Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Despite the cost-of-living crisis, festive season hiring is set to increase this year as Axonify’s 2023 seasonal hiring data reveals management trends

In the run up to the festive season, the retail, hospitality and food services industry are expecting the annual increase in consumer demand, prompting middle managers to brace for impact and adjust staffing needs accordingly.

  • With two in three (60%) managers reporting a “lower quality applicant pool,” Axonify’s research reveals more than half of all retail, hospitality and food services companies plan to increase seasonal hiring this year. 
  • Data showcases how recruitment efforts have changed this year in order to widen the talent pool. 

In the run up to the festive season, the retail, hospitality and food services industry are expecting the annual increase in consumer demand, prompting middle managers to brace for impact and adjust staffing needs accordingly. 

In a recent survey of 300 retail, hospitality and food service managers, Axonify found that half (53%) are hiring more new workers this year because they need additional support (30%; retail: 29%, hospitality / food services: 30%) or their current staff lacks specific skills needed to meet seasonal demand (23%; retail: 20% hospitality / food services: 26%).

“This is a critical time of the year for middle management as they’re typically focused on hiring seasonal workers in anticipation of a busy holiday shopping and travel season,” said Carol Leaman, CEO and Co-Founder at Axonify. “With an expected increase in seasonal hiring this year and a tight labour market due to Brexit, we know these industries will be challenged to find the right workers to support their business.”

In fact, to find the right seasonal workers, middle managers are modifying their recruitment processes to entice more applicants (via perks and benefits) and widen their talent pool. 

  • 64% of managers revised job descriptions to entice more people to apply (retail: 59%, hospitality / food services: 68%). 
  • 3 out of 5 of managers offered flexible work schedules (retail: 65%, hospitality / food services: 64%). 
  • 55% of managers offered more competitive perks/benefits (retail: 49%, hospitality / food services: 60%). 
  • Half of managers have seen an increase in retired applicants looking to rejoin the workforce (52%; retail: 56%, hospitality / food services: 49%).

However, they’re still struggling to bring in talent with more than half of managers admitting it’s getting harder to find seasonal workers this year (51%; retail: 49%, hospitality / food services: 54%) and 3 out of 5 stating that the quality of applicants, such as their skill set and previous experience, has become worse this year (60%; retail: 57%, hospitality / food services: 62%). 

With such a need to quickly develop new (and even unqualified) workers, training is a big priority with 69% (retail: 66%, hospitality / food services: 71%) of managers reporting that they offer more training and upskilling initiatives for new employees who join their company. Beyond upskilling employees to perform their current role, customer de-escalation (handling issues, managing conflict, etc.) is a top area of training focus this season for more than one in four managers (28%; retail: 28%, hospitality & food services: 27%).

Additional findings from Axonify’s 2023 Seasonal Hiring Data reveal:

Middle managers juggle a lot this time of the year. 3 out of 4 (73%; retail: 77%, hospitality / food services: 70%) managers say they are responsible for anticipating and solving staffing needs, identifying skills gaps and getting new hires up and running. Three in five are also responsible for onboarding new hires (65%; retail: 64%, hospitality / food services: 65%), preparing training and new hire materials (62%; retail: 60%, hospitality / food services: 63%) and recruiting applicants (58%; retail: 66%, hospitality / food services: 51%).

  • Peak hiring season is also peak burnout season for managers. More than half of managers surveyed noted that the responsibility of hiring seasonal staff increases their burnout (56%; retail: 54%, hospitality / food services: 61%). In fact, more than half (55%; retail: 49% hospitality / food services: 59%) managers spend most of their time during this time of year (August and September) recruiting, hiring, and onboarding seasonal workers.

Staffing challenges are worrisome because they impact quite literally everything. 3 out of 5 managers say staffing challenges impact so many aspects of their business from delivering a memorable customer / guest experience (62%; retail: 59%, hospitality / food services: 65%) to controlling customer issues like theft, safety, and violence (58%; retail: 52%; hospitality / food services: 63%).

  • Staffing isn’t the only thing worrying managers. Beyond issues relating to understaffing (35%; retail: 39%, hospitality/food services: 32%), managers say safety concerns (19%; retail: 13%, hospitality / food services: 24% ), volatile customers (15%; retail: 15% , hospitality / food services: 15%) and competitor pricing (13%; retail: 10%, hospitality / food services: 15%) are the biggest issues keeping them up at night. Nearly one in five also have concerns about training new employees admitting that disengaged employees and a lack of interest (20%; retail: 21%, hospitality / food services: 20%), lack of time (23%; retail: 26%, hospitality / food services: 21%) or outdated and ineffective training methods (20%; retail: 16%, hospitality/ food services: 23%) are the biggest barriers to getting their festive seasonal workforce up to speed quickly.

“Our data shows that seasonal hiring is not only a stressful time for managers, but it has also become a very complex undertaking that requires them to think beyond just getting workers hired,” said Leaman. “Today, in addition to their operational duties for the business, managers are responsible for ensuring each new member of their workforce is onboarded, trained, and empowered to deliver seamless customer experiences for the business. Our goal at Axonify is to support managers in these efforts and remove the complexities of getting festive seasonal workers up and running. We look forward to working with our customers in the retail, hospitality and food services industries to make this season successful and less stressful.”