Business owners and managers often dread having to deal with employee vacations, especially when managing hourly workers with constantly changing schedules. It can become especially stressful during the holiday season or any other regularly busy time for your company when you really need as many staff members as possible to be available.
Being caught unprepared for such busy times of the year can really hurt your business, not only financially but in terms of employee satisfaction as well. Furthermore, if the word gets around that your management does a terrible job with managing leave requests and that your employees are none too happy about it, your company brand could be in jeopardy as well.
Poor leave management can lead to losing both customers and employees. It can also create a lot of strife and internal discontent within your organization if the problem persists. If you want to avoid these issues and keep your business running like clockwork, even when a bunch of your employees are on vacation, here’s what you need to do.
Define Your Policies
The worst thing you can do is throw caution to the wind and make up your vacation policies as you go. You need to have these policies clearly defined and available to all of your employees as soon as they join you and begin the onboarding process, so that no one has to deal with any unpleasant surprises down the road.
Don’t know where to start? Here are some things to think about when it comes to creating that vacation policy handbook that’s going to keep everyone on the same page.
Accruals: Be very clear about the rules when it comes to earning vacation time. How many days do employees get each year? How long do they have to be a part of your organization before they earn time off? If they don’t use all of their vacation days, can they be carried over to the next year?
Types: If you feel the need to distinguish between types of leave requests, do so right away. Define how many sick days people get. If you want to make a distinction between personal leave and vacation, do so ahead of time.
Notice: It’s a really good idea to set up rules that obligate your employees to give you a good amount of “heads up” time. Specify how long in advance you need vacation requests to be given. For example, you might allow people to take one or two personal days on short notice but demand that they give you at least a month’s notice in advance when they are taking one or two-week vacations.
Conflicts: Conflicts are bound to happen. That’s why you need to be ready for them. Make sure you let your staff know how vacation requests are being prioritized. Is it on a first-come-first-serve basis or does seniority play a role? Do medical emergencies trump all other vacation requests? Try to think of every possible situation that you can encounter and define your policies for each circumstance, no matter how unlikely.
Parameters: If you feel as if you simply cannot deal with employees taking more than two weeks off at a time, make sure you state that. If there is a certain time of the year that is crucial to the success of your business and you can’t afford to have any absences during this time, make that fact known.
The bottom line is that you shouldn’t assume or take anything for granted. Policies that you consider logical might not be interpreted by your employees as such. Have it all written in black and white so that no one needs to make assumptions and there are no grey areas left undefined.
Defining your vacation policy is an ongoing process. If you do run into a circumstance that you didn’t anticipate earlier, that’s fine and completely naturally. There’s nothing wrong with continuing to make additions and edits to your policy as needed.
Encourage Early Bookings
If the summer or holiday seasons is big for your business, ask your employees to submit their vacation requests at least a month in advance so that you can plan out your strategy. You need to be able to see what your roster is going to look like in order to make sure that you are going to be ready for your most important times of the year.
Getting all of the requests in advance also gives you time to deal with any conflicts that might occur. Knowing when everyone wants time off well in advance will give you the time you need to sort out any conflicts and try to find a solution that’s going to keep your employees happy and keep you safe from being understaffed at the worst possible times.
Always Have Emergency Staff Available
There are going to be times when you’re just not going to be able to juggle your regular employees well enough to both cover all your shifts and allow them to take the time off that they have earned. It’s a fact of life for just about every business that deals with hourly employees.
That’s why you need to make sure that you always have a list of trustworthy part-timers that you can rely on when you’re in a pinch. If you are a business that has to rely on hiring seasonal workers, then you know how difficult it can be to find good ones. When you do find great part-timers that are reliable, treat them like gold. Keep them in your pocket and establish great relationships with them so that you always know that you’ll have someone to call on when you need extra people to fill in for your vacationing staff.
If you want to make an effort to have as many staff members on call as possible during critical seasonal periods, you can try offering bonuses for those times of the year. There are always going to be several employees who really need the money and can sacrifice vacation time if the price is right.
It doesn’t even have to be money. Some studies have shown that gifts and other types of gestures can speak louder than dollar bills. You can test the waters with various types of bonuses or other incentives to see what works best when it comes to keeping your employees around during the holidays or other times of the year when you really need as many staff members ready to take shifts as possible.