Are seasonal retail jobs "kind of a big deal" in 2021?

In a time of transitions and a choosy workforce, seasonal work has unique appeal this year.

The need to boost staffing levels for the holiday shopping season is an annual challenge for many retailers, with considerable need for positions from stockers to merchandisers to cashiers. With concerns about the slow pace of hiring and a widespread labor shortage this summer, the road ahead for hiring managers looks especially rocky at first glance.

Disruptions to workplaces caused by the pandemic have not only displaced many workers, they appear to have scrambled the usual route back into employment. There are a lot of factors at play here, but a theme has emerged: there are lasting changes in how workers view their options.

But here's some good news: faced with a hesitant labor pool uncertain of its interest in today's hourly roles, seasonal positions may be a worker go-to in 2021. Be ready to staff up successfully with these principles in mind:

Speed and efficiency are high priorities — but so is information. We've known for years that job applicants don't extend a lot of patience toward the apply process. Human resources organization SHRM reported in 2016 that 60% of job seekers admitted to "quitting in the middle" of an online job application, citing the length or complexity of the process. A streamlined, easy-to-complete process is essential for today's candidates. Given the short-term outlook of those interested in seasonal positions, the need for a minimal time commitment at stage one is critical.

This points to the need for quick data capture so that "information" and "time" don't have to represent tradeoffs.

But that doesn't have to mean sacrificing components that will bring a real value-add to the process. For example, Appcast found that too little information in a job description can undermine interest — a little more insight into what the job entails appears to promote candidate interest. On the employer's side, having information about a candidate is also of high value. This points to the need for quick data capture so that "information" and "time" don't have to represent tradeoffs.

A short, in-line assessment can pull you out of the guesswork required when you hire with zero insight into a candidate's soft skills. With a rapid ramp-up for seasonal workers, tools that enable personnel to hit the ground running are important. Supervisors don't have the luxury of time to discover whether an individual enjoys working alongside others, tolerates routines, or can handle a challenging workday.

Use the temporary nature of the work as a selling point. The American worker mid-2021 appears ready to bolt for a better experience. In April 2021, 2.7% of US workers quit their jobs, the highest rate ever recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As analysts explained in late June, the principal reason for the high quit rate is likely that "when jobs are plentiful (as measured by openings), workers tend to have more confidence to quit their jobs to find better ones."

Seasonal hiring provides an opportunity for workers to transition back into the paid workforce without making a long-term commitment.

The presence of a transient but confident workforce, with reinforcing headlines such as this story of fast-food workers quitting en masse, means that seasonal hiring in 2021 may have a unique advantage this year. Seasonal hiring provides an opportunity for workers to transition back into the paid workforce without making a long-term commitment. Pitch that advantage in your recruitment assets.

Remember the labor pool isn't the same as in past years. The first year of the pandemic saw a major loss of women from the paid workforce, a drop that was unrecovered in early summer 2021 with 1.8 million fewer women on payrolls than pre-pandemic. That means 2021's pool of workers for seasonal hiring includes more women than in past years — many of whom stayed home to tend to caregiving needs of children, grandchildren, or aging parents.

With schools nationwide planning nearly-full reopenings this fall, that may mean a shift in women now willing and able to take jobs — but with short-term roles having the appeal of allowing them to pivot quickly should circumstances change.

In addition, recent reports that many workers are shifting industries also point to an opportunity. For example, Joblist found that one-third of former hospitality workers don't intend to return to their industry. There are, therefore, workers with well-developed skills available this year more so than in the past, from mothers now well-accustomed to handling stress to hospitality workers with strong customer service talents looking to try something new.

Boosting an organization's staffing to meet end-of-year needs may be a perennial headache. But with pandemic shifts and a workforce wary of long-term roles, a "perfect storm" is brewing for a strong year in seasonal hires.

Looking for a way to further ease the seasonal hiring surge? Try Traitify.