or even dinner at a local restaurant. 

If your company has a university recruiting team that focuses on finding interns and new grads, this is another channel worth pursuing for seasonal employment. 

In any tight labor market, workers will ask, "Why should I choose you?" Companies have to answer with an appealing culture, whether it's the result of a reasonable hourly wage, big signing bonus or flexible schedules. 

Finally, remember that employee expectations have changed. With these tips in mind, you can get ahead this holiday season — and beyond.