Holiday-Hiring Wish Lists Vary at Large Firms

By Staff Report

Dec. 13, 2005

UPS starts planning for the holidays at about the same time Santa Claus does–in January. It must start thinking about the season early because it hires 40,000 to 60,000 temporary workers to meet the holiday surge.

“We look for more efficiencies in how we’re going to recruit,” says Mike Johnson, UPS vice president for human resources for U.S. operations. Last year, UPS automated holiday staffing by hiring through its Web site. This year, it is strengthening its cyber-recruiting efforts.

“It has allowed us to expand our reach for applicants,” Johnson says. “Everyone has to apply through the Web. We’ve gotten completely away from a paper-based system.”

UPS hires delivery truck and tractor-trailer drivers, driver helpers and clerks to augment its 348,400 U.S. employees during the holiday season. The company needs the extra hands to keep up with the flood of packages that reaches a peak on December 20, when 20 million parcels will be delivered.

Another major shipper, FedEx, will experience its peak day on December 12, when it is scheduled to deliver 8.5 million packages. It will hire 8,000 temporary workers at FedEx Ground for November and December. FedEx utilizes its Web site to match applicants with job vacancies, while also conducting campus recruiting and placing newspaper advertisements.

“Each HR field manager does what works best in their area,” says Allison Sobczak, a FedEx Ground spokeswoman.

Not all businesses that need extra workers staff up for the holidays. Borders relies on part-time employees and students it hires throughout the year to work additional hours to meet increased traffic in its bookstores, according to Anne Roman, company public relations director. “Our hiring for the holidays year-over-year has not grown,” she says.

The number of shoppers is expected to increase this year. The National Retail Federation forecasts that holiday sales will rise 6 percent. Sales for the Thanksgiving weekend surged by 21.9 percent.

To meet customer needs, Wal-Mart will tap 50,000 temporary workers this season, which is about the same level as last year. Although each of its stores may take a slightly different approach to recruiting based on the local labor market, Wal-Mart’s holiday staff is likely to represent the same demography as its regular hires—students, second-income earners and seniors.

“Those are the groups of people who will want extra money for the holidays,” Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Fogleman says.

UPS hopes its relationship with seasonal workers goes beyond Christmas. About 25 percent of holiday hires become permanent UPS employees, gaining medical and 401(k) benefits even at the part-time level.

“They’re very interested in doing well so that they can be recommended for potential rehire,” says Johnson, who began his UPS career as a holiday loader-unloader during the Thanksgiving holiday in 1975.

Mark Schoeff Jr.

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