How to Make Holiday Workforce Planning Easy as Pie

November 9, 2017 Frank Estevez

While employees eagerly await the holiday season, looking forward to time off from work to celebrate with family and friends — or to simply catch up on holiday shopping — the holidays pose unique challenges for employers. Let’s take a look at four major business functions most heavily impacted by holiday schedules.

Scheduling

A scheduler’s job is a difficult one, even when paid holidays aren’t factored into the equation. From Thanksgiving through year end, however, determining staff schedules is a juggling game. A scheduler must take into account company holidays as well as PTO. What’s more, during the colder months illnesses are more prevalent, resulting in more call-outs. For long-term care facilities this is particularly true, as staffers who work directly with residents must call out; they cannot risk exposing residents with compromised immune systems to colds or the flu.

One way to make everyone’s lives easier is to hire temporary staff to help pick up the slack. Maintain a working relationship with a reputable staffing agency, preferably one that specializes in long-term care workers. It’s important, too, that your workforce management platform can easily accommodate recording of agency workers’ hours.

Sometimes, even offering extra pay is not enough to entice staff to take shifts on holidays. Take an informal employee survey prior to the holidays to find out what incentives will motivate them. Is it gift cards? Time off in exchange? Some employers bring in catered food for employees working on holidays.

It’s easier said than done, but strive to post holiday schedules well in advance. To ease the scheduler’s burden, allowing employees to trade shifts can help avoid staffing shortages during the holidays.

Time & Attendance

No matter what type of system you use for time and attendance, you must keep in mind that you’ll need to update it with your organization’s list of holidays each year. For example, the date Thanksgiving falls on will vary based on the number of Thursdays in November of a given year. Likewise, while Christmas always falls on Dec. 25, the day of the week it falls on will vary. You can’t assume that, just because company holidays remain constant from one year to the next, that you’re good to go. You’ll need to adjust accordingly to ensure smooth sailing throughout the holiday season.

HR

HR is one department that all others look to as the holidays approach. Holiday policies must be established well in advance, and employees must be notified about the policies. Questions that will invariably arise include:

  • What are the organization’s paid holidays?
  • Are employees allowed to carry over vacation time from one year to the next, or is it a “use it or lose it” policy?
  • How is holiday pay handled? Do employees get double overtime for covering shifts on holidays? Do they get additional time off instead?
  • What about other religions? Not all employees celebrate Christmas. Does your organization allow time off for Chanukah, Kwanzaa or other holidays throughout the year? If so, is it paid or unpaid time off?

Beyond basic scheduling issues, now is a good time for organizations to take an inventory of certifications that will be expiring soon or continuing education credits that must be completed before year’s end. Managers and schedulers can work together to see in advance what steps need to be taken to make sure employees are up to date. Schedulers can simplify the process by using a tool that tracks accruals. Some time clocks incorporate targeted messaging, enabling managers to notify employees whose certifications are nearing expiration; some clocks even prohibit punch-ins by employees whose certifications have lapsed.

Payroll

During the holidays, payroll is an important consideration, yet it’s an area often overlooked. At holiday time, employees rely on timely paychecks as expenses for holiday gifts and entertaining mount. Just as time and attendance must be adjusted annually for holidays, so must payroll.

Let’s take a look at Thanksgiving. It’s the “perfect storm” event in terms of payroll. For most businesses, payday — the day checks are issued — is Friday. However, Thanksgiving and the Friday after might be bank holidays. And, because check processing typically requires two full business days, you may need to process payroll the Monday prior to Thanksgiving.

Another consideration is whether the holiday will affect direct deposit. The National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA), which establishes rules regarding ACH transactions, is a good resource.

Every year, payroll staff should go through payroll calendar to plan for the following year. In addition to company-observed holidays, be sure to check for national holidays as well.

Whether your focus is time and attendance, scheduling, HR or payroll, it’s not too early to start planning for the holiday season — or even for next year.

See how SmartLinx integrated workforce management modules — including Time & Attendance, Schedule Optimizer, Payroll, Human Resources, Accruals and Time Clocks — can help take the stress out of holiday planning for your organization.

About the Author

Frank Estevez

Frank Estevez joined SmartLinx Solutions as Development Manager in 2012 and transitioned into a Product Manager role in 2015. He provides release program management of the various SmartLinx products. He has 20 years’ experience in providing software solutions across numerous industries.

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