Sonia Astill, retail HR manager at Argos: opinion

Argos, like many other retailers, faces a specific challenge over Christmas with around one-third of our turnover occurring in a 12-week-period. This means that well before even the most zealous of Christmas revellers starts looking for the mistletoe, we are already working hard to ensure that we are geared up to cope with the demands of recruiting, training and retaining around 24,000 seasonal staff every year, which is probably more than any other high street retailer in the UK. Our recruitment plan and employment philosophy reflects the need to get a vast number of people into our business to support our brand at the point in the calendar when we most need them. These employees, when they join us, become our brand ambassadors so it is vitally important that we get the right people on board to help us through the crucial period. Our Christmas campaign is consistent with our general philosophy on temporary recruitment. We aim to attract the best people possible into the business and we will go to extremes to get them on board because we know that the competition for good staff at this time of year is intense. We operate a many-tiered approach to this process, using everything at our disposal – from word of mouth and in-store posters to an internet-based campaign and postcards targeting high- quality temps who have worked for us previously. We do our best to keep temporary staff engaged by offering them many of the same benefits as our full-time employees including a competitive hourly rate, full training and an instant 10% discount on Argos goods in-store – handy if they’re looking to save a bit of money on their Christmas presents. We also encourage them to take part in our ‘Simply Thank You’ programme, which encourages them to nominate each other when they see the Argos values lived within the business. In addition to peer recognition, this programme offers real cash rewards of £25 for work well done. All this is about ensuring that we get the very best people possible in place to support us over the most important time of the year. But for us, this process is not simply a short-term solution to filling seasonal positions. We believe that 24,000 festive recruits provide us with an excellent opportunity to identify people with the potential to join the ranks of our managers and to build a true talent pipeline into the organisation. This will help us to keep ahead of the game and to ensure that we continue to get great people within our business. The process works at Argos. Nearly 4,000 temps from last year will be asked to return this year and a substantial number of them will. Many find it an excellent way of getting on the first step of the management ladder. Forward thinking organisations need to look beyond their short-term requirements and unleash the potential from within their seasonal workforce to ensure they have a constant stream of proven talent for the future.