Although this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday saw record-breaking sales, they are only the beginning of the holiday consumer blitz. In the coming weeks, malls will be filled, restaurants will be buzzing and shipping carriers will take on their heaviest burden of the year.
According to the National Retail Federation, retailers are expected to hire between 640,000 and 690,000 seasonal workers over this holiday season. Eighty-four percent of restaurants polled in a 2015 survey reported that they hire additional staff to handle the crowds associated with holiday shoppers.
The benefits of the service sector’s holiday hiring season on the economy are evident. But more than numbers, the season offers people from all walks of life with opportunities to work and strengthen skills, such as customer service, team building and organization. The holidays are also a valuable chance for senior employees to gain management skills as they onboard and train new hires.
Restaurants and retailers are a place for people to start their careers. That’s true any time of the year, but the holiday season in particular provides a chance for a greater number of young people to get ahead on developing skills and building out their resumes after school or while on school break. Employers see value in onboarding individuals during the holidays in order to ensure a new generation has the training, basic skills and experience to help out when they’re ready to start working year-round. Oftentimes, due to high traffic levels, holiday hires will gain extra experience handling various job functions within the business.
After getting a taste of working part-time at Toys R Us during the holidays while studying to become a radiologist, Liz Stump told the Palm Beach Post that she decided the health care path wasn’t for her anymore, and instead that the retail path was a better fit for her. “I love working in retail. I love working with customers. I love interacting with people,” she said. Stump was later offered a full-time job. She started in customer service, transitioned into logistics and eventually made her way into human resources. Now she runs the front of the store, dealing in customer service and managing cashiers.
This influx of hiring also provides a place for more people to learn skills that can lead to long-term jobs and advancement within the service sector. Chris Pyrah is a human resources leader at Scheels and says one of the keys to seasonal hiring success is to find associates who want to stay on long-term and grow with the company.
Young people aren’t the only ones who benefit from the seasonal hiring. The flexibility to work part-time is attractive to older Americans, whose years of work experience can provide an at-ease shopping experience for customers, as they look to keep busy during retirement without committing to a full-time gig. Take it from retired Fire Chief Charlie Maurais, a 78-year-old who told the Naples Daily News that he looks forward to working a seasonal part-time job at a hardware store that he’s held for seven years. “I don’t have too many hobbies, so this keeps me busy. I just like seeing people and helping them out. It’s a joy to go to work,” he said.
The holiday season is a special time for many, as we come together with families and friends across the country to celebrate with meals and gifts. But for millions of Americans, the holidays are also a critical time to take on work in retail and restaurants. This provides workers of all ages with not only a chance to keep busy and earn a paycheck, but also to gain valuable skills and training toward fulfilling, successful careers.
Vic Allred is the owner of several New Orleans-themed French Quarter cafés branded as Jazz, A Louisiana Kitchen, with two restaurants in the Kansas City area. He began his career as a dishwasher and was hired as kitchen manager and eventually general manager of the first Jazz restaurant while finishing his degree.