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Op-ed: The festive rush is coming & businesses must hire

Trent Innes on why hospitality, retail industries must review their holiday rush hiring strategies NOW

Spring has sprung and another year has almost passed. The hospitality and retail industries are now gearing up for the busiest period of the year with school holidays, the festive season, and summer all around the corner.

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Business owners are laser-focused on setting themselves up for success over the festive season and for meeting the surge in demand that is expected to come. It’s the most profitable time of year, and many businesses rely on strong summer sales to see them through the rest of the year.

In order to do this, these industries rapidly onboard staff from September onwards, with many candidates willing to take on ‘Christmas casual’ positions.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

This year, with stubbornly low immigration figures and a red-hot jobs market, many retailers that survived through pandemic lockdowns, where demand dropped and they faced the challenge of managing staff, will now be met with the opposite problem: too much demand, not enough labour.

There’s no denying the impact the war for talent has and, experts say, will continue to have into the foreseeable future on the accommodation and hospitality sector.

Restaurants that established themselves and managed to survive throughout the pandemic were reminded of the perks of take-away service. Now, the scarcity of staff has forced many to neglect the heavily service-based parts of their business and focus more on their product and services that appeal to changing consumer desires, such as takeaway and delivery.

Ultimately, however, businesses need staff. The rush is coming and they must hire.

Photo by Ekaterina Tyapkina on Unsplash

Given the current market climate, hospitality and retail businesses – like small to medium businesses in many other industries- are likely to do what I call ‘hope hiring’. It’s where you create a list of the skills you think are needed to get the job done, and when someone ticks those boxes you give them an offer and hope it works out.

I’ve done my fair share of ‘hope hiring’, having helped build Xero’s business for nine years in Australia and now joining Compono to start that thrilling journey once again.

Despite the different industries, the pain it can be when a hire doesn’t work out is all the same. From simple incompetence to those who seemingly set out to create discord wherever they go, I’ve seen it all.

So what is one to do when the number of people who tick your skill-boxes dwindles with each passing week? You need hands on deck, but hiring is always a risk.

Hospitality and retail business owners mustn’t fret. You can set your business up for a successful holiday rush period and navigate this significant challenge by changing the way you hire.

Historically, we have always hired for skills, knowledge and experience. That’s the information you get from a CV. That’s what hiring decisions have always been based on.

Where have you worked before? How many years of experience do you have? Do you have all the necessary licences and permits?

In reality, most companies are really trying to find people that are actually going to be successful in their organisation, from a culture and attitude perspective.

Will they contribute to the fostering of a positive culture? Do they have a good attitude towards customer service, the job, teamwork- whatever is important to your organisation?

Having the right attitude can’t be taught as easily as hard skills.

How somebody works in a team, how somebody communicates with and relates to other people. They used to call them soft skills, but there’s nothing soft about soft skills. They’re in fact the hardest to master!

That is what you should hire for. Courses can be taken, skills can be learned and when you invest in your team, experience will inevitably develop.

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

Everything comes down to your team. It is the great investment you will make for success.

My advice to all businesses gearing up for a successful holiday season this year is to start sooner, get clear on your business values, cast your net as wide as possible, and find people that will make a genuinely great addition to your team. Even if it means you need to invest a bit more time and effort to get them there.

The rewards will be well worth it when the holiday rush comes.

Trent Innes is the CEO of people insights company Compono.


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