It is the beginning of the year and as with many businesses, all the staff and employees are currently, or have, put in their vacation schedule requests. If you are a seasonal business, you probably have a rough idea of when the organization will be seeking to have the full complement of staff on hand and at work. If your products or service output loads are simply not predictable by any form of what can be termed as seasonal, having a full understanding of the future potential of output is important but driven solely by production and budgeting forecasts. Hopefully by now, you have fully developed the production and service forecast as well as the formal budget, for the organization. Now it is time to match those schedules up to the formally requested time off coming from your staff (human resource availability). Understanding and communicating the potential future schedule of production and placing some level of restrictions on the timing for requested time off, is not an unreasonable strategy. The communication and culture within the organization will determine the success of these policies and the overall morale as a result of their impact.
Most organizations have a policy of allowing their staff to schedule vacation time adhoc. Meaning simply; ‘Let me know when you want it at least a week prior to taking it’. Other organization’s require some formal scheduling due to the limitations and impacts to the organization of having multiple key positions out of the facility at the same time and having to cover those positions. In either case, just like knowing the availability and cost of raw materials balanced against production forecasts, so too is it important to have a good handle and some control over your human resource availability. Before requesting these types of requirements, it is imperative to have a fully documented policy. This policy must be somewhat detailed in its intentions, impacts to the organization, and guideline’s or rules which will be applied. The policy doesn’t have to be lawyer like in text, but must be clear to understand by those you apply it towards. The policy must also be well communicated to those it impacts. Changes to the previous policy may be necessary as changes to the organization structure or culture changes. Keep it up to date and welcome input from those it impacts…being part of the solution drives greater success. Focus the policy on the Roles or Positions and not on specific people currently in those roles or positions.
Taking a day or two off here and there is not a bad thing and actually provides a good morale building policy. It is in the area of taking a week or more that can have greater impacts to productivity and service level schedules. It is during these times you want to get your staff to project and propose their intentions. It is not unreasonable to ask for a greater length of time between the request and the actual time off. Your policy should have included the total number of resources which can be off at any given point within the relationship or context of their role or position in the organization. Replacement staff must be in tune to the added tasks they will assume when covering for someone who is off. If you have to call your staff when they are on vacation, you only infringe on their deserved time off. You also uncover an even higher risk to the organization in that their knowledge base is not transferred to other key Roles and Positions. It is not necessary to have a high level of proficiency, but it is necessary to have the thought process, business process, and functional steps documented for someone else to follow.
The goal is not to create an environment of top down importance where by the organization is fully staffed, or close to full staff, at all times. It is more important to realize there will be times when the work load for others increases for shorter durations so all resources are afforded an opportunity to take time off. You cannot forecast things like family emergencies or unpredicted situations which drive high risk levels of low staff. What is more important is to have policies in place to provide a controlled level of risk to the organization which limit how coverage will be managed to support necessary and desired productivity or service outputs during low human resource availability. Having those who take on added responsibilities must also have a certain level of proficiency and resource access to maintain the minimum desired productivity and service outputs. Then control who and when you will be running with lighter the normal human resource availability. Your customers are more likely to understand if something unexpected occurs and you cannot deliver against schedule expectations more so than simply not having control over situations you know existed but failed to forecast.
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