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From the Editors

From the Editors

Temporary Holiday Jobs Go South for the Winter

November 30, 2011
Related Topics: Strategy and Management
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This week I wrote an article for our sister publication Chief Learning Officer magazine on how companies train holiday help, outlining best practices to get temporary employees up to speed quickly during this season and beyond. One of my sources on that article – Carey Baker, president and CEO of Part-Time Pros – concluded her remarks by pointing out how temporary holiday employment can be a great testing ground for finding new talent. She said:

“It’s a great opportunity for potential employers to test drive employees, so that when they’re using them on a temporary basis, [if] they’ve got someone who comes in and is just a stellar employee, constantly going above and beyond and exceeding expectations, it may create a long-term position for that individual the following year.”

This is good advice, and I know from experience working for a range of companies over the years that often temporary holiday help is hoping exactly that will happen. Unfortunately, some recent statistics indicate this isn’t the case these days.

A recent article on CNBC’s website whimsically titled “Ho-Hum Holiday Hiring?” quotes John Challenger, CEO of an outplacement firm coincidentally named Challenger, Gray & Christmas, as stating that in the last three months of last year, employment at retail – logically the industry that does the most temporary holiday hiring – went up by more than 600,000 jobs only to shed more jobs than that once January 2011 rolled around. This suggests that, at least in this economy, temporary holiday help may be just that – temporary.

Now that the 2011 holiday season is upon us, it looks like the increase in employment caused by the need for seasonal help is hovering around that same number, as news outlets report an expectation of 600,000 temporary holiday positions giving hope to the nation’s legions of unemployed. No one seems particularly concerned that these jobs are going to be gone as of the new year.

A blog post on U.S. News & World Report’s website titled “8 Reasons to Continue Your Holiday Job Search” had another take on it - that the holidays might be the best time for those looking for permanent, meaningful employment to keep at it, as it’s a slow time of the year, so competition may be lax. It’s also a great time for networking and for many companies it’s when budgets are assigned to hiring for new positions.

As a talent manager, what is your take on temporary holiday help? Are you bringing on contingent employees this season? Will you be eyeing any of them as permanent hires or will these people largely be gone come January? Does bringing a large number of employees on for a short time pose any particular challenges from an HR perspective? And finally, would this be a good time for prospective talent to reach out to you for job leads?

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