Yes – the holidays are officially over, so this week it’s back to work.

Well…for most of us, at least.

According to the National Retail Federation somewhere between 640,000 and 690,000 “seasonal workers” were hired for the 2016 holiday shopping season.[1] This includes the approximately 70,000 holiday workers hired by Target,[2] and 95,000 hired by UPS.[3] Amazon reportedly brought in 120,000 additional employees to handle its holiday rush.[4]

But now that the holiday season is over, presumably so are those jobs…so it’s not back to work for everyone, it seems.

Of course, many of these seasonal workers will in fact be offered permanent positions, or otherwise asked to stay on – so it isn’t quite as dire as all that. Target, for instance, intends to keep about a third of their seasonal workers, while UPS plans on keeping about 37% of its holiday hires.[5]

It should be acknowledged too, that many seasonal workers were never interested in full-time or permanent employment to begin with. For them, the holidays are simply a chance to make some extra cash to perhaps pay off a credit card, or take advantage of the employee discount at their favorite store.

For many others, however, the “extra” income is not so much a nice-to-have as it is a necessity.

If you are low-wage worker, for instance, the holidays offer a welcome opportunity—at least temporarily—to boost an income that may or may not be able to provide for your basic needs. As evidence, consider that the number of people holding down two or even three regular jobs is at an 8-year high, and on the rise.[6] Therefore, it’s not surprising that many, full-time, low-wage workers living paycheck-to-paycheck are eager to pick up any income they can, even if it means time spent away from family and friends during the holidays.

(It’s perhaps worth noting as well that one of the “unintended” consequences of a low and stagnant minimum wage in the US[7] is that retailers will have little trouble filling these seasonal positions for the foreseeable future, such are economic circumstances of many American workers.)

But what does any of this have to do with (mis)management, you might ask? That is, after all, the subject of my blog.

Well, consider the findings of behavioral scientist and management consultant David Sirota, and his colleagues Louis Mischkind and Michael Meltzer. In their studies of “enthusiastic” workers,[8] these researchers found that in order to get employees engaged in their work, and performing at their full potential, employers must offer a few things in return. These would include “a reasonable degree of job security, satisfactory compensation, and satisfactory fringe benefits,” according to their surveys.[9] That is to say, employees who can’t be assured of permanent, fair-paying employment—or know up front that their job is only temporarily, and devoid of benefits such as healthcare—may perform poorly no matter how well they’re being managed.

So managers, be forewarned. You may not have a Christmas or Hanukkah prayer of getting your seasonal employees to perform at, or even near a level you’d like to see, no matter how hard you try.

(And shoppers, you might also want to keep this in mind the next time you’re subjected to lousy customer service during the holidays. How excited would you be working a terminal job with no benefits, for a wage you can’t afford to live on, at time when most people are thinking of family and friends?)

Still, I don’t mean to start 2017 off on a down note.

Even if as many as half of 2016’s seasonal workers are again looking for employment, that’s only about 0.2 percent of the US labor force.[10] And at it’s current growth rate (approximately 160,000 jobs added per month[11]) that means that, theoretically at least, it should only be a couple of months before most of those workers find permanent positions. (So here’s to St. Patrick’s Day, I suppose.)

And even if they haven’t all found jobs by then…well, you know what they say:

Only 320 days[12] to go ‘til another holiday shopping season—and those same seasonal job opportunities—are upon us.

 

See you next week.

 

 

Endnotes:

All retrieved January 5, 2017

[1] https://nrf.com/resources/consumer-data/holiday-headquarters/retail-employment-and-seasonal-hiring.

[2] From Target’s corporate website: https://corporate.target.com/article/2016/09/seasonal-hiring-2016.

[3] “UPS Will Hire About 95,000 Seasonal Employees This Holiday Season,” Fortune Magazine (online), Sept. 24, 2016. http://fortune.com/2016/09/14/ups-hiring-seasonal-employees/.

[4] “Amazon is adding 120,000 holiday jobs. Here’s where,” by Krystina Gustafson. CNBC.com, Oct 16, 2016. http://www.cnbc.com/2016/10/13/amazon-is-adding-120000-holiday-jobs-heres-where.html.

[5] From NPR’s “Marketplace,” aired Dec. 29, 2016. http://ualrpublicradio.org/post/end-seasonal-job-tight-hiring-market-you-might-get-full-time-gig#stream/0.

[6] “The ranks of multiple job holders jumped by 300,000 last month [September] to 7.8 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The moonlighters represent 5.2% of all those employed, up from 4.9% in September 2015.” From: “The job juggle is real. Many Americans are balancing two, even three gigs,” by Paul Davidson. USAToday (online), Oct. 17, 2016. http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2016/10/17/job-juggle-real-many-americans-balancing-two-even-three-gigs/92072068/.

[7] Minimum wage in 2012 dollars, US Deparetment of Labor: https://www.dol.gov/featured/minimum-wage/chart1.

[8] The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want by David Sirota, Louis A. Mischkind, and Micheal Irwin Metzer. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School Publishing, 2005.

[9] Ibid., p. 11.

[10] Current estimate of the US labor force is 159,000,000 according to the Department of Labor. https://data.bls.gov/pdq/SurveyOutputServlet?request_action=wh&graph_name=LN_cpsbref1.

[11] “Jobs Report: Monthly Employment Growth Statistics” by Kimberly Ameado. TheBalance.com, Dec. 2, 2016. https://www.thebalance.com/jobs-report-monthly-employment-growth-statistics-3305732.

[12] That is, 320 days until so-called “Black Friday” of 2017, which is often considered the official start of the holiday shopping season. However, in recent years many retailers have initiated their holiday sales efforts prior to this day – a phenomena that some have termed “Christmas Creep.” (“The truth about “Christmas creep:” We complain about holiday shopping season starting in October — but we keep buying earlier and earlier,” by Angelo Young. Salon.com, Oct. 29, 2016. http://www.salon.com/2016/10/29/the-truth-about-christmas-creep-we-complain-about-holiday-shopping-season-starting-in-october-but-we-keep-buying-earlier-and-earlier/.)