The holiday season is traditionally a busy time for Australian businesses, especially those in the retail sector. Many employers, therefore, rely on seasonal workers to help them meet this increased demand from customers. But hiring seasonal workers can be a challenge, especially if planning doesn't start early. That's why it's important to get on the front foot when it comes to seasonal hiring. By starting the process as early as June, you'll have plenty of time to find the right staff and get them trained up before the busy season begins. Let’s take a closer look at the process of hiring seasonal workers, how to best go about it, and how Indeed can assist Australian businesses in the process.

Who are seasonal workers and why are they important?

Seasonal hiring is common in many industries, particularly in retail, tourism and hospitality. Seasonal workers are temporary employees who are recruited to meet increased workload demands during specific peak times of the year. This could be during weather-related seasons, such as ski season, or during festive and celebratory seasons, most notably the Christmas period which coincides with summer holidays. Seasonal workers are typically students, but people wanting to earn extra money to supplement their income – including retired workers, stay-at-home parents looking for work during school hours or employed people wanting to boost their salary during the holidays – also apply. Overall, Indeed Senior Economist Callam Pickering says more than 80% of retail employees, in particular, are young workers aged 15 to 34.

Last Christmas, for example, retail sales were boosted by record Christmas and Boxing Day trading. December 2022 recorded the 16th consecutive month of year-on-year growth – a strong increase of 7.5% on the same time the previous year. As shoppers enjoyed their first Christmas free of restrictions related to COVID-19, strong year-on-year sales increases were recorded, particularly by cafés and restaurants (+25.5%), department stores (+ 11.1%) and clothing and footwear stores (+7.4%). Even Australia Post routinely hires thousands of extra staff to cope with the extra seasonal workload in the run-up to Christmas. This makes it clear just how many seasonal workers are needed. Although Callam Pickering says these figures are likely to ease somewhat this year, with retail job postings in general currently down 35% compared to last year, there will still be increased demand for workers during the holiday period. So far this year, Christmas-related job postings and searches are certainly in line with previous years.

The employers who use seasonal hires typically need extra help at the same time each year. This therefore allows them to plan ahead and ensure they have the right number of staff to meet their expected demand. Also keep in mind that you can hire seasonal workers on a casual, part-time or full-time basis, depending on your needs. Often, seasonal retail workers are hired as casual employees, which means working on an hourly basis without a commitment by the employer to provide ongoing work. 

How to hire retail employees and other seasonal workers

Here are a few simple steps to keep in mind when considering hiring extra retail employees and other seasonal staff.

Plan and forecast

Before you start the actual hiring process, it is good to be clear about exactly how many additional resources you need. HR and relevant decision-makers should analyse historical data and market trends to estimate the number of seasonal workers required each year.

Start early

In the competitive labour market, securing the right talent early on avoids trying to hire later in the year when it's crunch time and there is a shortage of good staff. It is best to conduct the planning process before winter, with the seasonal worker hiring process kicking off as early as June. 

Have a clear job description

As with permanent roles, it’s advisable to draft a clear, engaging job description for seasonal vacancies. Clearly state what your future employees are expected to do, what qualifications or experience they need, and state the pay, working hours and exact duration of their employment.

Consider how to attract Gen Z

As seasonal workers are typically younger, it pays to try to attract those potential hires, specifically, and tailor your job ads to the younger generation. Learning how to attract and retain these workers will also help you stay well-staffed all year round. 

Make the application process easy

An easy application process may encourage more candidates to apply. Applicants will be grateful if the process is simple and straightforward, without too many hoops to jump through at this stage. It's always a plus if you can offer a positive job seeker experience.

Have an effective training process

As time is of the essence, it pays to have a solid training process in place. Getting your seasonal staff ready and prepared for their roles in the shortest possible time means you can maximise those resources as soon as possible.

How Indeed can help with seasonal hiring

If last year is any indication of what we can expect in the lead-up to this year’s festive season, it may once again be tough for employers to fill all their seasonal roles. According to Paul Zahra, CEO of the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), there were 46,100 retail vacancies that businesses struggled to fill in 2022, as 90% of ARA members reported labour shortages.

Partnering with Indeed can help overcome those shortages. Employers can create attractive job listings for seasonal jobs and easily identify, shortlist and track suitable candidates. Using the versatile Indeed portal can be an effective part of any Australian employer’s hiring strategy, especially for retailers in the run-up to peak seasons. Just remember to include information on the pay you are offering, as Indeed data shows job postings with salaries listed receive a staggering 30% more applications.

As we’ve seen, it pays to start planning for your seasonal staffing requirements early on and make the recruitment process as straightforward as possible. Keep an eye on market developments and tailor your seasonal staff recruitment to your specific – and potentially changing – needs this year.