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How Three Companies Make Seasonal Hires

July 20, 2001
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Related Topics: Candidate Sourcing, Featured Article
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T    o guarantee an adequate labor pool of young adultsto fill its seasonal needs, one company offers unusual incentives such as freeroller-coaster passes and subsidized housing. A manufacturer, hoping to ensuregood staffing results during peak demand, elevates its priority with a favoredstaffing company by granting an exclusive contract. Another discovers that seasonalopenings present an unexpected opportunity to tap highly qualified people whocan raise the professional standards of the permanent staff.

    Hiring seasonal talent during an era of low unemploymentpresents a challenge for employers who compete for labor -- especially in economicallystrong regions. Many companies have traditionally resorted to filling requiredseasonal expansion with temporary workers supplied by staffing companies. Seasonalcycles are one of the main reasons that businesses turn to temporary staff.Fortunately for seasonal businesses, there is a growing pool of experiencedbut restive workers who shun permanent positions in favor of flexible assignmentsthat adapt to their lifestyles, reports the American Staffing Association. Aboutone-third of the 2.9 million people employed daily by staffing companies arenot interested in permanent positions, the organization says.

    Staffing flexibility comes with a steep price for employers.The firm that relies on an outside staffing company to supply contingent workerspays a per-hour premium that can exceed the wages of the average permanent employeeby as much as 65 percent. That is because employers pay the equivalent of wages,benefits, and a premium to the staffing company for the temporary employee.Considering that 85 percent of the $77 billion spent on staffing last year wentfor temporary-help services, many employers think the additional cost is moneywell spent. Overall, the industry has enjoyed a 10 percent compounded growthrate in the last five years.

    “It’s a lot quicker than traditional means,like advertising in newspapers,” says Jill Tilley, human resources directorfor El Torito Restaurants, Inc., in Long Beach, California. “Most of thetime, it is a better-quality labor force.” She says that candidates fromstaffing companies arrive at a workplace pre-tested and trained.

    She was able to increase her department by 22 benefitsspecialists during last fall’s open-enrollment period with surprising ease.The move followed a merger of two Mexican restaurant chains. El Torito was purchasedlast June by the privately held New York investment firm Bruckman, Rosser, andSherrill & Company, Inc., which already owned several other chain restaurants,including Acapulco Mexican Restaurants.

    Seasonal hiring has the advantage of permitting employersto try out potential permanent hires, says Richard A. Wahlquist, executive vicepresident of the staffing group based in Alexandria, Virginia. Its members compriseabout two-thirds of the domestic temp industry.

    Most staffing company employees expect temp jobs to be a quick path to winninga permanent spot with a company. Still, 33 percent of their workers say theyaccept temporary positions by preference, as a way to better control their workschedules and to be able to choose from a variety of assignments.

    What follows are three companies’ different approachesto solving seasonal personnel shortages.

Workforce, July 2001, pp. 62-67 -- SubscribeNow!

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