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The Guide to Strategic Staffing for Seasonal Hospitality Hiring

The Guide to Strategic Staffing for Seasonal Hospitality Hiring

In June 2019, 1,142,000 people nationwide were hired by the leisure and hospitality industry. This was an increase of 42,000 hires from May and 64,000 hires from June 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Whether your clients are in the restaurant, hospitality, food and beverage, leisure, or travel and tourism industry, these incredible growth spurts create one common issue—an immense struggle to keep enough people on staff to meet their labor demands. And this challenge naturally increases during peak busy seasons. 

Blindly ramping up talent sourcing to meet clients’ seasonal staffing needs months before roles open creates unnecessary stress for everyone. The key to avoiding that stress is to be prepared at all times with a strategic staffing plan. Following a staffing plan keeps hospitality clients satisfied and productive during their most profitable times of the year. 

As you know, strategic staffing for seasonal hospitality hiring isn’t a black-and-white process. Each client has their own unique busy season, competition is higher in many of these industries than others, and finding quality, fitting candidates is often a struggle. 

That’s why we’ve created a step-by-step plan to guide you through the process of strategic staffing for seasonal hospitality hiring:

1. Define client-specific busy seasons

Your clients’ busy seasons vary based on their location and services. In our digitally-enhanced world, you’re more likely than ever to work with clients on a national or worldwide basis. As a result, you must be an expert on factors impacting seasonal hiring outside of your own geographic area. 

Create a standardized survey for each client to define their busy seasons and circumstances impacting seasonal hiring needs. Further categorize their responses based on location and business type. This information reveals important trends as your client list grows and shifts over time. 

You may recognize patterns between clients in similar geographic areas or industries, such as trends during years when it was unseasonably cold or warm. Dig deeper to learn how their staffing needs were impacted. For example, if their season was extended, when did they notice employee gaps widening? 

Use these insights to create a variety of plans to address different possible seasonal staffing scenarios. Strategize based on the highly variable factors impacting the hospitality industry. A fluctuating economy, for example, greatly impacts the restaurant industry. Something as simple as increased gas prices reduce the cash consumers are willing to spend traveling to and eating at restaurants. 

2. Set staffing projections

Once you determine when peak busy seasons occur, it’s critical to determine strategic staffing demands during an increase in business. Evaluate each client’s needs on criteria such as:

How many temporary employees did they need to hire in the last X busy seasons? 

“Busy seasons” naturally vary from client-to-client. One client’s seasonal hiring may mean an influx of thousands or tens-of-thousands of customers. On the other hand, others may see only hundreds, requiring a much smaller increase in hiring. Analyzing the number of temporary employees required over a few consecutive seasonal staffing periods helps you accurately project the average number of candidates you need to have prepped and ready in your pipeline. 

Did they lose former seasonal hires to competitors?

Many open roles in the hospitality industry require the same skill sets and experiences. This makes staffing and hiring more challenging year-round, let alone during busy seasons. Identifying why clients lose seasonal hires to competitors allows you to hone in on more specific issues that have the potential to impact your strategic staffing outcomes. As you set projections, you’ll better understand if you need to change your sourcing strategy or possibly even prepare for seasonal turnover. 

Was their business ever overstaffed during a typical busy season? 

Being overstaffed is an often-overlooked issue for many companies. There’s the obvious concern of losing money from employing workers that aren’t needed. However, the underlying problem is seasonal employees lose hours and wages they were counting on. This leaves the company’s reputation at risk when next year’s busy time arrives.

When unemployment is low, staffing in hospitality and related industries is even more challenging. In fact, Hcareers’ 2018 Hospitality Employment Trends report revealed the average time to hire in the hospitality industry reached a new peak in 2018, with the mean job vacancy reaching 21 business days.  

It’s critical you ask clients questions that reveal key insights into their needs and biggest seasonal hiring problems they might not even be aware of. As a result, you can strategize to ensure their needs are met and key roles don’t remain open for the industry average of three weeks during their busiest seasons: 

The skiing and lodging industry in the northeastern U.S. is an example of changing staffing projections. Unseasonably warm temperatures lead to issues of being overstaffed during a typically-busy season. However, if colder temperatures arrive, they need to be prepared for an influx of consumers. 

Set strategic staffing projections for more candidates than needed for either scenario. If clients have an immediate need for more employees, have an engaged talent pool ready for their biggest hiring needs and anything in between.


3. Determine seasonal staffing traits

Experience is nearly always a major hiring determinant. While it’s important seasonal workers can jump right into tasks, not everyone with the right experience will excel in your clients’ roles. For example, a server who formerly worked at an upscale restaurant may not succeed in a fast-paced sports bar environment. 

