We’ve all heard of the challenges our industry faces finding and hiring qualified and motivated team members, so it’s not a surprise to hear the staffing crisis has hit the North Pole! We chatted recently with Old Saint Nick about the creative ways he, Mrs. Claus, and elf coaches are recruiting the best and brightest staff, training them to be craft professionals, and retaining top talent to help the big man prepare for his trip around the world to deliver toys.


Stephanie Craft was lucky to catch Mr. Claus in between coordination meetings to ask him how he’s staying ahead of these business challenges while also ensuring sustainable growth. 


Stephanie: What is your hiring process for the North Pole?


Santa: Finding and hiring workers for the North Pole is particularly challenging. I understand many companies throughout the world are struggling with hiring creative and effective members, and we are no different. We need top-notch staff for the design and production of toys—not just anyone can do that. We look for folks who are highly technical and intelligent, possess a strong work ethic, and are extremely creative. Relocation can be a deterrent for those who don’t care for colder climates. Our recruiters have found great success in the elfin community, so we tend to recruit more in that area around the world than in others. 


Stephanie: Do you have a training and coaching process? If so, what does that look like?


Santa: Whenever a new employee joins us at the North Pole, we have a strategic onboarding process to help that hire assimilate company policies and workflow. After a tour of our offices and shops, a work area coach helps the new hire understand how things work in their new work environment and job duties (Toy Design, Pre-Production, Production, Final Assembly, Testing/QC, Packaging and Wrapping, and even reindeer barns). The coach also makes coworker introductions and makes sure each new member feels welcomed and valued in their team.


Stephanie: Who is included in the hiring process?


Santa: I invite a range of people and elves to participate in interviewing candidates. For example, our Top Talent Elf is completely networked throughout the world via computer. She is familiar with every elf and their individual talents so when additional staff is needed, she knows who to reach out to. Just as we maintain an intricate list of naughty and nice children, we also have a list of potential new elf staff. Mrs. Claus leads the interview process. She and the coach elves make the final decision on who is the best fit.


Stephanie: Who is included in the training and coaching processes?


Santa: Our elf coaches take the lead in training and mentoring for each of their departments. The coaches provide training to develop workplace skills, share quality control processes, etc. Each new member is also assigned an onboarding buddy who helps the new hire navigate all the things you won’t find in our employee handbook. For example, the Elf Tech Team works long hours maintaining all the technology and new inventions we use at the North Pole. They thrive on caffeine. Leaving an empty coffee pot is a sure way to get on the Tech Team naughty list! 


Stephanie: What are the biggest hurdles your team at the North Pole faces related to hiring and training?


Santa: As they say in real estate, it’s location, location, location. Because of the recent pandemic, many of our elves want to work remotely, but we really need them to be here to work in our toy shop. Sure, some of them can design remotely, but we miss their Christmas spirit and creativity when they’re gone. When it comes to training, we are very fortunate that elves live much longer than humans so once we promote one of them to train, they can do it for hundreds of years.


Stephanie: How do you overcome those hurdles?


Santa: We have added several new amenities to our North Pole operations to attract and retain elves on site. Some of the more popular workplace experiences include stocked kitchens, game room, ski passes, snowman-building contests, on-site gym, elf daycare, nap rooms, outdoor pizza oven, pet care, and all-you-can-drink hot chocolate. These amenities have helped promote wellness, happiness, and satisfaction. We want the North Pole to be a family setting so that every employee loves their time at work.


Stephanie: What are your biggest successes related to hiring and training?


Santa: One of our greatest accomplishments is that we’ve been able to keep up with the world’s growth and not miss delivering even one toy to a child in more than 100 years. Because we are somewhat industrial, we keep a careful eye on workplace safety. We track the number of days without work-related injuries, and I’m tickled to report we are up to 34,529 straight accident-free days! 


Stephanie: What is the most important thing you would tell people around the world about hiring and training at the North Pole?


Santa: Many people think we produce toys very efficiently because we have been doing it for so long, but really, it’s because we stay up to date on the latest trends in manufacturing technology. Our elf engineers, who are also productivity and systems experts, take pride in the effort it takes to establish and maintain that working knowledge. The team is also ISO certified, so every toy produced meets its destination country’s requirements. We are quite sophisticated in our manufacturing and love what we do for every child throughout the world!

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About The Author

Stephanie Craft, MBA

Stephanie Craft, MBA, has worked in the A/E/C industry for more than 30 years. Her marketing strengths lie in researching and opening new doors for technical firms by getting directly to decision-makers and influencers, and obtaining and using client feedback to help firms differentiate themselves and strengthen client loyalty through targeted strategic efforts. She also works with firm leadership to evaluate in-house marketing and business development efforts to optimize staff processes and procedures. Stephanie has been a featured speaker at many AEC professional society meetings and has been selected “Chapter President of the Year” twice by the national Society for Marketing Professional Services for her management expertise serving as President of the Utah and Sacramento Chapters.

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