Holiday season hiring can be problematic for the retail and distribution sectors for many reasons, including the compressed timeframe of the hiring window and the elevated numbers of workers needed. These issues can cause a screening and hiring logjam for in-house hiring departments. Outsourcing the hiring of temporary workers to third-party agencies is one solution to this dilemma, though this has its drawbacks as well.
With an economic prediction of high volume holiday sales, the burden to quickly meet the demand for seasonal help becomes too much for human resources and hiring departments. This can lead to weak screening of potential employees, if only by the sheer numbers and speed at which hiring is necessary.
Employers and managers not only have the pressure of additional costs associated with increasing the work force, but the extra hiring time and coordination. Finding and screening a new temporary worker placement service (often known as “temp agencies”) is an additional burden that is difficult to address quickly. Oftentimes the difficulties experienced with last year’s temp agency hires are forgotten; next year, the same temp agency is contracted to avoid the time needed to find and screen a new temp agency.
In-house hiring departments that switch to a hiring agency for temporary labor are often inexperienced in what to look for in an agency and may be unaware of the discrepancies of the applicant pools available from agency to agency.
Further to the problem of hiring holiday temps is a simple matter of quantitative analysis. The heightened flow of inventory, the crunch of business in a short time frame, and the frantic nature of getting through the season makes it difficult to accurately assess where improvements are being made. Getting through the season with increased sales and potentially marginal profit precludes the additional effort and research needed to find a more efficient service, screening process, or even a different system.
The winter holiday season is the busiest retail season of the year. Between twenty-five and fifty percent of annual retail sales take place during the holiday season, and employers usually increase their workforce by at least four percent during this time period. Retailers will add between 550,000 and 650,000 jobs this holiday shopping season. Amazon.com will hire more than 15,500 temporary workers for its U.S. fulfillment centers.
Weak screening of potential temporary seasonal workers can lead to a bigger problem than just low productivity. Temps with poor workplace conduct spread their bad behavior to the current workforce and other temporary employees. This is one of the main drawbacks of utilizing a temp agency. In addition, many temp agencies attract workers that know the screening process is lax (compared to in-house hiring departments for employers) and they are virtually guaranteed a job without a thorough selection process.
Due to the busy schedule and high demand for workers during the holiday season, once a worker has received training and is on the work floor, it is easy to overlook poor performance – or worse. Some of the problems that arise from temporary hires, especially during the high stress and high volume holiday season, start with simple morale and employee-relations.
Additional problems can arise when temps are placed alongside permanent employees; these two groups of employees may resent one another over perceived favoritism and variant pay grades. More severe, though nonetheless prevalent, are workplace theft and substance abuse in the workplace. It is estimated that forty to fifty percent of all business losses are due to employee theft. The holiday season represents an opportune time to be a dishonest temporary worker.
With the heavy burden of holiday hiring stressing internal hiring departments, drug testing may not always be completed. Not all temporary employment agencies require drug screening, or they may not be diligent in their screening policies. Many temporary hires are well versed in drug testing processes and can “beat the system”. It is estimated that drug abuse in the workplace costs employers between 75 and 100 billion dollars annually due to lost time, workplace accidents, as well as health care and worker compensation costs. Up to sixty-five percent of accidents that occur on the job are related to alcohol and/or drug use. Once a few bad temporary employees have penetrated the work floor, they may not only be using drugs or alcohol themselves, but possibly spreading the habit of working under the influence. In many cases, temporary employees actually begin selling drugs to once-reliable permanent employees.