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

Companies are facing many new challenges this year. As we come out of the worst of the pandemic, operations are faced with a competitive labor pool and supply chain delays in addition to 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 trends do you see emerging for the 2021 peak season?

We’re exiting one of the toughest global eras in recent memory and the labor market has shifted drastically due to COVID-19. As we come into another peak season, there are a couple things to keep in mind. The labor shortage is most likely going to cause a few trends to emerge including companies using new tactics to attract workers. The 2021 peak season is likely to have more bonuses, increases in seasonal wages and more perks or incentive programs. Businesses may have to start considering alternative workforces in order to achieve headcount this season. This could include lowering age requirements, recruiting high school students, implementing back to work programs or ESL workforces.

What should companies do differently with hiring this season?

Due to the anticipated continuing labor shortage, companies may have to get creative this season with recruiting, hiring and retention. Companies may want to consider more part-time offers, flexible schedules or shorter shifts. There are still a lot of workers staying home due to childcare or school closures, so operations may need to be creative to help get them back to work.

Companies should also emphasis advancements, pathways to promotion or options to gain new training when recruiting. Potential associates want to know there are opportunities for higher pay, better positions or full-time roles in the future, which can entice them to come work at your company. It’s vital to show candidates there is a path to development and growth if they take a new role.

Hiring managers may also consider lessening some hiring requirements that are nice to have, but not required to complete the job. I’d also suggest adding in more start sessions, faster recruitment-training pipelines and to quicken the time from application to start date. All of these things can help you reach your peak staffing needs this season. 

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, especially right now. 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.

What are you excited about for the future?

Many of the lessons we were 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 now that the worst of the pandemic has ended. Proper spacing in facility, lines, breakrooms, etc. creates a better work environment. Partnership between staffing firms and clients have grown as we went through the pandemic together. We saw 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 or check out our peak season content library here

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
Peak Season 2020: What to Expect for Retail and Manufacturing Webinar
Peak Season 2020: What to Expect for Retail and Manufacturing Webinar

Because of COVID-19, the 2020 peak season is shaping up to be much different than it’s ever been. As leadin...

Next Article
5 last-minute tips to avoid an understaffed workforce during your ramp up
5 last-minute tips to avoid an understaffed workforce during your ramp up

Struggling to hit fill rates during your workforce ramp up? Check out these last-minute tips to ensure you ...