Rather than focusing solely on relative industry experience, assess the type of environment they thrived in. Also, determine if they excelled in a fast-paced job or another company’s busy season. Consider their personality, traits, and other important factors to compare transferable experience, such as: 

  • Do they have a more introverted or extroverted personality? 
  • Did they have to engage directly with customers or guests? 
  • Did they need to be able to work as part of a team? 
  • Did they have to be capable of quickly solving problems or resolving conflict?
  • Did they manage multiple tasks or customer demands at once?
Dive deeper into client expectations to help you identify the right seasonal candidates for these unique industries. Get on social media and network with candidates familiar with similar roles and industries. Pay attention to the followers that actively engage on clients’ social media posts. The perfect passive candidates could be lurking on their feeds. Also, ask for referrals from your current talent pool to find talent with similar personalities and work ethics. 

4. Market the right details

Strategic staffing, of course, means working ahead to achieve the best results. This is especially important in an industry as competitive as hospitality. For many towns and cities, the number of bars, restaurants, hotels, tourist attractions, and so on in one concentrated area is much higher than in other industries. Because candidates have countless options, they base their decisions to entertain and accept an offer on just as many factors. 

For example, 89% of job seekers in the Hcareers trends report say reputation matters a great deal when considering a new employer. Wages are also a critical competitive advantage in hospitality staffing—and they’re on the rise. In the first quarter of 2018, hospitality employers in the U.S. paid an average of $15.81 per hour, a 3% increase from 2017.

However, broadcasting an attractive wage or positive reviews won’t automatically attract the talent that fits your clients’ cultures and connects with their customers. As a result, all marketing details, including job descriptions and social media posts, must have the right information and tone to reach target candidates. 

Job descriptions and social media posts marketing open roles need to show off key details about your clients and their clientele rather than just the role. Highlight who they are in regards to brand personality, current employees, and who they cater to in the community. 

Ask clients to give you access to pictures of employees performing key duties during former busy seasons or customers enjoying their time at the establishment. These personalized details ensure you’re bringing in the best-fitting applicants for your clients. 

Help clients create marketing materials that stand out to the right seasonal candidates. Tap into the increasingly popular gig economy for roles with flexible shifts, such as servers, utility personnel, cleaning personnel, bartenders, guest services, and so on. Combine flexibility details with the company’s brand details and pay to entice the right candidates to apply. 


5. Connect with candidates you placed in temp roles 

Your talent pool is inevitably brimming with former temporary hires. Even if they haven’t worked specifically in a hospitality-related industry, they may still be interested in seasonal work. Connect with successful past candidates to nurture relationships and assess their goals. 

Discuss what types of roles they would consider in the future and what company aspects are most important to them. If any of their goals align with the hospitality industry, share clients’ upcoming openings. 

Even if they give you a hard pass, keep in contact with former temp candidates to prove the value of your relationship. As you send new opportunities, show them how they can use seasonal work to gain more experience, network, and open the doors to full-time work in related industries. 

Compare former role responsibilities to projected seasonal role openings. Did the candidate prefer a role with lesser responsibility? What do they expect out of a role, and what would make them leave before the season ends? 

In the restaurant business, for example, an employee’s position is a greater signal of turnover than region or even base pay, according to Upserve’s 2018 trends report. Roles with greater responsibility (management, servers, kitchen staff) saw lower relative turnover than more transient positions (bussers and runners, catering staff, cashiers).

6. Focus on redeployment 

Your clients’ busy seasons are revolving doors. Allowing candidates to work with you only in the short-term results in missed opportunities down the road. 

Redeployment allows you to strategize much further in advance for future seasonal openings. You are often able to reassign positions as one temporary role ends and another begins. This strategy keeps candidates engaged in your talent pool and clients’ positions filled with quality employees. 

However, it’s important to keep clear, up-to-date records on clients’ preferences regarding redeployment strategies. Many clients don’t prefer to ‘share’ seasonal hires because they gain too much inside information. Recipes, for example, are valuable secrets restaurants don’t want temporary employees to divulge to competitors. 

Keep relationships open with candidates from season-to-season. If you know one client’s busy season will end in August and another’s begins in November, keep candidates in the loop on the timing. The more you keep candidates aware of in-demand job opportunities, the easier it is to redeploy and keep quality hospitality candidates in your talent pool. 


How to Prove You're the Best Staffing Firm

Josh Tolan

Josh Tolan is the Founder and CEO of Spark Hire, a video interviewing platform used by 6,000+ customers in over 100 countries.