September 13, 2016

How Successful Were You in Planning Vacations this Summer?

By Paul Bieber

Which one are you:

  1. Everyone took their vacation when they wanted to; my business ran as smooth as a clock.
  2. Anything other than No. 1.

If you selected No. 1, stop reading here and have a good life. You are obviously doing well.

If you selected No. 2, read on. The most important benefit for employees is health insurance at a reasonable cost. Next is time off of work for sick days, holidays and vacation days. When I visit companies, one of the most heard comments is poor vacation planning. This comes in three categories:

  • I didn’t get the dates I wanted and missed a planned event. Result–an unhappy employee.
  • I vacationed on the dates I wanted, but came back to a three-foot-high pile of work on my desk. Result–an unhappy employee.
  • The guy next to me took his vacation and I had to do double the work just to stay even. Result–an unhappy employee.

It is too late for 2016, just live with what you have. But here is your plan for 2017:

  • As early in January as you can, send out each employee’s number of days available for vacation, along with a form asking for dates requested. Ask to have the forms returned no later than February 28.
  • Whether by department or the whole company, chart each request on a calendar. Where you have two people overlap, who can’t both be out at the same time, ask them if they can change their request. If you can’t get agreement, then seniority within the company should be the prevailing answer.
  • For people who don’t return their form, they get the dates they want only after those who have responded are scheduled.

Some simple rules for you to implement:

  • Start with a cross-training program, which will help the entire company and will prevent backed-up work during vacation schedules. This one is a must.
  • Let your entire company know which departments can have one or two or however many folks out at the same time. This is true for a small glass shop or a large fabricator.
  • Let your employees carry over half of their earned vacation until July 1 of the next year. This prevents the take-it or lose-it, everyone being out in December struggle.
  • Don’t forget–cross training is the most effective program you can have for a variety of reasons including vacation happiness for all.
  • Remind folks of the February cut-off date for scheduling. Don’t honor conflicting requests for someone who reserves a date too late. Employee’s rank or position in the company should not be a criteria in this. Your foreman and other leaders should set the example, not try to avoid it.
  • Many companies are tying their entire days off policy into one plan. This will include sick days, vacation, holidays, bereavement leave and any other program you have. This allows employees who don’t take sick days to earn the time off anyway. If you gave three sick days before, you can still “discuss operational facts” with an employee who goes over five. This program keeps your scheduling accurate. It is not meant to give 13 sick days. 
  • What do you get when your employees cross the railroad tracks in your area?? Cross-trained employees, of course.

We are done for now. Go do something good for your company or your family, or even yourself. If you still want advice on vacations, drop me a note at