Preparing for peak in a COVID-19 world: A Q&A with Jerry Wimer, Senior VP of Staff Management

August 25, 2020 Casey Nighbor

Companies are facing many unique challenges this year. While operations are trying to keep their workers safe, they are also faced with the annual problem of hiring and preparing for peak. We spoke with Jerry Wimer, Staff Management’s Senior Vice President of Operations, to get his expertise on preparing for peak season and the new challenges facing businesses this year.

What do you think will be different from the 2019 peak season?

We’re in the toughest labor market in history of peak due to COVID-19 concerns, unemployment benefits and competition in market. Currently, we are seeing heavy utilization of short-term incentive pay, bonuses and employee perks to help offset the challenges. Workers have been pushing back on high volume of overtime because work/health balance is in the minds of many. Companies must consider higher pay tiers in 2020 to be successful.

What’s your advice for planning for peak?

Build a plan early for what a successful peak season looks like. It should include a:

  • Recruiting strategy
  • Hiring criteria
  • Training plan

In order to successfully plan for peak, you also want to keep these tips in mind as you move through your season.

  • Consistently review the plan using your current business trends and climate as the barometer for peak.
  • Learn from the past: Review past year’s peak season. What went well? What didn’t?
  • Start to prepare for potential challenges or barriers that may arise
  • Get input from your teams: HR, finance, operations and hourly staff are good departments to touch base with. What do they see as biggest obstacles to success?
  • Develop a recovery plan for when things don’t go as planned. What are the triggers you may need to pull and in what order are you comfortable pulling them?
  • Gain approval for those triggers including any financial impact before the season starts. Don’t spend valuable time in peak season awaiting approval.

How far in advance should companies be planning for peak?

-Initial planning should take place 4-6 months in advance and include comprehensive review of the prior season.

-45-60 days out should be final peak planning sessions and communication of the plan.

-2 weeks out for first review of the plan and checkpoints on progress.

-Weekly reviews thereafter to monitor development and to make minor adjustments.

What’s the best way to hire for seasonal workers?

You should be matching skills with the jobs available as much as possible. For later season hires, put them into roles that require the least amount of training. You should also have specific training plans to ensure success. Only having new hires do “job shadowing” cannot be the only training solution in place.

Remember to be flexible. Workers have options in the job market. Try and be flexible and creative in scheduling and shifts to allow workers to match work schedule with outside responsibilities.

And finally, be honest and open in terms of the job offer and expectations. Make sure they know the duration of the assignment and the expectations of the role. Don’t promise long term roles if we know it’s a short-term assignment.

How should operations keep people safe this season?

Prepare for social distancing across the facility. This not only includes in production areas, but how they enter and exit the building, break rooms, restrooms, etc. Plan for orientation classes that meet local ordinances, while also being certain there are enough slots to accommodate the labor needs.

Clean the facility, lines, and areas as often as possible and certainly between shifts to reduce contamination across shifts. And also try to minimize employees working in different areas if possible.

What are you excited about for the future?

Many of the lessons we have been forced to learn during the pandemic have value long term. Over communication is key and has been a strong point during the pandemic. It should continue to be moving forward.

Flexibility in shifts and schedules have been more commonplace due to COVID-19 and are vital to long term success, even when pandemic ends. Proper spacing in facility, lines, breakrooms, etc. creates a better work environment. Partnership between staffing firms and clients have grown as we go through the pandemic together. We’re seeing more joint collaboration on challenges and hope to continue that going forward.

What’s the biggest advantage of an onsite staffing model, especially for peak?

We have a proven onsite model for managing a high-volume peak season business. Our team is dedicated to your success and all of our recruitment, onboarding and retention activities are specifically created for your business and the challenges you are facing.

How a staffing partner can help you during peak:

  • Supplement your FT hiring with temporary workers looking for short term seasonal assignments
  • Relieves the administrative burden from your team in recruitment
  • Allows you to focus your leadership on satisfying customer needs in peak season
  • Alleviates any issues with needing to lay off permanent staff post peak
  • Supplement your supervisory staff with additional team members to help manage the larger workforce during peak
  • Create incentive programs specifically designed to decrease turnover in peak season

In addition, all our teams are supported by our workforce technology, Stafftrack, that is specifically built to manage a large workforce with varying needs.

This technology is also customer facing giving you the ability to view our team’s progress in building a peak season workforce.

Want to learn more about preparing for peak? Download our peak season checklist.

About the Author

About Casey: Content marketing manager, frequently reading, aspiring chef, failed plant mom, connoisseur of tater tots, beauty products and airplane food.

Follow on Linkedin More Content by Casey Nighbor
Previous Article
Cookies and Milk and Job Opportunities
Cookies and Milk and Job Opportunities

Staff Management | SMX helps local food pantry supply the community with food and job opportunities

Next Article
How to recruit in rural areas
How to recruit in rural areas

While many companies nationwide, in response to the coronavirus outbreak, have made the transition to a rem...