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Sep 8, 2020

Ramp Planning for Seasonal Hiring in 2020 Will Look Nothing Like Before

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Checkr Editorial

Ramp planning in 2020 will be informed by the calendar — not defined by it

In the past, peak hiring seasons were reliable and marked by the calendar, but now with the pandemic, things have changed. Starting in 2020 and continuing through 2021, non-seasonal hiring peaks and valleys will be the norm. Each geography and industry will have its own peaks that will be informed — but not defined — by traditional calendar hiring seasons.

Given these hiring peaks and valleys, it’s more important than ever to be able to scale up or down your workforce on a moment’s notice. If a buyer says “I need 500 people tomorrow” because another agency dropped the ball, you always want to be able to say yes. With a mix of process, preparation, and technological improvements, you can.

New consumer habits will change winter holiday hiring needs

The winter holiday season has always been the biggest hiring season for staffing agencies in high-velocity and blue collar hiring. For retailers, the reason is clear: they make ⅓ of their annual sales and 40% of their profits during this time. With 1 in 4 U.S. jobs belonging to the retail industry, the holiday season has always had a ripple effect which is felt across the broader U.S. job market.

But retail isn’t the only industry affected. Historically, the travel and hospitality industries have also needed to prepare for huge spikes in demand due to holiday travel.  The same goes for logistics and shipping companies, who’ve needed to ramp up staffing to manage increases in package volume. 

Some predict this holiday seasonal hiring will look different than any before because there will be more hiring than ever in some industries. Due to COVID-19 precautions, shopping at brick and mortar stores has already taken longer. Retailers have needed to limit the number of shoppers entering a store as well as reduce the number of cashiers working, so shoppers can complete a socially distanced check out process. Retailers will likely need extra shopping assistants in order to accommodate curbside pickup, order fulfillment, or delivery, says Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation.

There’s also the potential for a spike after the traditional peak hiring season: when mass returns cause new operational headaches for retailers, the shipping and logistics industries, and light industrial workers everywhere. Kleinhenz also points out that shoppers will likely buy more than they need, try the product, and return more products than ever this holiday season. We will see the distribution of jobs change within industries as well as potentially new job descriptions created for workers who need to accommodate shoppers’ new, socially distanced, and digital-first shopping experiences.

Flexible workforces will win

So what does all of this mean for workers? First and foremost, it emphasizes the need for reskilling and redeploying workers, as their skills will evolve. Second, it highlights the fact that the supply chain is changing. As inventory shifts to be closer to the source of demand — physical stores — there’s an opportunity to reskill store associates to become fulfillment gurus. This requires us to look at the hiring peaks for areas that aren’t traditionally associated with a hiring ramp. 

If stores become the new fulfillment centers, the hiring ramp could hit dozens of geographies never before expected. It’s no longer about hiring for one big distribution center in Kentucky, for instance, it’s about smaller ramps spread out across the country.

This supply of talent will come from somewhere — some are guessing that it could come from the gig economy. This was the case when the pandemic first hit. Essential businesses such as grocery stores set up relationships with companies such as Uber, Lyft, and Instacart to provide stopgap labor.



Some predict this holiday seasonal hiring will look different than any before because there will be more hiring than ever in some industries.

The staffing industry is well-positioned to meet these peaks

This is where the staffing industry can shine and provide a differentiated value add — staffing agencies can provide talent that would otherwise come solely from the gig economy. Staffing agencies have long-standing relationships and trust with candidates who could fit across a number of holiday hiring needs. Their candidates can continue to help retailers and other businesses maintain flexibility while providing medium-term help.

Two powerhouses in staffing and the gig economy are already partnering to accomplish this goal. The Adecco Group and DoorDash recently announced their partnership, which has helped DoorDash scale up and launch their new on-demand grocery delivery offering. Through this agreement, Adecco will supply the workers who will do in-store order fulfillment and stocking for chains such as Meijer, Smart & Final, and 7-Eleven. Doordash’s drivers will then pick them up for delivery.

What’s important to remember is that the winter holiday season is just one hiring peak. As with any year, there will be new challenges and needs that come with spring break, sports seasons, and even hunting and fishing seasons as we navigate how the pandemic’s ripple effects have changed hiring.

Micro-ramps are coming — local knowledge is the answer

Counties and cities across the U.S. are reacting to the pandemic differently. Which means you and your clients will need to do ramp planning and hiring for peaks differently for each geography. After all, hiring in New York City looks different now than it does in Phoenix or the suburbs of Atlanta — these differences will only continue through the end of the year and into 2021. These changes in consumer and social habits by geography affect a range of industries, including hospitality, food service, retail, healthcare, logistics, and more.

It will take local knowledge of each geography to create the most-effective game plan for what to do next. The best bet is to talk to your local leaders to understand: are shutdowns expected to continue through the year? Are locals wearing masks? Are hospitals expecting increased or decreased caseloads?

What you can do in response to your peak hiring needs

Make sure your talent acquisition strategy is up to date. Ask yourself some key questions:

1. How can you make it easier for candidates to apply for your jobs?

2. How can you automate the qualification process when possible?

3. How can you ensure your candidates experience mental and physical safety even during a period of crisis?

4. How can you suggest jobs that the candidate is a fit for — even if it wasn’t the initial job they applied for? Some example scenarios:

  • They’re a better fit for a different job than the one they applied for.
  • They’re part of your existing workforce and they could be reskilled.
  • They didn’t pass their background check or drug screening for the initial job but would for a different one.

Make sure you’re ready to be flexible. Ask your clients some key logistics questions:

1. How do you expect your operations to be different in 2020 and 2021 in comparison to 2019?

2. How have you needed to change your supply chain because of the pandemic? How has that affected your human supply chain?

3. How do you expect hiring needs to differ from other peak hiring seasons?

4. Do you expect to retain more or fewer workers in this upcoming winter holiday peak than normal?

5. What geographies have you seen most affected by the pandemic?

6. How do you expect the timing of this seasonal hiring peaks to be different than normal?

With communication and planning, you’ll be prepared for any peak

While seasonal hiring and ramp planning will look different than in the past, there’s a lot of opportunity to be capitalized on. Instead of the regular peaks that occurred in years past, the geography and scale of each peak will change. That includes the spread of micro-peaks throughout the country. The only way to account for these irregular consumer habits will be with micro-ramps, and you can lead these micro-ramps by asking the right questions of your internal teams and clients. With this preparation in place, you can say yes to any of your buyer’s needs — no matter how sudden —and stay resilient through the months ahead.



This is where the staffing industry can shine and provide a differentiated value add — staffing agencies can provide talent that would otherwise come solely from the gig economy.

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