AP Online via NewsEdge Corporation :
NEW YORK_Holiday weeks and peak vacation periods can be a trying time for small business owners, especially if they haven't formulated a policy about employee time off.
This scenario will probably sound painfully familiar to many company owners: Several staffers all want the same day or week off, and when the boss says yes to some and no to others, there are hard feelings, complaints of favoritism, maybe even someone calling out sick in protest.
Human resources consultants say there are ways to resolve this kind of crisis _ although as in many other situations small business owners must contend with, it's best to plan in advance and prevent such a predicament in the first place.
Rob Wilson, president of Employco, a Chicago-based human resources firm, said that if too many people want the same time off, an owner might consider negotiating with one or more, asking workers if they'd be willing to forgo the day or week in return for something else.
"Maybe you can throw in something extra ... let them come in late or take a half a day off, something that everyone in the office doesn't have to know about _ a thanks for helping me out," he said.
Leigh Branham, owner of Keeping The People Inc., an Overland Park, Kan., human resources consulting firm, suggests drawing employees into the problem-solving process.
"Have a meeting with them, and ask how is the work going to get done?" Branham said. "Create a sense of ownership among the employees. Each person has a responsibility."
He also suggested, where possible, hiring temporary workers to fill in. Or, if it's not entirely necessary for an employee to be physically present in the office, if one or more of the vacationing staffers will agree to be available by cell phone for help or consultations.
This kind of approach to the problem can help employees feel more valued, Branham said. "It's a chance to be more a part of the team."
But the bigger question is how to make sure vacation conflicts are kept to a minimum. HR consultants uniformly advocate creating a written vacation policy, one that ideally is part of a broader employee handbook. Policies and handbooks serve an important purpose _ the more that staffers understand what's expected of them, and what they can expect to do, the better off the workplace will be.
A vacation policy needs to spell out not only how many days an employee is entitled to take and at what point in the staffer's tenure they can be taken _ for example, how many days a new employee can expect to have in the first six months or year, and at what point is he or she entitled to a full week, two weeks, three weeks, etc.
It also needs to specify how far in advance time off needs to be scheduled and how conflicts will be resolved, whether by seniority or on a first-come, first-served basis, or a mixture of both. An owner also needs to consider whether time off includes sick days as well as vacation time and personal days.
Owners who need help in putting a policy together might talk to other business owners in the same industry or the same geographic area, to see what the norm is. Branham also suggested, "Get a good benefits person to give you some guidelines."
As they formulate a policy, owners need to remember that vacation and time off policies can help make companies more competitive in a tight labor market. Businesses that can't afford benefits like health insurance might want to consider more flexible time-off policies _ keeping in mind that increasingly, workers are looking for a better work-life balance. A good candidate for a job might be turned off by a vacation policy that's too stingy or too rigid.
Still, there are some businesses that have to hold the line on vacations _ for example, restaurants in popular beach or resort areas. In such cases, employees need to know even before they're hired that time off is likely to be limited at certain points in the year.
Wilson noted that his company found as it grew that the last week of the year was one of the busiest because of tax law changes that were taking effect Jan. 1. So Employco's vacation policy had to be adjusted to let workers know that no one could take time off that week.
Friday, July 6, 2007
Small Business Advice - Vacation Policies
Good article with tips on establishing a vacation policy to keep your small business running smoothly: