For retailers and restaurants, the holidays can make or break your entire year. For many businesses, fourth quarter is the busiest and  most profitable time of the year. How do you maintain a strong, filled seasonal schedule to meet this increased demand?

According to NRF, 2015 saw 675,300 seasonal workers, and 2016 hovered around the same number. NRF expects 2017's holiday sales to increase by 3.6 percent, which will likely cause an even larger spike in the number of seasonal workers to accommodate this swollen sales demand.

However, any manager will tell you that scheduling and managing seasonal hires alongside year-round hires is a challenge. The proven solution to this scheduling concern comes in the form of a large, self-scheduling talent pool.

The Holiday Rush Problem

Seasonal employees are necessary to meet the increased demand of holiday shoppers. Understaffing is a problem year-round; add in holiday promotions, frantic customers, and increased operational hours, and understaffing can run your business into the ground.

Not having enough hands on deck hurts managers, employees, and customers alike. Managers only have time to focus on scheduling needs and filling shifts rather than on the needs of the customer and business. Employees are overloaded and pressured to compensate for the lack of staff, which can generate stress and demotivation. Customers, in turn, have a lowered experience with fewer available, happy workers to help them. This negative customer experience in turn damages client loyalty, brand reputation, and ultimately profits.

To avoid these concerns:

  • Find quality employees without wasting time and energy interviewing.

  • Fill "unwanted" shifts.

  • Ease the stress of hectic holiday scheduling.

Ultimately, you want to find a way to lighten the manager's load. Removing the scheduling burden will allow leaders to focus on improving customer experience and meeting strategic goals for the business during the holiday season.  

This is accomplished through a talent pool with flexible scheduling. This means having a number of employees in a hired and trained labor pool who can make their own schedules based on when they want to work.

Here are five advantages to having a flexible talent pool:

1. Fills Shifts

A "talent pool" is a group of employees available to work for your business. A wide talent pool allows you to ensure there are more opportunities for your shifts to get filled. With more employees ready to work, there is a higher likelihood that someone will be able to pick up every shift.

This is especially useful for holiday hires. In a hectic season, shifts can vary drastically and employees have different scheduling needs. Hosting a wide talent pool ensures there are always workers ready and available to meet the increased demand of the season.

2. Overcomes Absenteeism  

A common problem for scheduling during the holiday season is the unexpected call-out. If someone has a holiday party that they want to go to or they forgot to do last minute gift shopping, they might call out "sick" an hour before their shift starts. 

When you allow people to self-schedule, you better avoid this absenteeism problem. People pick up shifts in advance that work best with their schedule. They know when they want to work in accordance with their own personal holiday calendar. This means fewer "sick" call outs and more filled shifts.

3. Frees up Managers

Managers often spend endless hours and funds on recruiting and interviewing seasonal hires. A flexible talent pool can simplify this process. Top talent wants flexibility and a strong work-life balance, especially during the holidays. When you recruit on the basis of a wide talent pool, you're able to better intrigue quality candidates with the draw of a flexible schedule. They're more likely to want to work for you than your competitors who are offering a set schedule. This can help lower recruiting costs on finding available employees, and it promotes a higher conversion from interview to hiring.

4. Promotes Productivity

Flexibility allows for employees to work in alignment with their own productivity flows. For example, you may have a server who's sleepy in the mornings but rocks it out at night. She's able to schedule herself for the evenings, where she can be most productive, delight her customers, and earn the most tips. Another employee may work best during the breakfast and lunch work-crowd rush and can schedule himself accordingly.

5. Boosts Service

Ultimately, shifts are filled; absenteeism is low; employees are engaged and productive; and managers are free to focus on the strategic goals of the season. Together, this leads to higher customer service, boosted client loyalty, and a strong increase in the bottom line.

If you want to better meet the demand of the holiday rush and make fourth quarter the best quarter your business has ever seen, it's time to implement a flexible talent pool.